Dating back to ancient times, roses have a long, rich history as a sacred symbol. Early, wild roses had only five petals, and it is the five-petaled rose that appears most often as a sacred symbol—in mythology, mysticism, the occult, and even in conventional religion.
In ancient Egypt, the rose was sacred to Isis, who was worshipped as the ideal mother and the patroness of nature and magic. The five-petaled rose was also associated with the Greek Goddess of Love Aphrodite, and her Roman counterpart Venus.
The Goddess Lakshmi, the most beautiful woman of India, was said to have been born from a rose composed of 108 large, and 1,008 small petals. And in Asia, the Flower of the Goddess was the red China rose.
Esoteric and mystical traditions have also embraced the rose as a symbol. The five-petaled rose appears in Sufism and Freemasonry; in Wicca, it is sometimes paired with the pentagram (five-pointed star). And in Aleister Crowley’s mystery religion Thelema, the unicursal hexagram—a six-pointed star that can be drawn in a continuous line—has a five-petaled rose at its center.
Roses have been adopted as a symbol in conventional religion as well. Religious reformer Martin Luther chose the five-petaled white rose as his symbol, displaying it in his seal. In Catholicism, the five-petaled rose represents the wounds of Christ; the red rose symbolizes the blood of martyrs; and the Virgin Mary is called the Mystic Rose.