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Roses are the quintessential flower of love and romance. Although modern ornamental roses have very many petals, the classic flower has five around a dense cluster of stamens and aromatic nectaries. This five-fold structure is mirrored in the movements of the planet Venus as viewed from the earth, which makes a five-petaled cycle around the zodiac every eight years. Venus, of course, has long been the luminary of love goddesses, from Astarte and Aphrodite to its Roman namesake.
Though the scent of rose has always been captivating and sensuous, distilling the scent remained an elusive ambition until the 16th century. In perfumery, rose is a ‘heart’ note; it forms the center of the scent profile, bridging fleeting top notes and musky, earthy base notes. It was so important that an old perfumer’s adage is ‘no perfume without rose’. Indeed, recipes from the 19th and 20th centuries seem to reflexively include the floral scent, and those old perfumes your grandmother wore all make delightful love potions in their own right.
In addition to being a fine inclusion in any philter, bath, tea, oil, incense or other blend for love, Rose has also gathered to herself the power of secrets. This association is stems firstly from the euphemistic association of a rose with the vulva, bound up with the secrets and mysteries of sex. Additionally, the rose gained a further association with secret knowledge from Henry VII and the Tudor rose, which hung on the ceiling in a private chamber where secret dealings would be discussed. Finally, through the Rose Cross symbolism of the Rosicrucian society, roses were linked with the secretive society and the mysteries revealed to members of appropriate rank. As such, roses are appropriate inclusions in formulae to discern secrets and gain esoteric knowledge.