In the anime, the Three Lights in their concert suits were always shown wearing three distinctive different roses - a red rose for Seiya, a white rose for Taiki, and a yellow rose for Yaten. The same rose colors appeared with the Three Lights in the manga as well. In fact, Naoko Takeuchi listed the "rose images" herself in her Materials Collection notes.
You should know by now that no detail within the Sailor Moon world comes without a deeper symbolic and mythological meaning - especially, of course, flowers. This page is all about the mythology and symbolism behind the three colored roses that the Three Lights wear.
Seiya Kou: Red Rose
In modern floral language, the red rose simply symbolizes true love. Giving a red rose to a loved one symbolizes both deep love and deep respect. The red rose is also a modern symbol of courage. Historically, however, the red rose has carried a variety of meanings in different cultures and societies - for example, the Romans associated the red rose with lustful passion.
The red rose is closely tied to the myth of Venus and Adonis, specifically having to do with the death of Adonis. According to some, the red rose originally sprung from the blood of Adonis. According to others, when Venus was weeping over the death of Adonis, her tears fell upon a white rose, turning it red, forever a symbol of her passion and her desire.
Ancient Christian symbolism associates the red rose with the blood of the Crucifiction. The red rose thus symbolizes martyrdom, charity and resurrection.
The red rose is sometimes seem as a symbolic representation of female sexuality, or female genitalia. The William Blake poem titled "The Sick Rose" that Taiki recites in episode 179 makes this allusion:
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Yes, the poem is about a red rose, and yes, the poem is also about... Well, you know.
In ancient Persian mythology, the red rose symbolized egocentricity. According to legend, a nightingale stabbed itself in its breast, and blood from the wound fell upon a white rose, turning it forever red. The red rose became a symbol of the bird's self-centered, arrogant nature.
Swinging back to the twenty-first century for a moment . . . Many European socialist parties (such as the British Labour Party) use the red rose as their political emblem.
Taiki Kou: White Rose
In modern floral language, the white rose symbolizes reverence and humility. Sending a loved one a white rose also sends the message, "I am worthy of you." The white rose is also a modern symbol of secrecy and silence, perfect for exchange between lovers engaged in a clandestine relationship.
According to the Greek poet Anacreon, sea foam that dripped off the body of Aphrodite as she was born turned into white roses. The white rose symbolizes Aphrodite's purity and innocence as a newborn (albeit fully-grown) woman.
Christian symbolism equates the white rose with the Virgin Mary, holding both as symbols of purity. In medieval times, the white rose was a symbol of virginity.
Arthurian myths associate the white rose with deceit and treachery. Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, trapped the wizard Merlin within a tower created from a white rose.
In Wales, white roses symbolize both innocence and silence. They are often placed on the graves of young children.
In Cherokee folklore, the white rose symbolizes protection and security. A legend tells of a beautiful maiden, Nunnshi, who is saved from an enemy attack when she prays for protection, and white roses spring up all around her, protecting her from harm.
Finally, the white rose is also a symbol of the moon, which fits with the theory that Taiki represents the moon in the Shinto San Hikari.
Yaten Kou: Yellow Rose
In Japanese, the yellow rose is known as the yamabuki. It is given to newborn babies as a symbol of future nobility.
In the modern floral lexicon, the yellow rose signifies joy, gladness, friendship, and freedom. Many florists will suggest that you send your friend a bunch of yellow roses in order to cheer them up, or brighten their day.
In sharp contrast to the modern rose lexicon, Islamic folklore associates the yellow rose with deceit, treachery, and adultery.
Greenspace Online relates the famous tale of the prophet Muhammad and his wife, A'isha.
After his first wife Khadija died, Muhammad took nine more wives. The Koran permitted Muslims to have only four, but as a prophet, Muhammad was granted an exemption. Many of these wives were the widows of trusted lieutenants who had died in battle, but one, A'isha - the 10 year old daughter of his trusted friend Abu Bakr - became his favorite. Several years later, while on an expedition furthering the spread of Islam, Muhammad brought A'isha along. Somewhere on the trek, however, she dropped her necklace and fell behind in an attempt to reclaim her treasure. When she finally returned to the camp in Medina, she did so with a handsome young tribesman. Seeing this, many of Muhammad's followers immediately suspected the worse and accused A'isha of adultery. According to legend, Muhammad had a revelation where an angel instructed him to have his wife throw a bouquet of roses into the reflecting pool. If the roses turned a different color, then she was guilty of infidelity; if not, she was innocent. As legends go, there are sometimes historically incorrect endings. According to the legend, A'isha complied by throwing a bouquet of red roses into the pool, the roses turned yellow, and hence we now have yellow roses. In fact, however, the roses did not change color (of course), and A'isha was found innocent. Henceforth, the law was changed for determining adulterous behavior of wives.
Because of this myth, many cultures associate the yellow rose with infidelity or jealousy. Modern floral language also acknowledges this meaning. Therefore, the yellow rose has a dual meaning, with both a positive and a negative connotation.
"The Yellow Rose of Texas," a famous song originally written somewhere around 1836, is a love song written for a "yellow rose," most likely a euphanism for an effeminate young girl ("rose") who was a mixed race, or mulatto ("yellow," the slang at the time). Click here for lyrics. Now, I seriously doubt that Naoko Takeuchi had *this* song in mind when she chose Yaten's rose color, but it does make for an interesting side note. The "yellow rose of Texas" may refer to a real person, Emily West Morgan, a little-known heroine in the war for independence from Spain. For a really awesome retelling of Emily's story, visit Greenspace Online.
Red and White Roses
In medieval Western European cultures, the red rose is a symbol of masculinity, and its polar opposite, the white rose, is a symbol of femininity. (This fits best with the original characters in the manga - Seiya is very masculine, and Taiki, representing the power of Creation and maternity, would be more feminine.) However, in some Eastern European cultures, the white rose is a symbol of masculinity and the red rose is a symbol of femininity.
Whatever the case, the red and white rose are almost always seen as representing polar opposites. Red and white roses shown together therefore symbolize the union of opposing forces.
The Tudor Rose, a graphic design of a red rose on top of a white rose, is an important symbol of Great Britain. The Tudor Rose represents the unity of the House of York and the House of Lancaster which ended the War of Roses.
In an old Jewish folktale about Zillah and Hamuel, red and white roses again symbolize opposing forces. A beautiful maiden, Zillah, rejects the romantic advances of Hamuel. Enraged, Hamuel falsely accuses her of a crime, and she is sentenced to be burned at the stake. However, the fire does not kill Zillah, and from its ashes white roses spring up all around her, symbolizing her purity and innocence. But the fire does manage to catch Hamuel and kill him; red roses grow from the ashes of his body, symbolizing treachery and dishonesty.
This information about roses and their meanings comes from Greenspace Online, Montreal's Main Florist, Sumi-e Society Midwest, WeddingMagazine.com, FTD.com, and Ancient Symbolism for the Modern Day. No, this isn't meant to be a serious academic article or anything, so don't read it that way. My information comes mostly from the sites of either amateurs or florists concerned with making a quick buck; this page is intended for fun and nothing more.