There's something classic about rose tattoos. The rose is a longtime favorite of bikers and bad girls, but there's an innocence about the rose that appeals to good girls and nice guys, too.
The History of the Rose
Fossil evidence tells us that the rose has been around for about 35 million years. Gardeners have cultivated them for perhaps five millennia. In the Middle East during the Roman period, roses were used as confetti at celebrations, as a source of fragrance, and for medicinal purposes. Wreaths of roses have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Roses became popular in Europe in the 18th century. Napoleon's wife, Josephine, maintained magnificent rose gardens near Paris.
Among the ancient Greeks, roses symbolized secrecy. Wearing a rose during a religious ceremony implied that the wearer would keep the religion's secrets sacred. Ancient Greco-Roman culture also saw the rose as a symbol of beauty, of springtime, and of love. And they saw in it a reminder of how fleeting life can be. In Rome, "rosalia" was an annual feast honoring the dead.
More recently, in the Christian faith, the rose has stood for martyrdom, even at times representing Christ himself. A thornless rose has been associated with the Virgin Mary. And the rose is part of the elaborate symbolism of the Knights Templar, an ancient Christian society surrounded in secrecy and legend. Some people consider the rose to be an emblem of heresy.
The Meaning of Color
When roses are given as a gift, color matters. Before you select a color for your rose tattoo, consider the traditional meanings of each shade.
- Red: Love or passion. A rose in true, pure red is the symbol of true love.
- Yellow: Friendship or new beginnings. In Victorian times, yellow stood for jealousy.
- White: Loyalty, reverence, or humility. White can also symbolize platonic love.
- Orange: Enthusiasm or sexual desire.
- Deep Pink: Gratitude or appreciation.
- Light Pink: Sympathy or admiration.
- Blue: Uniqueness, originality.
- Black: Death or bad omens.
Styles for Rose Tattoos
The style of your rose tattoo will depend on your reasons for getting it. The classic version, a delicately drawn flower in red with green leaves, can look wonderfully simple and innocent. A name emblazoned across a rose is a well-known symbol of love and devotion. But if you want something more unusual, you might consider:
- Black-and-white fineline. There's no reason your rose needs any color at all. A skilled artist can create details and shading using nothing but fine black lines.
- Tribal style. The curving lines of tribal-style tattoos can be fashioned in shapes and images, including the rose.
- Stylized shapes. The stem or leaves of your rose can be part of the design, worked into a heart, a chain, or even a Celtic knot.
- Multiple flowers. Roses can form a wreath around your arm, a bouquet, or a pattern across your lower back.
- Combinations of symbols. Depending on your interests, you might combine your rose with a religious symbol, a political image, your favorite animal, or any other image that suits your passion.
For more ideas, visit the many on-line tattoo galleries. Tattoo Artist.org has artist-specific galleries with many rose tattoos. And BMEzine, with thousands of tattoo pics, is always a good place to check.
Original vs. Pre-Printed Flash
Rose tattoos are popular. If you choose pre-printed flash (either from an online source or at your local tattoo shop), don't be surprised if you meet other people with the exact same tattoo. For many people, that's not an issue as long as the design appeals and the tattoo comes out looking good.
But if originality is important to you, take the time to seek out a tattoo artist who can create an original design. Browse the shop's web site or in-store albums to make sure you like the artist's work. Then talk with the artist about exactly why you want a rose tattoo, what you envision, and what style you have in mind. You can also create a design yourself, have an artist friend do it, or bring in a photo of an image you like. A good artist will work with you to make sure your rose is beautiful and original.