This article accompanies the fable
Beauty & the Beast
The Red Rose
There has always been an inherent rivalry between the white and the red rose. The War of the Roses... Early on, the white rose was a favorite symbol of Christians and associated with the Virgin Mary, while the red rose signified the blood of Christ. It was an easy step to link them both to the Eucharist.
Out of this emerged the idea, held by both medieval clergy and the alchemists, that the white rose symbolized purity and the feminine principle, while the red rose symbolized blood, passion and the masculine principle. Still, the transcendent Virgin Mary was symbolized by both: purity and passion. Both also were symbols for the Philosopher's Stone.
Martin Luther favored a red heart on a white rose (above): "The rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels." One can only speculate what he thought of the red rose... Luther's rose - his seal - is now the recognized symbol of Lutheranism.
Lurking behind all this, of course, is sexual symbolism - the rose petals, menstruation and female virginity protected by thorns - see Hildegard of Bingen, Fair Rosamond and The Roman de la Rose for medieval versions, Heinrich Khunrath for the "cosmic rose" of the alchemists (see the lower image) and The Legend of Briar Rose for a Victorian version. Comapre this with the symbolism of white and red camellias. Also see the Emerald Tablet and the Wartburg and, of course, The Cure....
Photo: red rose by Hamachidori/Wikipedia.