the rose of mysterious union

Lisa Tweten, Evidence of Orphic Mystery Cult in Archaic Macedonian and Thracian Burials
There are 15 Archaic period mouth-plates in the collection. They show a range of geometric patterns and emblems which coincide with the recorded embossed designs seen on the epistomia from archaic Macedonia, and are generally of an elongated diamond shape with rounded corners, though the frailty of the gold foil means that many of them have torn or ragged edges. […] The rosette may be dismissed as a simple floral motif, but Matteo Compareti argues, in reference to the eight-pointed rosette in particular, that it is also used as an ‘astronomical-astrological symbol’, and that the goddess Inanna was often represented by either a star or rosette. There is a recurring theme of Dionysus and rosettes or flowers that may indicate a link between the motif and eschatological beliefs of a Bacchic mystery religion. A number of Apulian vases show Dionysus presenting a woman with a flower, which Paloma Cabrera describes as ‘the necessary password for the woman, the deceased who, after the transit of death, will require the symbol of her initiation in Dionysos’ blessed paradise and promise of her own transformation.’ For Cabrera, ‘the flower is a symbol of the initiate deceased and brought back to life in the sphere of the god.’ Thus it is possible to read the gold foil rosettes in archaic burials as a reference to initiation, rebirth, and transformation as they are on Apulian vases, though in quite a different form. I believe that rosettes on an epistomion may be read as iconographic representations of an initiate’s expectation for rebirth, though I would be remiss if I failed to mention that many scholars see the rosette on vases as simple filler, especially as it is used on Proto-Corinthian and Corinthian pottery. Yet the placement and context of a rosette-embossed epistomia strongly implies a symbolic and eschatologically relevant meaning was attached to these artifacts. 


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