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Rose Colors

Rose Legends, Myths, Folklore and Stories

As the world's favorite flower since the dawn of time, the rose has inspired countless myths, tales, folklore, stories and legends around the globe.


Clay tablets excavated in the temples of Ur in Iraq speak of the delivery of rose water intended for the sultan of Bagdad. The sultan used no fewer than 30,000 jars of rose water a year, to make his rooms smell nice for his extensive harem.

Myth has it that Venus' son Cupid accidentally shot arrows into the rose garden when a bee stung him, and it was the "sting" of the arrows that caused the roses to grow thorns. And, when Venus walked through the garden and pricked her foot on a thorn, it was the droplets of her blood which turned the roses red.

In the seventeenth century French explorer Samuel deChamplain brought the first cultivated roses to North America.

The Saracen general Saladin sent camel caravans loaded with rose water through his empire to cleanse the mosques after 'impure' crusaders had occupied the prayer rooms.

During the Roman empire, there was an incredibly beautiful maiden named Rhodanthe, whose beauty drew many zealous suitors who pursued her relentlessly. Exhausted by their pursuit, Rhodanthe was forced to take refuge from her suitors in the temple of her friend Diana who, unfortunately, became jealous of her. So, when the suitors broke down her temple gates to get near their beloved Rhodanthe, Diana became angry, and turned Rhodanthe into a rose and her suitors into thorns.

In ancient Egypt, roses were considered the most sacred of flowers, and were used as offerings for the Goddess Isis. Roses have also been found in Egyptian tombs, where they were used as funerary wreaths.

The first true primary red rose seen in Europe was 'Slater's Crimson China,' introduced in 1792 from China, where it had been growing wild in the mountains.

Ancient Hindu writings tell the story of the God Vishnu, protector of the world, and Brahma, creator of the world, arguing about which flower was the most beautiful. Vishnu bet his position as chief God on the rose's superiority, while Brahma, who had never seen a rose, sided with the lotus. When Brahma saw the rose he immediately agreed that the rose was supreme. Vishnu's loyalty was well rewarded, as the Goddess Lakshmi was created to be his wife from 108 large and 1,008 small rose petals!

Recently, archaeologists discovered the fossilized remains of wild roses over 40 million years old.

Philosopher Confucius was said to have reported that the Imperial Chinese library is well-stocked with books on roses.

The rose is often used to symbolize the Virgin Mary (frequently referred to as the "Mystical Rose", or "Rosa Mystica" in Latin). It is said that roses were Mary's favorite flowers, and she frequently used roses as a sign of her presence: She brought lovely roses with her at Lourdes, Pontmain, Pellevoisin, Beauraing and Banneaux; she wore three garlands of roses and had tiny roses around the rim of her slippers at La Sallette; and to Sister Josefa Menendez, she showed her immaculate heart encircled with little white roses.
Mary's wedding garment was also said to be "richly embroidered with blue, white, violet, and gold roses", and it is said at the Incarnation, while the Angel vanished into the path leading to heaven, that half-bloomed roses fell on Mary.

The rose was sacred to the Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite and thus the ancient Greeks and Romans associated roses with the Goddess.

Ancient Sumerians mentioned roses in a cuneiform tablet (a system of writing). It was written approximately 2860 BC.

Until the early 19th century, dried rose petals were believed to have mysterious powers. Napoleon gave his officers bags of rose petals to boil in white wine, to cure lead poisoning from bullet wounds. Even today, from the Middle East to Northern India, rose water is still used to refresh the hands before a feast or festive greeting.

The ancient Persians explained the appearance of red roses with the legend of a Nightingale who loved the white rose. When Allah named the rose the "Queen of Flowers", the impulsive bird flew down to embrace her, and was pierced by her thorns. From the drops of the Nightingale's blood, red roses grew.

Another ancient story tells how roses were thornless in the Garden of Eden. Only after Adam and Eve were expelled did their thorns appear.

The rose was created by Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, according to the ancient Greeks. White roses were said to have sprung from the sea foam which surrounded her as she rose up out of the sea. Another story tells of her lover Adonis, being wounded by a wild boar. From her tears mixed with his blood grew a superb fragrant, blood red rose.

The Romans tell how Flora, Goddess of Spring and Flowers, begged the other gods to help change a dead friend into the Queen of the Flowers. One god gave the breath of life, another bathed her in nectar, another fragrance, one gave her fruit and Flora herself contributed petals. This resulted in the first rose.
The Greeks had their own variation of this legend: The rose was created by Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, but of a lifeless body of a nymph which she found one day in a clearing in the woods. She asked the help of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who gave her beauty; Dionysus, the god of wine, added nectar to give her a sweet scent, and the three Graces gave her charm, brightness and joy. Then Zephyr, the West Wind, blew away the clouds so that Apollo, the sun god, could shine and make the flower bloom. And so the Rose was born and was immediately crowned Queen of the Flowers.

People have been passionate about roses since the beginning of time. In fact, it is said that the floors of Cleopatra's palace were carpeted with delicate rose petals, and that the wise and knowing Confucius had a 600 book library specifically on how to care for roses.

The people of ancient Greece used roses to accessorize. On festive occasions they would adorn themselves with garlands of roses, and splash themselves with rose-scented oil.

In the 15th century, the English were already cultivating and making hybrids of roses. Tudor Henry VII, the winner of the English War of Roses created the Rose of England by crossbreeding other roses. This Rose is also known as the Tudor Rose.

For centuries, Christians scorned the rose because of its connection with their Roman enemies. But its miraculous beauty eventually won them over. The fourth century martyr, Saint Dorothy, is said to have been delivered roses from the garden of paradise by an angel in her prison cell. And the first rosary is said to have been made of actual flowers. Another Christian legend says that when the blood of the crucified Jesus dripped onto the moss at the foot of the cross, moss roses were created.

Shakespeare refers to roses more than 50 times throughout his writings.

Napoleon's wife Josephine so adored roses, she grew more than 250 varieties.

Medieval legend asserts that the first roses appeared miraculously at Bethlehem as the result of the prayers of a "fayre Mayden" who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death by burning. As Sir John Mandeville tells the tale (Travels, ch. vi), after her prayer:
"Sche entered into the Fuyer, and anon was the Fuyr quenched and oute, and the Brondes that weren brennynge, becomen red Roseres; and the Brondes that weren not kyndled, becomen white Roseres, fulle of Roses. And these weren the first Roseres and Roses, both white and rede, that evere any Man saughe. And was this Mayden saved be the Grace of God."

The world's oldest living rose is on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany, and thought to be 1,000 years old!

Arabic legend 1 about the color of the rose
Originally Roses where white. One night the Nightingale met a white Rose and fell in Love. His love was so intense that he was inspired to song (for before that, Nightingales only croaked and chirped). Eventually his love was such that he pressed himself to the flower and the thorns pierced his heart and colored the Rose forever red.

Arabic legend 2 about the color of the rose
The Prophet Mohammed was away fighting in the wars when he began to long for his wife Aisha. But he was tormented by the idea that she was unfaithful. So he spoke to Gabriel who suggested that there was a simple test. When the Prophet returned home he should ask Aisha to drop whatever she was carrying into the water. If she was faithful, it would stay the same color. The prophet returned from his endeavors and Aisha rushed to great him carrying a huge bouquet of red roses. She was surprised when he commanded her to drop them in the river. But she obeyed and the roses turned yellow. Nevertheless Aisha remained his favorite wife.


For the symbolism of rose colors, you may visit RoseColors.info.

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