SUB ROSA DICTUM
Updated: Aug 13, 2019
We often associate the rose with love, but this flower has some other meaning as well. In Greek mythology the rose is a symbol of secrecy and silence. Roses suspended above the tables of Roman banquet rooms were a reminder that things said under the influence of wine (sub vino) should remain sub rosa.
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We often associate the rose with love, but this flower has some other meaning as well. Some particularly observant of you might have noticed that often in places of secret gatherings like Masonic lodges, roses are depicted on the ceiling. The rose is often portrayed on the door of confessionals.
In Greek mythology there is the god of silence - Harpocrates. According to legend, Harpocrates inclined the pretty Venus to a love affair. To buy his silence and avoid scandal, the son of Venus Cupid presented him with a white rose. That is how the rose became a symbol of secrecy and silence.
Another legend says that Aphrodite gave a rose to her son Eros, the god of love; he, in turn, gave it to Harpocrates to ensure that his mother's indiscretions (or those of the gods in general, in other sources) were kept under wraps.
This gave roses the connotation of secrecy (a rose suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber pledged all present –“sub rosa” "under the rose"), which continued through the Middle Ages and through the modern era.
In Christian symbolism, the phrase "sub rosa" has a special place in confessions. Pictures of five-petalled roses were often carved on confessionals, indicating that the conversations would remain secret. The phrase has also been understood to refer to the mysterious virginal conception of Christ.
In the 16th century, the symbol of Henry VII of England was the stylised Tudor dynasty rose. A large image of the rose covered the ceiling of the private chamber where decisions of state were made in secret. In current times, the term is used by the Scottish Government for a specific series of "off the record" meetings.
If you plan to visit one of the greatest castles of Luxembourg in Vianden, you will find a rose above the door of the ceremonies room on the third floor. It was the sign for those getting out of the room that all said or heard here had to remain in this room.
To mention some Etiquette related to roses, we could remember the story of Emperor Nero who invented paintings of roses on the ceilings or real ones hanging above the tables of Roman banquet rooms as a reminder that things said under the influence of wine (sub vino) should remain sub rosa.
*Info used – Wikipedia
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