Roses are an enduring symbol of love and beauty, cropping up in cultures time and time again throughout history. They have also held religious and political significance at many points in history. Roses are used as a romantic image in literature, visual art, music – you name it. They are the most common flower given to lovers on Valentine’s Day as well. Short of a heart, no image says “love” more loudly than roses do.
As a religious image, the rose was closely linked by the ancient Egyptians to the goddess Isis, mother of all things, the perfect wife and nurturer. For the Greeks and Romans, roses were associated with Aphrodite, goddess of love. In Christianity, roses may refer to the Virgin Mary (Catholic art, including Catholic or religious tattoo designs, often feature Mary together with roses), the five wounds of Christ, or the blood of the martyrs. In the Early church, believers were hesitant to accept roses as Christian symbols due to their connection to Roman culture (both its gods and its lavish, hedonistic nature), but were accepted in time. Roses are also important to many other cultures and religions.
Roses have also been used as a symbol of various political and social movements. Most notably, it is used as a symbol for socialist and social democracy parties throughout Europe. There are even various superstitions involving roses, some of them rather sinister. In some Pagan folklore, it was thought that supernatural creatures such as ghosts and vampires could not pass the path of a wild rose, so roses were left on the coffins of loved ones to keep them from rising from the dead. Some traditions claim that red roses cannot grow over graves at all. In Celtic mythology, roses presented to screaming spirits can silence them. In short, roses are striking and iconic enough that they pop up in a virtually endless number of legends and folk tales. Though we probably all recognize them as a classic symbol of love, there’s more to them than meets the eye. In this manner, roses will often be mixed with death tattoo designs, skull tattoo designs, and even devil tattoo designs.
Some artists are able to perfectly capture the depth and shadow of the petals, creating a beautifully lifelike picture. Others go for a more stylized and less realistic angle – both have their appeals and are a matter of individual choice.
Roses offer great versatility in terms of design. One may choose a single rose or a bouquet of them, with or without stems, small or large -- the options are limited only be your personal tastes. Rose tattoos for both men and women are common, and people get them on virtually every part of the body.
Since roses are a symbol of love, designs that incorporate names are common. Typically, a banner wraps around the rose, with lettering tattoo designs such as the loved one’s name inked on it (often a girlfriend, or just as often “Mom”).
Black roses are among the most popular variations on the classic rose design. Black roses have appeared in art, literature, and music, but to the elegance and delicacy of the rose they add a dark side, a touch of the sinister or dangerous.
Blue roses are sometimes seen in art as well, and in addition to love, these are also a symbol of prosperity. They do not occur naturally, though white roses have been dyed blue to create them and, in 2004, created through genetic modification.
With any well-known image, artists are going to make creative variations for unique effects. The more well-known the image, the more entrenched our mental image of how it looks, the more impact the variation has. This is likely part of the reason that so many creative spins on rose designs exist.
Roses are often combined with tribal tattoo designs. These tribal rose designs may use tribal-styled lines for the entire rose or the stem of the rose. They may also be intertwined with vine tattoo designs wrapping around the tribal elements.
Rose tattoo designs are constantly pictured in the windows of tattoo shops all over the world, a testament to their cultural impact. This classic symbol can be customized and re-created to reflect your own personal meaning and style, all the while evoking that ancient idea of love and beauty.