Friday, October 21, 2011

Beneath the Rose

Most private meetings of curveens are conducted in implied secrecy.  The traditional "laws" of the witches, the Ardanes, state that neither the covenstead nor the members of the coven ever be revealed to cowens, or those who are not of the Craft.  These precautions are taken for the safety of our kind.  Just because witches are not being hunted for profit these days does not mean that the world is entirely free of the persecution of witches.

As for secrecy, there is a deeper level for us, symbolized by the placement of a rose on the altar or within the compass.  This is known as working "subrosa", which is Latin for "under the rose".

There are several theories as to why the rose has come to symbolize secrecy.  One is that the Egyptian figure of Harpocrates was associated with the rose, and because of his classic gesture of holding a finger to his lips, he came to be seen as a figure denoting silence.

Another legend holds that Aphrodite, who the rose has always been sacred to, gave the rose to her son Eros who then passed it on to Harpocrates, who the Greeks interpreted as the God of silence.  Eros was said to have given Harpocrates this rose as a token in hopes that his mother's many sexual indiscretions would remain a secret.

Paintings of roses on the ceilings of Roman banquet rooms were also a reminder that things said under the influence of wine (sub vino) should also remain sub rosa.  In the Middle Ages a rose suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber similarly pledged all present (those under the rose) to secrecy.

The rose is a symbol of both the Black and White Goddesses of our tradition, and denotes the secret of death-in-life and life-in-death that they both represent, yet cannot be fully explained, but only experienced.

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