Notes from Diane's Garden

Or The Curious Lore and Magical Property of Plants
By Diane Fenster

April, 1987: Roses

Let's set the record straight right from the beginning. I'm a Garden Crazy, a Kitchen Witch and a tad unconventional in my methods, but I seem to have gathered some bits and pieces of ancient and not so ancient wisdom in the four years I've called myself a gardener. Since I'm a solitary and I have a terrible memory, I thought it time to start distributing some information for anyone who'd care to dabble in Magick, sorcery, Witchcraft, or cooking using plants... Gardening is a great source of inspiration to my Magickal workings and to my deeper understanding of Witchcraft and myself. It's got everything-life, death, rebirth... a microcosm of the macrocosm, etc. Erich Neumann puts this symbolism together very well in the chapter on The Lady of the Plants in The Great Mother. I think it's important for even you city Witches to try and become familiar with the Demeter aspect of the Goddess, even if it's with a few pots of herbs in your window.

But enough of that. On to the topic-Roses. Last year I planted 23 rose bushes at Mt. Bubba (my home in Pacifica); this year I'll put in 9 more. I clearly love roses and I'm attempting to grow them in an oceanside climate which is normally too damp for the genus Rosa. But they are the essence of all that is Magickal to me, so I'll keep trying to grow them.

Assorted thoughts on the Rose in no particular order:
• The symbol for the Great Mother as Madonna or Virgin is the rose. The rose is also a symbol for Aphrodite, Astarte, Ishtar, and Venus. So we have a contrast between the inward, enclosed or cloistered virginal white rose and the full-blown sensuality of the red rose. You may say it's another attempt on the part of early Christians to suppress a Goddess image by using the symbol for the Virgin Mary, but in this case I suspect that both images are correct. Also, roses were frequently buried with the dead, carved on tombstones and planted on graves. So you often find old rose collectors sneaking around graveyards looking for an unusual specimen to take a cutting. Most of the ladies I've met who are involved with roses are Witches even if they don't know it. This would indicate the rose to be a symbol for Hecate or The Morrigan (Morgan le Fay). All this means that roses, being symbolic representation s of the Triune Goddess, can be used in spells in lots of ways. White roses for purification of self or sacred space (Virgin); red roses obviously in love spells, but that can be taken further to include fertility -- the Goddess as source of all life (Mother). Since roses do have a connection with death, very dark wine-colored roses would be appropriate in a ritual to remember the dead or perhaps for some type of banishment spell (Crone). For some more symbolic connections, please refer to Barbara Walker's listing on roses in the Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.

• There are at least 150 species of roses from which have come all of the roses grown today. Roses were cultivated as early as the l2th century BC by the Medes and the Persians.

• Rose hips or the fruit of the rose are a major source of Vitamin C, and therefore the rose is acclaimed for its power to prevent disease.

• It was a custom in ancient Rome to suspend a rose over the dinner table as a symbol that all confidences spoken there were to be held sacred, hence sub rosa.

• Rosa gallica is the official Apothecary Rose. Rose preparations were used in medieval times to treat a great number of ailments: to strengthen the heart, liver and stomach, prevent vomiting, relieving fevers and headaches. (Try using a compress of rose water to help a headache).

• Persians connect the rose with the nightingale. Tradition says that the bird cries whenever a flower is picked and that it will hover around a rosebush in springtime until it is overpowered by the sweet fragrance and falls senseless to the ground.

• The red rose is said to have gotten its color from the blood of Adonis.

• The rose is regarded to be under the special protection of elves, dwarves, and fairies who are ruled by Laurin, the lord of the Rose Garden.

• In Germany, a woman who had several lovers used rose leaves to divine which one will be true. She would name each leaf after a lover and toss them in the water. The last to sink was the one to count on.

• In keeping with the Doctrine of Signatures, the red rose is used in an old charm against nosebleeds (red cures red). It goes "Abek, Wabek, Tabek; in Christ's garden stand three red roses-one for the good God, the other for God's blood, the third for the angel Gabriel; blood I pray you cease to flow."

• In the War of the Roses, the white rose was the symbol of the house of York, the red the house of Lancaster.

• If a white rosebush unexpectedly bursts into bloom, it is a sign of death in the nearest house.

I hope that some of the above information will prove useful in your Magickal workings. What follows are a few delightful oldtime rose recipes:

Rose-Petal Sandwiches
Put a layer of red rose-petals in the bottom of a jar or covered dish. Put in 4 oz. of fresh butter wrapped in waxed paper. Cover with a thick layer of rose-petals. Cover closely and leave in a cool place overnight. The more fragrant the roses, the finer the flavour imparted. Cut bread in thin strips or circles, spread each with the perfumed butter and place several petals from fresh red roses between the slices, allowing edges to show. Violets or clover blossoms may be used in place of roses.

Pot-Pourri Recipe Used by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde
To a large bason of dried sweetscented rose petals allow a handful of dried lavender flowers, rosemary, thyme, balm, sweet marjoram, southemwood, sweet basil, clove carnations, sweet briarleaves, wild thyme, garden thyme, hyssop, philadelphus flowers, orange flowers, mint, sweet geranium leaves, verbena, a few bruised cloves, the dried and powdered rind of a lemon or orange, a teaspoonful of allspice, half an ounce of cinnamon and a good pinch of sandalwood.

Gather and dry the flowers and leaves all through the season, adding any others according to one's fancy but keeping the proportion of a bason of rose petals to a large handful of all the other ingredients put together. Store in a jar with a lid but the jar need not be airtight.

Rose Hip Marmalade
Ingredients: Wild rose hips; sugar. Method: To every pound of rose hips allow half a pint of water. Boil till the fruit is tender. Pass the pulp through a sieve fine enough to keep back the seeds. To each pound of pulp allow a pound of preserving sugar. Boil till it jellies.

Sweet Scented Bags to Lay with Linen
Eight ounces of damask rose leaves, eight ounces of coriander seeds, eight ounces of sweet orris-root, eight ounces of calamus aromaticus, one ounce of mace, one ounce of cinnamon, half an ounce of cloves, four drachms of musk-powder, two drachms of white loaf sugar, three ounces of lavender flowers and some of Rhodium wood. Beat them well together and make them in small silk bags.
-- Mrs. Glasse, The Art of Cookery 1784

Rose Petal Jelly
Ingredients: Dried rose petals; apples; preserving sugar.
Method: Make apple jelly with good cooking apples but do not peel them. Cut them up fairly small, put them in a preserving pan and cover with cold water. Simmer slowly to a pulp. Strain the pulp through a jelly bag and leave to drip all night. Measure the liquid and to every pint allow a pound of preserving sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then put in as many dried rose petals as the liquor will hold. Boil till the jelly sets when tested on a cold plate. Strain before potting.

Sources for Recipes: Rose-Petal sandwiches: A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, Vol. 2, page 694. All others: Rose Recipes from Olden Times, by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde.


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