The lovely Grace Thalia guides us onward, as we tour the magical garden. She reminds us that flowers, the Good Folk, and magick have been woven together for millennia, in, as author Sirona Knight writes in her book, Fairy Magick, “a rich and ancient tapestry.”
The undisputed Queen of the Garden is the rose. Roses are known to have been cultivated in Asia 5,000 years ago. Fossils in Montana & Oregon prove that it has been a wildflower in America, for more than 35 million years. There are more than 30,000 varieties in its rather complicated family tree.
The first known historical reference to the rose comes to us from Sumeria in ancient Mesopotamia, now Iraq. King Sargon I, of Akkadia (2684-2630 B.C.E.) brought vines, figs & rose trees to the city after he returned from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris.
Its popularity as a rare and royal flower spread to the lands of Persia (Iran). There, it enchanted Alexander the Great who, in turn, introduced it to western Europe. However, Herodotus wrote that it was the mythical King Midas of Phrygia, (Asia Minor, 3000 B.C.E.) that introduced the rose to Greece. In Homer’s Illiad, written in the 9th century B.C.E., he mentions that the shield of Achilles was decorated with roses.
You’ll recall from yesterday’s discussion that this very shield was part of Achilles’ armor. It was so desired by the hero Ajax that he died by his own hand when it was given to Ulysses instead of him (his shed blood then giving birth to the larkspur).
To the ancient tribes of Arabia, the rose was a masculine flower. It has been traditionally considered a symbol of joy, and then later of secrecy and silence. Today, of course, we usually associate it with love.
Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.), noted that the Emperor of China had over 600 books about roses. By the 5th century BCE, the Chinese had learned to extract oil of roses from the plants grown in the Emperor’s garden. This oil was so powerful and precious, it could only be used by nobles and dignitaries. Possession by anyone else was death.
I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for more rose history and magic.