Milk and rose petal bath, photo by Dennis Wong

In February, it’s difficult not to think about love and romance — especially if you’re single. And if you’re a single person with a magical practice, you might be considering casting a spell or two to bring some love into your life.

When you contemplate casting a love spell, there’s a good chance roses immediately come to mind. The association of roses with love has been around for a long time and is deeply entrenched in our culture. According to an article from ABC News in 2017, more than 200 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day each year. Poems, songs, stories featuring roses as the flower of love abound.1

Are roses flowers of love?

And after two decades of working magically with plants, I agree with the general idea that roses are flowers of love. I just don’t believe it for the same reason a lot of other people do.

Culturally, we seem to have a hard time differentiating between romance and love. The Oxford Online Dictionary defines romance as “A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love,” or “Love, especially when sentimental or idealized.” Maybe a hybrid rose, stripped of thorns, floating in a cloud of baby’s breath and ferns is a fitting symbol of romance’s idealized, exciting flutters. But of love? Real, lasting, committed love? Maybe not so much.

Those roses from the flower shop — picked by underpaid South American labourers under unhealthy working conditions, taken before they’re fully developed, and shipped north in February to be sold out of season, where many of them wither before they get a chance to open — they’re about as far from embodying the true magick of love as possible. Though they do make a fair symbol for romance: flashy, briefly beautiful, but ultimately too insubstantial to sustain the heart beyond a brief moment in time.

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On the other hand, the rose growing in the wild or the old fashioned garden, heady with scent in summer and heavy with rosehips in winter, always armed with an arsenal of sharp, curved prickles? Here is a plant who can teach us about love. She offers beauty and perfume, to be sure, and that’s the stuff of romance as often as of love. But as the seasons progress she offers nourishment in the form of her hips, given freely at a time when the world seems barren and wild food is scarce. What is more like a true love, a life partner, than the one who offers her best to us when the rest of the world is freezing us out and denying us our basic needs?

But rose, too, embodies boundaries. If you want to share in her blessings, you’d better respect her thorns. The gifts of love aren’t for impatient, grasping hands and trampling feet. The beloved should be approached respectfully, tenderly, with respect for her needs and desires as much as for your own. If you go blundering up to a rose bush and start grabbing thoughtlessly, she will cut you. And it will sting for days after you remove her curved prickles from your skin.

If you want to make love magick this month, I suggest you look at what rose is doing in your neighbourhood right now.

Wild roses, photo by Lyn Lomasi

Cultivate relationships with roses

I recommend conversations with roses as a good place to start. They are wise on the subject. Learning to talk to plants helps you cultivate the patience needed to be a good partner.

If you cultivate relationships with the plants around you, they become friends and allies: get to know them and you widen the circle of love in your life with these new relationships without even attempting to make magick. And friends are generally much more helpful than ingredients or supplies.

Make friends with the roses and they will help you even when you aren’t casting spells. And when you are ready to cast a spell, rose can help you make wild, deep-rooted magick with her unexpected gifts.

Rose petals, photo by tommpouce

Working with roses

Of course, if you live in the southern hemisphere, now might be a good time to work with summer-fresh rose petals and leaves. But you might also ask yourself if a few thorns could be useful. Do you struggle to maintain healthy boundaries with the ones you love? Or, conversely, do you have a tendency to trample people who are more sensitive than you are? A little reminder of the importance of treading gently with your loved ones, or of standing up to them, might need to make its way into your spells.

I you live here in the northern hemisphere, especially in a temperate zone where it’s still winter, you might consider doing love magick in a completely different way.

In my garden in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, the roses are just beginning to put out the tiniest red leaf buds. February is the time for pruning roses to prevent them getting so tall and leggy the canes break from the weight of summer flowers and foliage. The landscape is thick with thorns, hips and a few straggling leaves left from last summer, but there aren’t any blossoms to speak of.

But I think rosehips are just as appropriate for love spells as flowers: maybe better, if what you want to call into your life is deep, lasting love. They’re beautiful right now, pulsing with life and generous nourishment.

Magical uses for roses

You could make a love brew with rosehips and something sweet like honey from local bees or maple syrup from a northern forest. Add a few spices if you want to make sure there’s a little heat in the relationship, and maybe throw one or two thorns into the brew to help you create and honour good boundaries.

Omit the honey and spices, and add a strong rose hip tea to your bath water before spell work. String a freshly picked rosehip onto wire or cord, let it dry, and use it to make a love talisman. Or let rose guide you in new ways to dance with her magick.

After centuries of co-existing with humans, she’s usually very happy to lend us a hand.

Image credits: Dennis Wong, slgckgc, Lyn Lomasi, and tommpouce

Footnotes:

  1. Caterina Andreano and Emily Shapiro, “Valentine’s Day by the numbers: See how much money is spent on flowers, candy and cards,” CBC News, 14 February 2017. []