In Greek mythology, roses originated from Adonis, the deity of plants and rebirth. Adonis was born from a deceptive union between King Theias and his daughter Myrrha. When King Theias realized that his daughter had tricked him, he chased her with his sword. To protect Myrrha, Aphrodite transformed her into a tree.
King Theias shot the tree with an arrow, splitting it in half. It was from this tree that Adonis was born. Aphrodite took to Adonis and raised him like a son. As Adonis grew, he became an avid hunter. One day while he was hunting, Adonis came across Ares, one of Aphrodite’s past lovers, who was disguised as a wild boar. Ares attacked Adonis and when Aphrodite heard his screams, she ran into the forest and found him dying. The blood that ran from his wounds hit the ground and turned into roses.
In another version of the tale, red roses originated when Aphrodite was running to Adonis’ side, cut her feet on the thorns of the flowers, and stained them red.
Roses are most commonly associated with love and romance.
- Roses can also mean secrecy or confidentiality. The term “sub rosa”, meaning under the rose, comes from ancient times. Romans would hang roses from the ceilings of banquet halls, and it was understood that anything said under the influence of wine was to remain confidential.
- In the Middle Ages, roses were also hung from the ceilings of meeting rooms. It was understood that everyone under the roses was sworn to secrecy.
- Roses are also used on four tarot cards. The Fool, the Magician, the Strength card, and the Death card. On the Fool, the white rose symbolizes purity and is a reminder to cleanse the mind. On the Magician card, it signifies unfolding wisdom. On the Strength card, the rose represents balance. And on the Death card, it’s a reminder of purity, clarity, and transparency of intent.
Rose Symbolism and Colors
A rose’s symbolism varies by the color of the rose and how many roses are given.
- Red roses symbolize love and romance and are the perfect Valentine’s Day rose.
- Pink roses symbolize gratitude, grace, admiration, and joy.
- Orange roses symbolize enthusiasm and passion.
- Yellow roses symbolize friendship.
- White roses symbolize innocence and purity.
Though in most cases, roses are tied to love, you can send a specific romantic message by the number of roses you send.
- One rose symbolizes love at first sight.
- Two roses symbolize shared and deep love.
- Three roses says “I love you”.
- Six roses says “I want to be yours”.
- Seven roses says “I’m infatuated with you”.
- Nine roses symbolize eternal love.
- Ten roses says “You’re perfect”.
Rose Cultural Significance
Roses are England’s national flower. In the fifteenth century, they represented two important families — the Lancasters and the Yorks. The War of the Roses occurred in England between 1455 and 1487 when the house of Lancaster, represented by a red rose, and the house of York, represented by a white rose, competed with each other to rule England.
The rose also inspired one of England’s greatest writers, William Shakespeare. His play, Romeo and Juliet, contains one of the most popular quotes on roses. In the play, Juliet says, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She’s reminding Romeo that even though they come from rival houses, it shouldn’t matter because their love is real.
- There are many types of roses — 150 species and thousands of hybrids can be found in a variety of shapes and colors.
- All roses are considered shrubs.
- There are three groups of roses: old roses, modern roses, and species roses.
- Rose petals can be eaten and can be used in salads or desserts.
Because of their sweet fragrance, roses are commonly used in perfume and beauty products. Rosewater has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe irritation. It also includes antioxidants and can hydrate your skin. Rose hips, the fruit of roses, are also beneficial for you. They can be eaten and contain high amounts of Vitamin C.