Red Rose Day – Celebrating the Queen of Flowers

“Roses lying on gold velvet” by Martin Johnson Heade

June 12 is Red Rose Day, an annual observance which is likely an import to the US from Australia, where the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation holds a Red Rose Day and Week on different dates every year.

Roses are now in full bloom, making warm, buzzing June an ideal time to celebrate the beauty and majesty of the world’s most legendary flower. The rose is often called the Queen of the Flowers, and with endless good reasons.

A red rose in particular is a powerful symbol and none other in the world more quickly or thoroughly summons up the energies of love, romance, passion, and enchantment.

Roses are believed to have come from Persia (most species are native to central Asia) though their true origin is still a mystery. Rose fossils some 40 million years old have been discovered, though they are currently estimated to have first appeared as much as 70 million years ago. Many early civilizations cherished and made many uses of the rose, and cultivation dates back around 5,000 years.

The Persian word for rose is gul and is very similar to ghul, which means “spirit”. This reinforces the rose’s long association with spirituality, which concept is not exclusive of those of love and passion.

In fact, the energies and influences of the rose perfectly encapsulate (and repeatedly reflect through myths and fairy tales) the highest ideals and experiences of true love of all kinds, of romance and perfect union, transcendence, connection to the divine, transformation, beauty, magic and ultimate reality.

The Magic of Roses

rose assoc. graphic


It is not only in fairy tales that roses are objects of magic and enchantment; their energies and properties are well known and documented throughout history and lore. As in “The Romance of the Rose” (see below – The Rose in Literature), just looking at a rose can be an enthralling experience.

Rose oil is both the quintessential love oil and is also a great all-purpose oil that can be substituted for any carrier. As Scott Cunningham suggests…

Take a handful of rosebuds and place them in a silver goblet. Pour one dram rose oil over them. Let them soak for a week….on a Friday night, burn them over the charcoal to infuse your house with loving vibrations. This is an excellent “peace” incense and can be done regularly to ensure domestic tranquility.” (Magical Herbalism, Llewellyn Publications 1997, Chapter Ten – Scented Oils and Perfumes)

Rose water is one of my favorite magical substances and is such an easy, pleasant way to experience rose’s loving, peaceful, enchanting energies. My favorite (and simply the best and highest-quality I have encountered so far) is from Alteya Organics and can be found here. Cunningham also recommends rinsing your hands with rose water before preparing any love mixtures, and of course doing so before any magical working – especially focused on love – is a great way to cleanse, ground, and create the appropriate vibes.

I use rose water to create sacred space (just spray it around the room), for emotional healing and to connect with mermaid energy, to which I have found roses and rose water to be very conducive; mermaids are beautiful, feminine, watery, enchanting, psychic and very much concerned with all matters of love…just like the rose.

Here is a folk charm that has been somewhat modernized and was reprinted in a vintage rose-themed calendar…

While thinking constantly about the desired person, make a small bag from material that he or she has worn or slept on (a thoughtful witch will pick an old inconspicuous garment rather than a new sheet but make sure whatever you use has not been washed since it was worn). Into the bag put three rosebuds you have carried next to your heart for a day, a lock of your hair and one of your lover’s, then tie the bag shut by wrapping it seven times with a red ribbon consecrated to Aphrodite. Clean the house, prepare the dinner, and follow your own beauty rituals still thinking of your lover. When the object of all this attention crosses the threshold, bury the bag under the doorsill. He or she will never want to leave you.”

Love charm disclaimer: For educational & special interest purposes only! Any charm or spell designed to control another, especially as in this kind of “love spell”, is unethical and inadvisable. Such spells rarely even work (at least as intended) and, in any case, still carry the potential risk of rebounding with the worst consequences. What goes around really does come around. However in true “love spells”, the goal is simply to draw a worthy love to you or to even better love yourself, not to try to turn a specific person into your thrall. Carrying rosebuds (with the right intention of course) is indeed an effective way to attract love into your life.

Health and Healing with Roses

Not only are roses filled with magical energies, they carry a great many health benefits. Rose water is one of my standard magical tools, but also one of the very few beauty products I use and truly a health product I can’t live without. It is wonderful for the skin as a cleanser and toner, and is delicious in teas and other food applications, where it’s healing and beautifying power can be absorbed even more.

Rose hips are especially potent, and drinking a decoction (not an infusion: hardier ingredients like root, bark and berry are better boiled for a period to really extract the material) of rose hips is probably the best way to enjoy the myriad benefits listed by Victoria Zak in 20,000 Secrets of Tea…


These are the virtues of the rose: Antidepressant, antiviral, aphrodisiac, blood tonic, urinary tract tonic, tension relief, nerve strength, immune strength, circulatory aid, antioxidant, astringent, antiseptic, kidney tonic, hormone regulator, system cleanser, stress resistant, infection fighter, respiratory aid, antispasmodic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, digestive aid, skin hydration, phlegm remedy, recovery tonic, adrenal supporter, free radical scavenger.”

