Originally the most commonly used species of Rose was the cultivated variety Rosa gallica officinalis, also known as Apothecary's Rose, which has been in cultivation for at least 5000 years. At home in the Middle East, this beautifully fragrant species was highly revered in the ancient world. Today many deep red species of Rose are available to commerce and sold simply as 'Rose' as it is often impossible to tell exactly which species they are derived from. Christianity adapted the Rose as a symbol of the Virgin Mary, but long before then Rose was already celebrated and revered as sacred to Venus/Aphrodite and her female mysteries. The scent of Roses permeated the ancient world: Roses were scattered as strewing herbs across the floor, the bed or dinner table, Rose oil was distilled for use as perfume or medicine and Rose water was popular for cosmetic use and food. Even now, Rose petals are among the most popular potpourri ingredients, and arguably provide the most endearing fragrance for scores of cosmetics - though their use as food and medicine seems to have lost some of its appeal. Rose rapidly conquered sentiments and noses throughout Europe - wherever she went she was met with adoration. She was loved as much by the Greeks and Romans as by the Arabs, who had introduced them to it. In fact, love and Roses seem to go hand in hand - and can frequently be considered synonymous: Rose is THE most frequently used symbol of love. No other flower has won as many hearts throughout the world, nor features as prominently in art, literature or music - how could be otherwise for a flower of Venus/Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, Art and Culture.
Medicinally Roses do not play a great role today. In the old days they were valued for their cooling, soothing effect and for their ability to improve the flavour of other medicines. Today it is the essential oil of rose that plays the greatest role as a therapeutic agent. Roses are mildly astringent and can be used in tea blends for respiratory complaints. Externally, they make a good cleansing wash for impurities of the skin or for eye infections. Roses lift the spirit and dispel depression.
Rose petals are an excellent strewing herb for any sacred space, especially when dedicating the altar to Venus/Aphrodite. They can be included in incense blends, magical potpourris, dream pillow, sachets and love charms or in the ritual cup, especially for celebrations of the Great Rite. They can be sprinkled in the bath water for purification, especially in connection with hand fasting celebrations. No ritual of love should be celebrated without Roses.