Disclaimer: I am not a rose expert by any stretch of the meaning, just a girl that loves nature and wants to share. This post is for entertainment purposes only.
The Eternal Rose
As we discussed last week the rose has a deep and long history with layers of meaning.
But did you ever wonder why the rose? And who was the first civilization to attribute so much meaning to their different colors and cultivars?
So let’s peel back some of these layers and look at it’s roughly 5000 year history, or as best we can in a quick blog post.
Also, a little bit later, we’ll have a shout out to those sporting black roses this Valentines Day. I’ll explain what the black rose meant in my earlier years and what it means today.
So sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in this complex bouquet of roses.
We Start With History…
The history of roses is fairly straightforward. Most roses originated in Asia, with a few being native to Europe and North America.
But over the last 5000 years, tens of thousands of cultivars have been created. It is widely believed that most rose cultivation started in China and spread throughout the rest of the world.
(How do you like that quick peeling of history?)
So of course the rose, not only has historical significance but has made its way into myths and legends.
Here are two of my favorites.
… To Become Myths and Legends
The Chinese Legend of the Blue Rose
Long ago there was a mighty emperor of China. He was wise and kind and loved of his people. But he was also very troubled. He had but one child, the Princess, whom he loved dearly, but who had yet to show any interest in marriage.
Determined to see his daughter wed the Emperor decided to entertain suitors to his daughter’s hand in marriage and a proclamation was sent through the land. Men young and old flocked to the place to put forth their suit for the Princesses hand in marriage.
Now the Princess was not only beautiful but cunning as well. She told her father that if he wished for her to marry she would happily acquiesce to his demands but requested that she be allowed to specify the requirement by which a suitor might win her hand.
The Emperor, thrilled at his daughter’s submissiveness, readily agreed.
When the Princess was presented to the court of suitors she told them her condition. “I will marry the man who brings me a blue rose.” She smiled at the shocked expressions and left them to consider her conditions.
Some left immediately, others pondered her request before giving it up as impossible. After all, none had ever seen a blue rose.
Three suitors remained a Warrior, a Rich Merchant, and a Chief Justice. One by one they rose to the challenge.
The Warrior and his retinue of two hundred soldiers decided to visit the country of the King of Five Rivers, due to its riches and bounty. Fearing an attack, the King of Five Rivers rushed out to meet the Warrior and asked how he could be of service.
“I need a blue rose, can you give me one?” the Warrior asked.
The King hesitated for a moment then smiled, “I believe so.” They returned to the palace where the King ordered his servants to bring him a special wooden cask. When the Warrior looked inside he smiled and rushed back to the Princess.
Confidently the Warrior gave the wooden cask to the Princess.
“A blue rose carved from flawless sapphire.” he said as she lifted the lid.
“It is beautiful but it is not the blue rose that I want,” she replied sending the warrior away.
Emboldened by his rivals’ failure and confident his money could buy him what he needed, the Rich Merchant hired the most knowledgeable florist to find him the blue rose.
The florist had never seen or heard of such a thing, but swore to succeed in payment of a great sum. After a while the florist’s wife had the idea to tint a white rose blue. Confident their scheme would work the florist sold the tinted rose to the Rich Merchant who carried it to the Princess
“A blue rose, as requested,” he said confidently handing it to her.
“This rose has been tinted with a poison that would kill the first butterfly to sip from it. It is not the blue rose that I want,” she said and sent the Rich Merchant away.
The Chief Justice was thrilled at the failure of his rivals. He had had plenty of time to ponder their gifts and their failure, and knowing the rose did not exist, he felt confident his plan would work.
He hired the most talented glass maker to make him the finest cup painted with blue roses.
“For you my Princess,” he handed her a box lined with the richest satin in which sat the most delicate porcelain cup the princess had ever seen.
“This is quite exquisite work,” the princess acknowledged, “but it is not the blue rose that I want.”
Dismayed the last of the suitors left, and the Princess felt elated that she had outsmarted her father and the men of the court.
Her father was disappointed but he held to his promise to honor his daughters condition and did not bring the subject of marriage up again.
One day a talented Troubadour came to the palace and sang sweet songs. At night, he serenaded the Princess from the palace walls. The Princess listened to his music and soon the two fell in love and wanted to marry.
“I can only marry the man who brings me a blue rose,” she said sadly, now feeling cursed by her own cleverness.
“Do not worry, our love can do anything,” he said.
The next day, in front of the entire court he presented himself as a suitor for the Princess.
Without saying a word he bowed and handed the Princess a white rose he had plucked from the palace gardens.
“This is the blue rose that I want,” the Princess said smiling.
The court erupted, the former suitors angered at the princesses response. However the wise Emperor stepped forward.
“The Princess is the one who chose the condition for marriage, if she says this man has given her a blue rose, then that is what has happened.”
Unable to refute the word of the Emperor or the Princess the court fell silent.
The Princess and her Troubadour were soon married.
The Creation of The Rose
Flora, the goddess of springtime and flowers, strolled through the forest. She soon came to a clearing where she found one of her beloved nymphs dead.
Shocked and deeply saddened she called out to the other gods. She wished to transform the body of the nymph into a flower, and begged them to lend her some of their powers.
Seeing that Flora was inconsolable, the gods rushed to her aid. They surrounded the fallen nymph and one by one blessed her.
Apolo, gave her the breath of life. Bacchus then bathed her in nectar. Vertumus gave her fragrance making her smell sweet and inviting. Pomona gave her fruit to enrich others, Flora then gave her a diadem of pearl colored petals. Thus the rose was born.
So entranced with their creation they called her the “Queen of all Flowers.”
The Black Rose
When I was in college giving black roses to single ladies was a thing. I don’t know who started it, but by the time I was a Junior at my University, there were scattered tables around campus where a single lady could pick up a black rose.
To us, (yes I was single at the time shocker!), it was a symbol of independence.
We called Valentine’s Day, Single Awareness Day and our rose was black. Kind of dark so it’s true meaning shouldn’t have been a surprise. And yes it wasn’t lost on me that the acronym spells S.A.D.
Now we never had real black roses, just silk ones. Which was fine with me cause it lasted longer and I didn’t really think black roses exist.
They do. They’re really more of a deep purple or maroon color, but close enough to black. A truly black rose is only had once it has been artificially died. The natural, or hybrid, versions are beautiful.
However, they don’t stand for independence and womanhood like I had believed.
Can you guess? The answer in western culture is quite obvious, or at least should be.
If you guessed ‘death’ then you are right!
Black roses are linked to mourning and death. I know now that those highlighting the Single Awareness Day with a black rose were being ironic. Like saying “My love life is dead and I’m okay with that.”
I found it a humors thing and still do. My friends and I always had a good time on Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with your significant other or Single Awareness Day with friends, I hope you have found these stories of love, miracles, and humor inspiring.
For more inspiration I invite you to hang around, read some more, or check out our own awesome rose collection here.
You can even make a special request here, for your own Blue Rose Ring.
Comment below with your favorite rose and what it means to you.