As well as being an incredibly popular garden and cut flower, roses are one of the most popular florals used in most Western practices. The wide range of colours makes them particularly versatile, as they can also be used for their colour associations.
Origin: Mostly Asia, although a few species are native to Europe, North America, and north-western Africa
Scientific Name: Rosa spp.
Associated Celebrations: Floralia
Deities: Adonis, Aphrodite, Cupid, Demeter, Eros, Flora, Freya, Hathor, Holle, Isis, Venus, Virgin Mary
Magical Properties: Love, beauty, healing, sexuality, luck, clairvoyance
Substitutions: Lavender, yarrow
- Aphrodite: Roses are strongly associated with Aphrodite - one myth of their creation is associated with her birth, that when she was born from the sea (from Ouranus’ teste), that as the sea foam around her touched the earth, white rose bushes sprung up. The creation of the red rose also comes back to Aphrodite: Ares, jealous of her lover, Adonis, sent a wild boar to kill him. As Aphrodite rushed to save Adonis, she scratched herself on the thorns of a rose, and her blood spattered upon them, colouring them red.
- Chloris (Flora): Another creation myth of the rose is that Chloris found the body of a woodland nymph, and was so moved that she revived her by transforming her into a flower. She asked her husband, Zephrys (keeper of the west wind) to blow away the clouds, to allow Apollo to cast his sunlight down. Aphrodite then added beauty to the rose, and Dionysus gave it an intoxicating aroma. Upon presenting the rose to Eros, he used it to bribe Harpocrates (the goddess of silence) to cover up his mother’s indiscretions - the phrase sub rosa (‘under the rose’) coming to mean a discussion which was kept secret.
- Cupid: When Cupid maries Psyche, after rescuing her from his mother’s curse, Jupiter orders orders his daughters to “make everything glow with roses”, covering the land with them.
- Eros: Once, leaning in to kiss a rose, Eros was stung by a bee hiding amongst its petals. Angry and annoyed, he went to his mother (Aphrodite) for comfort, and she gave him magical arrows to event the score. Where his arrows missed the roses, they became its thorns.
- Persephone: In Homer’s telling of the abduction of Persephone, she was in the meadow picking flowers when she was abducted, with roses amongst those specifically named.
Christianity: Following the Christianisation of the Roman Empire, the rose became associated with the Virgin Mary. It’s from this association that the term ‘Rosary’ comes (from the Latin rosmarium, for ‘crown/garland of roses’). The association between roses and secrecy also continued in Christianity, with roses being carved into confessionals as a reminder that confessions were secret. Victorian Era: In the language of flowers, different meanings were assigned to each colour of rose: Red for true love, orange for passion, yellow for friendship, blue for mystery, black for death, and white for innocence/purity. Many of these associations can be traced much further back in history, and are generally also applied to their use in magical contexts.
- Sprinkle rose petals around the house to calm stress.
- Drink rose tea before bed to encourage prophetic dreams.
- Use roses for a ritual bath or hand-wash before love workings.
Note: Ensure that any roses you plan to consume (or use in beauty applications) are culinary-grade, and as such are grown entirely free of dangerous pesticides.
There are over 300 species of rose, and tens of thousands of cultivars. These include upright shrubs, climbing, and trailing varieties.
Plant Height: 1m-7m
Stems: Most species have thorny stems, but not all
Leaves: 5-15cm long, made of 5-9 oblong leaflets, usually with serrated edges
Flowers: Most have 5 lobed petals (mostly white or pink), and 5 sepals
Fruit: Berries (usually dark red) called Rosehips have a fleshy outer layer and 5-150 seeds