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The magical story of the Rose - Rosa Centifolia

Τhe history of the Rose is lost in the depths of history. The five-petal rose is one of the oldest plants on the face of the earth, said to be millions of years old. At some point in prehistory, it was identified with the movement of the female planet Venus, whose motion forms a pentagram around the sun every eight years.

The rose originated in the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, regions where it adorned the gardens of kings. It soon spread to Palestine and Mesopotamia and from there to Asia Minor and Greece. The Greeks in turn spread it to Italy where it was loved throughout the Roman Empire.

Legend has it that Alexander the Great brought roses to the West. There are numerous mythological references to roses in classical Greece. The goddess Hecate of witchcraft and crossroads was sometimes depicted wearing a rose on her head. Of course, roses are associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

The rose was a symbol of not only the Greek Aphrodite but also of the Babylonian Ishtar, the Assyrian Astarte, and the Semitic Astoreth. All of the above goddesses were goddesses of love, beauty, and fertility. In India, the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and prosperity, is said to have been created with rose petals.

The myths about the creation of the flower, however, are many and varied. One says that the first roses sprang from the tears of Aphrodite, while another says that they were the gift of the gods to celebrate her emergence from the sea.

Another legend says that the rose was originally white but turned red when the goddess was pricked by thorns as she was searching for her dead lover.

There is a second Greek myth about the creation of the plant. In Greek myth, the goddess Chlorida, protector of flowers and plants, came across the corpse of a nymph while walking one day. The goddess took pity on her, and she asked the other gods for help to bring her back to life. Aphrodite gave beauty to the nymph; Dionysus gave her nectar for sweet smell, and the three Fates gave her joy, glow, and charm. The nymph came to life when Zephyr, the west wind, blew strongly and sent away all the clouds of the sky so that the sun god Apollo could cast his bright gaze on the nymph, and she would be born and blossom. Thus, the rose was born from the cooperation of the gods. The nymph was crowned 'Queen of Flowers'.

Another legend says that the flower was created by the goddess Diana of the Roman religion. The legend says that Rhodanthe was a beautiful girl with red lips and alabaster skin. The girl was a shy and gentle soul. She was fearful of the men who pursued her and as a result, she would lock herself up in her house for days to avoid the men's pressing proposals. One day when she left her home the suitors began to pursue her, and she panicked. Rhodanthe sought refuge in the temple of Diana. She begged the goddess to free her from her insistent chasers. When they broke down the temple door to get close to Rhodanthe, Diana was furious and transformed Rhodanthe into a beautiful flower with many thorns so that everyone could admire it but no one could touch it.

Another legend says that Isis, Inana, and Ishtar created the rose by giving it shape and form. What is certain is that the flower has always been an offering to the deities of beauty and love.

Legend has it that Nebuchadnezzar II in 575 BC built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates River. These were filled with colourful roses in honour of the princess who would become his wife and also in honour of Ishtar. These gardens were built next to a gate which was called the Gate of Ishtar.

Both ancient Greece and Rome had religious celebrations and festivals for the rose and its goddesses. The "Rodophoria" was a rose festival held in honour of Isis throughout the Roman Empire. The altars in the temples of Isis, Aphrodite, and Venus were piled high with roses and the floors were strewn with petals. The priestesses adorned their bodies with rose oil and wore garlands of roses around their necks.

The roses decorated not only temples and palaces but also the head and clothes of women on many special occasions. The Romans used it at weddings and funerals.

Another queen who loved the rose petals was Cleopatra and legends say that she demanded that her entire palace be covered with rose petals.

The rose was the most revered flower in ancient Egypt and was under the protection of Isis. Roses have even been found in the oldest tombs in the pyramids.

In Rome, there is an idol of the goddess Cybele called the Great Mother, Magna Mater. This was celebrated by being carried in a procession covered with roses. Another legend says that the Goddess Cybele was the one who created the rose as she was jealous of Aphrodite and wanted to make something more beautiful than her, as they had a rivalry between them over Adonis.

