The red rose is said to have got its color either from the spilt blood of Christ, Venus or Adonis or, according to Islam, from the sweat of Mohammed’s brow. In ancient Roman times, roses were traditionally planted at gravesides in the belief that they had the power to protect the dead from evil. Over the centuries white rose, symbolic of innocence, have often been planted at the graves of virgins, while red roses have been planted on the graves of lovers or of philanthropists renowned for the love they showed their fellow men.
This association with death probably lies at the root of the body of generally pessimistic traditions now linked to the flower. Superstition warns that if a rose drops its petals while someone is holding it this is an omen that the person is soon to die. Roses that bloom out of season, meanwhile, are also disliked, as they are supposed to presage misfortune in the year to come.
Dreaming of roses may be interpreted as a prediction of success in love, but if they are white misfortune lies in store. The wild dog-rose is also reputed to be to be unlucky. It is thought to be unwise to make any plans in its vicinity, as its influence will blight the proposed undertaking.
One a more cheerful note, girls may use roses to identify their husband-to-be by wrapping a rose in white paper on Mid-summer’s Eve and keeping it until Christmas. Then it is unwrapped and, if still fresh, worn by the girl on her dress. The first man to admire the rose or remove it is destined to marry her. To determine how sincerely one is loved, a person has only to snap the stem of a rose—the louder the noise produced, the stronger the passion.
The rose has various uses in folk medicine, too. In England in the eighteenth century it was alleged that it could promote fertility, and women who wanted to bear children wore red roses in small bags around their necks. The gall of the rose (an abnormal growth caused by insects, fungi, bacteria or injury) was thought to be an effective cure for whooping cough and toothache if worn around the neck, and would combat insomnia if placed beneath the sufferer’s pillow.
There is a modern day saying that ‘Life is a bed of roses’. I’m certain people think that because rose petals are velvety to the touch and that roses have soothing aromas that the saying means that life is wonderful or that life is easy. However, consider that rose bushes bear thorns. Now apply that same saying to life. Rose thorns prick the flesh and bring pain. Therefore, with all of life’s beauty it also brings heartache. So given all the above information about roses, which analogy do you think is appropriate to life – pleasure or pain?