Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find below an ancient phrase in one language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.

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Sub rosa


Under the rose.

Sub rosa is a Latin phrase used to indicate secrecy. From wiki:

The Latin phrase sub rosa (New Latin for “under the rose”), denotes secrecy or confidentiality and is used in English to denote secrecy or confidentiality, similar to the Chatham House Rule. The rose has a long, ancient history as a symbol of secrecy.

The rose has held a deeply symbolic significance in many times and cultures as a symbol of maternal creativity and of the yoni or feminine generative power. The literal rose and its essence or attar has also played a role in religious and spiritual rites which ofttimes would have been held in secret.

The rose has sometimes been said to have been the emblem of the god Horus in ancient Egypt. However, the gods in Egypt were usually associated with the lotus. The idea of Horus being linked to the rose probably arises from Greek and Roman cultural cross-transmission of myths from Egypt. Firstly, the rose’s connotation of secrecy dates back also to Greek mythology. Aphrodite gave a rose to her son Eros, the god of love; he, in turn, gave it to Harpocrates, the god of silence and a Greek name for a form of Horus, to ensure that his mother’s indiscretions (or those of the gods in general, in other accounts) were not disclosed. Secondly, in Egypt, the rose was actually sacred to Isis, but this appears to have been during the Roman period of Egyptian history: “Probably due to assimilation with the goddess Aphrodite (Venus), during the Roman period, the rose was used in her worship.”

Later, the Greeks and Romans translated the god’s Egyptian name Heru-pa-khered as Harpocrates and regarded him as the god of silence. The association of Harpocrates with silence and secrecy originates from a misunderstanding of Egyptian depictions of the god. Heru-pa-khered was represented as a naked youth with a finger-to-mouth gesture—in Egyptian artwork this gesture imitates the hieroglyph for child and is used to represent youth, but was misunderstood by Greeks and Romans as a gesture for silence.

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.

In Christian symbolism, inherited from older roots, the phrase “sub rosa” has a special place in confessions, where roses were carved on confessionals to signify that the conversations would remain secret. 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.

The rose is also an esoteric symbol of Rosicrucianism which was often considered to be a secret society or brotherhood.

The Tudor rose

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.

The phrase entered the German language (unter der Rose) and, later, the English language, both as a Latin loan phrase (at least as early as 1654) and in its English translation.

In current times, the term is used by the Scottish Government for a specific series of “off the record” meetings.

One notable instance of secrecy and rose symbolism in recent times surrounded American pop star, Britney Spears. “Project Rose,” [excerpt below] which is now believed to be related to her effort to end the conservatorship of her estate, was a source of mystery and led fans to make attempts at deciphering its meaning.

For more than a year, Britney Spears has been mentioning “Project Rose” in her various Instagram posts.

While the pop star has not publicly shared details about the project, some of her supporters are sharing their theories about its true meaning.

In the wake of last week’s court hearing in which the singer’s father, Jamie Spears, was suspended from his role as her conservator, some fans think “Project Rose” is in reference to her new attorney, Mathew Rosengart.

“Was project rose .. rosengart??? Exploding head #FreeBritney #BritneyVsSpears #BritneySpears #britney #spears,” wrote one person on Twitter.

But Spears began posting about “Project Rose” in September 2020, long before Rosengart was hired as her attorney in July.

“A lot of people have been saying that a lot of my posts are not new, but they’re old, but just to let you guys know, none of my pictures or posts are more than a month old. Yes, I know, I did wear the same top 17 times, but it’s for a project, Project Rose. And you’ll be seeing way more of Project Rose in the future,” Spears wrote last September.

She’s posted numerous photos of roses and included rose emojis in her captions since that time.

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