The rose holds a well-respected and sacred reputation in many different spiritual traditions, from Hinduism to Christianity to Native American traditions.
The rose is especially revered in Hinduism, which features many stories regarding this ancient flower. According to one Hindu legend, Brahma (the creator of the world) and Vishnu (the sustainer of the world) disagreed over whether the lotus was more beautiful than the rose. Vishnu supported the rose, while Brahma was in favor of the lotus. However, Brahma had never seen a rose before, and when he did he immediately admitted defeat. As a reward for convincing him of the rose’s beauty, Brahma created a bride for Vishnu out of rose petals. This bride was named Lakshmi, and she became the goddess of wealth, love, and prosperity, as well as the embodiment of physical beauty (e-CBD Flowers, source, 2007).
The rose has also come to be an important symbol in Christianity. It is traditionally believed that the briar rose, (Rosa canina) was the source for the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head at his crucifixion. Consequently, in Christian flower symbolism, the rose stands for the blood of martyrs. The monk Walafrid Strabo (A.D. 809-849), in his writings at the St. Gall Monastery, wrote the earliest surviving record of a monastic garden, in which he devoted several lines to describing the beauty and symbolism of the rose (O’Brien, source, 2014). In the 13th century, Saint Dominic established the rosary as a series of prayers to the Virgin, symbolized by garlands of roses in heaven and by beads on earth. As a result, the rosary and roses in general came to represent both the Virgin Mary as well as the union between God and mankind (Brown, source, 2014).
In Islam, the rose symbolizes the soul, flowering and thriving among thorns. Additionally, Sufi Muslims of the Rose Crescent sect traditionally anointed themselves with rose oil before prayer, believing that the scent could help them transcend earthly preoccupations. White roses especially, such as Rosa alba, became sacred symbols in Islam, as the flower was thought to be in direct contact with the prophet Mohammed (Kandeler & Ullrich, source, 2014).
To many Native American tribes, including the Paiute, Nez Perce and Salish, wild roses were a symbol of life, often used in beadwork and other arts to represent vitality and survival. According to many tribal beliefs, wild roses kept ghosts from causing harm to the living and were often placed in the homes or clothing of people who were in mourning or felt haunted. In addition to playing a valuable role in herbal medicine, wild roses were also sometimes attached to cradleboards to bring vitality to infants (Native Languages, source, 2012).