Need I say more?

waterhouse_my_sweet_rose crop
My Sweet Rose” (detail) John William Waterhouse 1908

The Rose in Literature

From “The Romance of the Rose”, a 13th-century poetic allegory of courtly love by Guillaume de Lorris (first half, second half completed by Jean de Meun)…

Chapter II: The Spring of Narcissus

“I perceived in the mirror, among a thousand other things, rose-bushes laden with roses in a secluded place completely enclosed by a hedge…Possessed by this madness, as many others have been, I at once approached the rose-bushes, and I assure you that when I drew near, the sweet scent of the roses penetrated my very entrails and I was all but filled with their fragrance…There were roses in profusion, the most beautiful in all the world. There were buds, some tiny and closed up and others slightly larger, and some much larger ones which were coming into flower and were on the point of bursting. These buds are attractive, for wide-open roses have completely faded after a day, whereas buds stay fresh for at least two or three days…From among these buds I chose one so beautiful that when I had observed it carefully, all the others seemed worthless in comparison. It shone with colour, the purest vermilion that Nature could provide, and Nature’s masterly hand had arranged its four pairs of leaves, one after the other…The area around it was filled with its perfume, and the sweet scent that rose from it pervaded the whole place. When I became aware of this scent, I had no wish to depart, but drew nearer and would have plucked it had I dared stretch out my hands. But sharp, pointed thistles forced me to draw back, while barbed, keen-edged thorns and prickly nettles and brambles prevented me from advancing, for I was afraid of hurting myself.”

La belle dame sans merci” by Frank Dicksee

This passage vividly portrays the paradox of the allure and the inevitable pain of love through the imagery of the enthralling yet sharp, prickly rose. Such dichotomies and allegories are also illustrated in the original French fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast” by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Beauty’s father prepares to leave for a business trip and offers to bring gifts home for his children…

“And what shall I bring for you, Beauty?”

“The only thing I wish for is to see you come home safely,” she answered. But this only vexed her sisters, who fancied she was blaming them for having asked for such costly things. Her father, however, was pleased, but as he thought that at her age she certainly ought to like pretty presents, he told her to choose something.

“Well, dear father,” she said, “as you insist upon it, I beg that you will bring me a rose. I have not seen one since we came here, and I love them so much.”

Ironically, Beauty’s modest request turns out to be the most expensive of all the gifts as it is his attempt to claim the fateful rose from a certain enchanted castle that results in her imprisonment there.

“In spite of being so cold and weary when he reached the castle, he had taken his horse to the stable and fed it. Now he thought he would saddle it for his homeward journey, and he turned down the path which led to the stable. This path had a hedge of roses on each side of it, and the merchant thought he had never seen or smelt such exquisite flowers. They reminded him of his promise to Beauty, and he stopped and had just gathered one to take to her when he was startled by a strange noise behind him. Turning around, he saw a frightful Beast which seemed to be very angry….”

“Beauty and the Beast” by Warwick Goble

From “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Harcourt, Brace & World 1943)

“…one day, from a seed blown from no one knew where, a new flower had come up; and the little prince had watched very closely over this small sprout which was not like any other small sprouts on his planet…but the shrub soon stopped growing, and began to get ready to produce a flower. The little prince, who was present at the first appearance of a huge bud, felt at once that some sort of miraculous apparition must emerge from it. But the flower was not satisfied to complete the preparations for her beauty in the shelter of her green chamber. She chose her colors with the greatest care. She dressed herself slowly. She adjusted her petals one by one. She did not wish to go out into the world all rumpled, like the field poppies. It was only in the full radiance of her beauty that she wished to appear. Oh, yes! She was a coquettish creature! And her mysterious adornment lasted for days and days.”

The little prince later learns, just as the young man in the Garden of Pleasure in “The Romance of the Rose” that loving another comes with a price, that beauty and love often bring pain, and are never permanent. It is not until long after he has left his flower that he realizes what she meant to him…

“The fact is that I did not know how to understand anything! I ought to have judged by deeds and not by words. She cast her fragrance and her radiance over me. I ought never to have run away from her…I ought to have guessed all the affection that lay behind her poor little stratagems. Flowers are so inconsistent! But I was too young to know how to love her…”

The Lover tells of the Rose in his Heart, from The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

by William Butler Yeats

All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out

and old,

The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a

lumbering cart,

The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the

wintry mould,

Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the

deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to

be told;

I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll


With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made,

like a casket of gold

For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in

the deeps of my heart

rose poem
 poem © 2017 Aethiriel (Meredith Everwhite), painting: “Red roses in a Japanese vase on a gold velvet cloth” Martin Johnson Heade


100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells

Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham

20,000 Secrets of Tea by Victoria Zak

The Romance of the Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Oxford World’s Classics

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Katherine Woods translation)

W.B. Yeats Selected Poems by John Kelly, Phoenix Poetry

© 2017 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved

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