Don’t Overlook the Powerful Spiritual Meaning of Carnations

Carnations, with their ruffled petals and wide range of colors, have graced gardens, floral arrangements, and special occasions for centuries. But these common blooms hold a symbolic meaning that goes far deeper than their beauty suggests.

From ancient mythologies to modern spiritual practices, carnations have accumulated rich and varied spiritual associations. Their connections span cultures and faith traditions, representing gods and goddesses, the cycles of life, and the divine feminine. Though carnations do not have an overt role in Christianity, Biblical color symbolism shapes their meaning. And in Eastern traditions, the spiritual symbolism of carnations links to meditation and inner wisdom.

History and Origins of Carnations in Ancient Cultures

With a history stretching back to ancient times, carnations symbolized gods, goddesses, and the force of life in Greek and Roman mythologies. Their botanical name, Dianthus, comes from the Greek words for divine (“dios”) and flower (“anthos”).

According to Greek legends, carnations first appeared when the gods were creating the earth. The tears of a star named Coronis as she cried over the dead body of her lover fell to the ground, transforming into fragrant carnations.

The Greek goddess Diana and the Roman goddess Diana favored carnations. Diana was the virgin huntress goddess, associated with wild animals and woodlands. As Diana’s flower, carnations took on the symbolism of a free spirit connected to nature.

In other myths, Prometheus and Zeus used carnations in their deception against each other. Both gods saw the carnation as a symbol of cunning and craftiness for its role in their schemes. And as a death flower, white carnations represented Dis, the Roman god of the underworld.

Ancient Egyptians viewed carnations as symbolic of life and reincarnation. They used carnations at burial sites, believing the flowers would bring the dead back to life. In ancient Asian cultures, carnations represented the cycles of life and rebirth.

Carnations in Christianity and Biblical Symbolism

Though not mentioned in the Bible, carnations have come to represent several Christian symbols based on Biblical color meanings. The different hues carry distinct spiritual symbolism:

  • White carnations represent pure love and innocence, linking to the Virgin Mary.
  • Red carnations symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice and suffering on the cross.
  • Pink carnations signify a mother’s undying love, relating to the love of God and Christ.
  • Yellow carnations stand for the joy of God’s spirit and His glorious light.
  • Purple carnations embody the sacrifices mothers make for their children.

This Christian symbolism shapes how carnations are used at religious ceremonies like Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day. Their layered spiritual meaning connects deeply with core tenets of Christianity.

Color Symbolism in the Bible

The color symbolism ascribed to carnations originates in verses from the Bible:

  • White represents virtue and purity (Daniel 7:9, Revelation 19:14)
  • Red signifies Jesus’ blood shed for salvation (Hebrews 9:14, Revelation 1:5)
  • Pink denotes how motherly love mirrors divine love (Isaiah 49:15, Psalm 131:2-3)
  • Yellow highlights God’s glory and spiritual joy (Psalm 113:4, Revelation 21:23)
  • Purple symbolizes sacrifice and suffering (Mark 15:17-18, John 19:2-3)

By drawing on these Biblical color meanings, carnations gained spiritual symbolism aligned with core Christian beliefs.

Color Symbolism of Carnations

Beyond Christianity, the color of carnations determines their spiritual meaning in other belief systems too. Each hue carries a symbolic message:

  • White – innocence, pure love, remembrance
  • Red – deep love, admiration, sacrifice
  • Pink – gratitude, motherly love, femininity
  • Yellow – joy, positivity, good luck
  • Purple – capriciousness, whimsy, unpredictability
  • Blue – unattainability, imagination, fantasy
  • Green – youthfulness, rebirth, new beginnings
  • Orange – enthusiasm, passion, pride

Carnations express layered meaning through their petal hues. Different colors give carnations nuanced spiritual symbolism spanning purity, femininity, rebirth, and imagination.

Victorian Floriography

In Victorian floriography, every flower had a coded message to share. Carnations sent secret messages with these meanings:

  • Pink – “I will never forget you”
  • Red – “My heart aches for you”
  • Purple – “Capriciousness”
  • White – “Sweet and lovely”
  • Yellow – “You have disappointed me”

Victorians used carnation colors to express emotions subtly. Pink carnations declared lasting love, while yellow conveyed disappointment instead of joy.

Carnations in Other Spiritual Traditions

Beyond Greek myths and Christianity, carnations have symbolic meaning in spiritual traditions like Buddhism, Hinduism, and pagan rituals.


In Buddhism, different colored carnations represent different states of enlightenment and rebirth:

  • White symbolizes the path of liberation from cycles of rebirth
  • Red signifies bliss, achievement, and luck
  • Pink denotes the first steps of spiritual practice

Carnations reflect the Buddhist spiritual journey – starting with pink blooms representing beginnings, leading to the white path of enlightenment.


Hinduism recognizes the ancient Egyptian belief in carnations representing cycles of life. The continual death and rebirth of a soul fits with the concept of reincarnation in Hinduism.

Red and yellow carnations also represent two types of Hindu rituals. Red flowers embody rituals for bravery and strength, while yellow blooms signify intellectual rituals bringing knowledge and clarity.


Modern pagan practices use carnations when crafting magical charms and casting spells. Carnations attract love, boost vitality, and offer protection based on their color symbolism:

  • Pink carnations nurture affection and romance
  • Red blooms increase passion and energy
  • White petals repel negativity and harm

Connecting to their mythological past, carnations hold a prominent role in pagan spirituality and witchcraft.

Using Carnations for Rituals, Ceremonies, and Meditation

The layered spiritual symbolism of carnations makes them ideal flowers for rituals, ceremonies, and meditation across faiths and practices.


Brides often carry red or pink carnations in their wedding bouquets. Red honors the sacrifices of marriage, while pink expresses joy. Carnations signify the divine love blessing the union.


White carnations represent pure, innocent souls at funerals. Mourners bring white blooms to symbolize remembrance. The flowers celebrate the dead reuniting with the cycle of spirituality.

Prayer and Meditation

Pink and white carnations aid meditation with their meanings of inner stillness and higher thinking. Keeping carnations nearby focuses energy on spiritual connection during prayer.

Altar Offerings

In Wiccan rituals, carnations decorate altars as offerings to gods and goddesses. Practitioners use specific colors to align with their magical intention – pink and red for love spells, white for purification spells.

With their diverse spiritual symbolism, carnations enhance rituals across faiths and customs.

Beyond cut flowers, cultivating carnations allows deepening spiritual connections with nature.

Gardeners find a meditative state caring for carnation plants. The routine of watering, pruning, and nurturing carnations becomes a peaceful, mindful practice. Watching carnations grow from buds to fullest bloom reflects spiritual evolution.

Choosing specific carnation hues also channels symbolic energy. Grow white blooms to cultivate purity and serenity. Red petals inspire passion and vibrancy. Pinks spread feelings of gentle love.

Displaying bouquets around the home keeps carnations’ spiritual meanings present. Let their varied colors and delicate fragrance remind you of their divine symbolism. Use carnations to decorate meditation spaces or altars.

Carnations lift the spirit with their beauty alone. Understanding their extensive symbolic history across cultures and faiths deepens their spiritual power. Next time you encounter carnations, reflect on the profound meaning in their ruffled petals.