The Rose in Myths, Religions, Legends and Symbols

Rose is an ancient flower that spread throughout earth, whose fossils were found in Japan, United States and Europe dating back about twenty-five million years ago. According to the latest genetic studies, the rose is of Nordic origin that over the centuries has gone by moving and adapting, to the south.

The first written records come to us from the Sumerians in the royal tombs of the city of Ur (4000 BC), while the first pictorial representation is found in the frescoes of the royal palace of Knossos (2000 BC). Confucius (500 BC) tells us that the emperor of China had hundreds of books on the cultivation of the Rose. The word rose is perhaps one of the simplest referred to a common name of what is universally known and one of the few terms used in all Indo-European languages.

Since ancient times the rose receives in her womb two antithetical meanings of passion and pleasure, yet also suffering and physical pain. On one side it is admired for its beauty and for the sweetness of the scent, while on the other it is feared for the trunk and thorny branches.

The rose has a really complex symbol, since it embodies contrasting meanings more than any other flower. It is, in fact, ambivalent, being simultaneously used to signify heavenly perfection and earthly passion, time and eternity, life and death, fertility and virginity.

The rose has represented the heart of the poet, the metaphor of time passing fast and the transience of everything beautiful. The theme of the rose as symbol of life and death was explained in the Rosalia and Floralia. They were popular festivals celebrated in Rome. Imperial Rome made an excessive use of rose petals with shower of roses on the guests, beauty baths in rose wine, mattresses and garlands of roses around the neck or on the head, perfumes and ointments not only for cosmetic use and as offerings to the gods, but also for deodorizing environments.

The ancient Greeks believed the rose to be born from the waves. Roses were initially white. The emblem of the rose appeared in medieval coats and even the architecture put in first place rosettes with five petals. In heraldry it is a symbol of beauty, pure honor, gentleness of manners, nobility and merit. In the ballads the rose is not just a rose but it is the symbol of the passion of love with the allusion to the most intimate and secret of the flower woman.

Although at one time the girls were educated to preserve chastity and purity until marriage, their own ingenuity could bring down the easy prey for scoundrels, who with false marriage vows, cause them to grant their token of love. So the roses in Celtic songs are associated with bad luck and indicated an ongoing pregnancy. The rose was an euphemism for the sexual act that led more often its thorns, as maidens repented bitterly of having given their flower to one who is not worthy of their trust, who after having the fun abandoned them with an untimely pregnancy.

The rose in the popular songs therefore symbolizes the loss of virginity and with it the innocence and trust in a male world which is not what it seems.

The rose appears in ancient recipes in both sweet and savory preparations, to flavor wines and drinks and salad as entremets.

A rose is not only the symbol of simplicity, but also love at first sight. If given at the first meeting, while in full bloom is a declaration of persistent feeling of love. Two roses manifest affection, falling in love, engagement or promise a future marriage. Three roses represent the link between a pair of lovers and, by tradition, celebrating the anniversary of a month.

Six roses say they feel the absence of the beloved and romantic involvement at any age, young or mature. Seven roses express the presence of an infatuation. Nine roses represent the will to remain forever tied to their partners. Ten roses show that the love affair is really perfect. A dozen roses is a claim to bind the beloved for life, only to have it beside itself. Thirteen roses show friendship to infinity.

Fifteen rose reveal their displeasure. Eighteen roses are sent to apologize. Twenty roses reveal the sincerity of the feelings you have. Twenty-one roses reveal the loving dedication. Two dozen roses exclaim to belong to the beloved. Twenty-five roses are used to congratulate. Three dozen roses make manifest to feel hopelessly in love. Forty roses attest that the love is genuine. Fifty roses reveal an unconditional loving feeling.

Today, the rose is given a different meaning depending on the color. Pink orange for charm; white rose for pure love and spiritual relationship or friendship; Coral pink for desire; Hellebore for peace, tranquility; yellow rose for jealousy, infidelity and decline in love; Musk rose for capricious beauty; Rosehip for pleasure and pain; Pink rose for friendship, affection; Peach rose for secret love; and red rose for passion.

Red roses are the ultimate symbol of love. This century-old romantic flower has a rich legacy of stories and myths around it. Without a doubt a great protagonist of Valentine's Day is Cupid, son of the Roman goddess of love, Venus. In ancient mythology, nectar was known as the drink of the gods. It is said that Cupid took nectar to the gods and on the way poured a little on the ground and at that exact point came a red rose.

In China and India, the rose is not of symbolic importance. It is most often associated with the youth, but in any case never love. In ancient Egypt the rose was the flower consecrated to Isis, goddess of rebirth and personification of Nature.

Apparently rose plants were grown in the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of antiquity, while drawings symbolizing roses have been found in Egyptian pyramids. The ancient Greeks believed that this flower originated from a nymph who took, awakened from sleep by a kiss of the divine Apollo, was transformed then into a flower.

For these people the rose was a symbol of love and beauty, flower dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, of marriage and fertility. Legend has it that her priests dressed in garlands of white roses walked on paths strewn with rose petals, while the statues of the goddess were encircled with garlands of roses and myrtle.

The ancient Greeks loved this flower so far as to devote to it whole gardens, with varieties known at the time. Famous at that time were the gardens of Rhodes and Lesbos, where the poet Sappho was the first to call the rose by the name of queen of flowers.

It seems that Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt in the first century BC, always wore around her neck a heaping bag of rose petals and spread petals of this flower on furniture and beds inviting her various lovers to bathe in a layer of rose petals. The ancient Romans were great lovers of roses and, for not having to import from Egypt, created huge nurseries, which they used abundantly.

Celtic legends tell how the rose in antiquity was snow-white color, as long as the nightingale, falling into ecstasy of love to hear her intoxicating scent, did not notice the thorns that hurt its chest. Supporting his wounded heart on snow-white petals, he colored it red.

Prized for centuries for their beauty and fragrance of flowers, the roses are probably the most widespread ornamental plants in the world. Many ancient legends and traditions tell us about this flower, known and cultivated since ancient times. The rose has been considered, since the dawn of time, a symbol of elegance, beauty and fragility, and it was certainly one of the first plants to go from the wild to growing in gardens of antiquity.