In Rome, there was an ancient custom of hanging a rose over the council table to indicate that all that was said should be kept secret. It is possible that this custom came from an image of ancient Egypt with Horus, son of Isis, sitting in a rose with his finger on his lips commanding silence before the Mysteries commence. In the mystical orders, the rose is still used as a symbol of silence and secrecy.

Pre-Christian France worshipped Rosemerta (Mother of Roses) in fertility ceremonies held on sacred mounds and hills. Pagan flower festivals were condemned when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. As a result, the rose was forbidden and demonized because of its association with Venus, as happened with anything feminine. Now there was only one Lady of the Roses - the Virgin Mary.

The rose became the flower of the Virgin Mary who became the Rosa Mystica herself. As the temples changed and became Christian, so did the processions and festivals of the pagans that changed to Christian ones. So there were processions in honour of the Mother of God that walked on rose petals just as they did in Roman times.

Mary became the secret rose. The red roses became the symbol of Mary's grief as they had previously been a symbol of grief for Aphrodite over her lost lover. This time the red colour of the Rose is not the blood of the goddess or Mary's but the blood of Christ shed on the white flowers. The white rose signified Mary's joy and the golden rose symbolizes her glory.

Mary was given many Rose names such as Rose of Sharon, Queen of the Most Holy Rose, and others. She was often called 'Rose Without a Thorn' because of course, she was pure like the first rose that grew in the Garden of Eden. According to Christian myth, thorns appeared on the flower after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden. Mary is the perfect example of man's union with God so the rose became a symbol of the union between Christ and Mary.

When Gothic cathedrals were erected in medieval cities, many of them had rose windows, which are beautiful rose-shaped frames illuminated by richly coloured stained glass.

Many believe that the real Rosa Mystica was not the Virgin Mary but Mary Magdalene. According to many, Mary Magdalene followed Christ out of genuine devotion. She was not chosen but chose to become the apostle of the apostles herself. Those who follow her consider her to be a well-trained priestess of Isis, a great teacher whose wisdom guides humanity. Today there are many Rose sisterhoods on the internet for women who want to be initiated and continue the cult of Mary Magdalene, who according to many was the wife of Christ (remember Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code).

There is a belief that the Mysteries of the Goddess became part of the heretical secret movement and the rose (Rosa Mystica) became the emblem of secret societies dedicated to preserving the spiritual knowledge of the traditions of the Goddess. It is believed that they hid the rose in plain sight, in art and literature, to preserve the ancient teachings for those who were illuminated.

The infamous Knights Templar built the Gothic cathedrals with their famous rose

windows and are said to have secretly worshipped Mary Magdalene rather than the

Virgin Mary. Legends in the south of France say that Magdalene lived there and continued

her mission after the crucifixion. She is said to have created the Sisterhood of the Rose,

consisting of twelve groups, twelve women working for the betterment of humanity, and

being wise guardians of the knowledge of the Sacred Rose. Their descendants are said to

have been active during the Crusades as a female version of the Knights Templar.

During the medieval age of courtly love, the rose was identified with the Holy Grail

and was the emblem of the 'Queen of the Sacred Rose Garden in which the Grail is hidden'. In the 15th and 16th centuries, roses were the emblem of mystical secret societies such as the Rosicrucians.

The Rose and the Grail share many spiritual correspondences. The word chalice comes from the ancient Greek word calyx meaning goblet. The same word is used on the flower's cup-like sepals. These symbols indicate the vessel of the soul that is opened to receive the inflow of divine energy.

Today, roses maintain their charm and they are still symbols of beauty and love. Their history still...has a long way to go.

Rose was not only sacred for the goddess but also for the fairies. In Germany the rose is under the protection of the dwarves. In many places it is customary to ask the dwarf king's permission before picking it. If they don't ask permission they may lose an arm or a leg.

Anastasia Diakidi

Imaginarium Magazine Issue 13

April 2022

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