As we head towards the romance of Valentine’s Day, I thought it might be fun to look at some of the legends and meanings attached to roses and I’ve adapted this article I wrote several years ago. Of all flowers, the rose is perhaps the most symbolic, often representing purity, perfection, love, marriage or death. Its essence has been well used in love potions, perfumes and cosmetics.
According to a charming medieval legend, the first roses made a miraculous appearance in order to save a ‘fayre maiden’ who had been sentenced to death by burning. Falsely accused, she prayed for deliverance and the fire subsequently went out. The logs which were already burning became red roses and the unlit logs became white roses.
In Christianity, the rose is the symbol of the Virgin Mary and is also often attributed to various saints, such as St Dorothea, who carries a basket of roses. The rosary, used in Catholicism, was once made from wild rose hips strung together.
Other myths attached to roses
- In past times, ladies often used rose petals to make a face pack to help get rid of wrinkles
- It was thought that rose petals in wine avoided drunkenness
- It was good luck to throw rose leaves over a grave
- In Roman times, rose petals were valuable currency
Sometimes an emblem of silence, sub rosa (under the rose) means keeping a secret. It was believed that Cupid gave Harpocrates, the god of silence, a rose to bribe him not betray the many amorous encounters of Venus. The rose thus became the emblem of silence and was eventually sculpted on the ceilings of banquet rooms, still seen today. At the dinner table, all confidences spoken under this were held sacred. In the 16th century, the rose was also placed over confessionals to signify absolute confidentiality.
The famous stained glass rose windows depicted on many cathedrals and churches originated mainly in 13th century
often a symbol of eternity. Their perfect geometry was regarded as being similar
to the eastern mandala, a meditative symbol signifying the paths to
enlightenment and the human desire for wholeness. France
In another post, I’ll look at the meaning of the different roses according to their colour!