“Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose.” 12th Century Persian Poem
Don’t underestimate this demure little cupcake. Much more than overindulgence in sugar or cupcake feminism, this divine rose confection is a direct connection to a feminine spiritual heritage thousands of years old. And they offer a scent and fragrance so compelling, so transporting, that it has been from time immemorial associated with magic, mysticism, esoteric secrets, sacred sexuality, the unfolding of higher consciousness, and most especially – divine feminine power.
The five-petalled wild rose is one of the most ancient plants on the face of the earth, reputed to be millions of years old. And at some time in prehistory, it became equated with the movement the feminine planet Venus, who traces a five-petal shape (the magical pentacle) around the sun in the heavens every eight years.
Both the planet Venus and the rose were sacred to the ancient goddesses of old. Isis, Inanna, Ishtar were said to have created the rose giving it shape and form. And hidden within its petals, the goddesses placed their powers over life, death, rebirth, regeneration.
In Greek myth the rose is said to have risen from the sea with Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, Beauty and Fertility and she gave the rose its name. In India, the Lakshmi goddess of beauty and prosperity was said to have been created with rose petals.
Hecate the goddess of witchcraft wore a crown of roses. Pre-Christian France worshipped Rosemerta (Rose Mother) in fertility rituals held on sacred mounds and hills. I love the rose-adorned Pictish maiden painted circa 1580’s by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues pictured below.
Ancient Greece and Rome both had religious festivals and feasts for the rose and her Goddesses. “Rhodophoria” was a festival of roses held in honour of Isis throughout the Roman Empire. Altars in the temples of Isis, Aphrodite and Venus were piled high with roses and floors strewn with petals. Priestesses adorned their bodies with rose oil and wore rose garlands around their necks.
Today we know the rose contains chemical compounds that release “feel good” endorphins while reducing cortisol and blood pressure, causing the brain to enter the deep calm, dreamy states. Were these ancient priestesses using the scent of the rose to alter their consciousness? According to Dr. David Stewart, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, rose oil has the highest electromagnetic frequency of all flowers, raising human vibrational frequency when inhaled.
Is this why the revery inducing rose was decreed by early Church Fathers as damnable? When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the ancient rose festivals, along with the worship of their tutelary goddesses, were banned. Now there was only one Lady of Rose – the Virgin Mary.
Driven underground by the Inquisition, the mysteries of the goddess became part of the heretical “hidden stream” and the rose (Rosa Mystica) became an emblem of secret societies dedicated to preserving the spiritual knowledge of the goddess traditions. They hid the rose in plain sight, in art, architecture, poetry, and literature, to preserve the ancient teachings for those with “eyes to see”. The infamous Knights Templar built the Gothic cathedrals with their famous rose windows and were said to secretly worship Mary Magdalene – whose sacred symbol was the rose.
Legends in the south of France tell this where Magdalen lived and continued her ministry after the crucifixion. She is said to have created a Sisterhood of the Rose, composed of twelve groups of twelve women who work for the betterment of mankind and are wisdom keepers of the sacred rose knowledge. Their descendants were said to be active during the time of the Crusades as a feminine version of the Knight Templars
During the medieval era of courtly love, the rose was equated with the holy grail and was an emblem of the “Queen of the Most Holy Rose Garden in which the Grail lies hidden”. In the 15th and 16th centuries, roses were the emblem of the mystical secret societies like the Rosicrucians who worked sub rosa “under the rose” a term used to denote secrecy or confidentiality.
Roses were a favourite symbol of alchemists treatises like “The Rosary of the Philosophers” or the “Rosarium” and later they appear in the illustrations of the Tarot of the famous theosopher Arthur E. Waite – as a symbol of divine feminine power.
So cupcake feminism indeed. I invite you to put on your magical frilly apron in honour of the Sisterhood of The Rose. Bake these cupcakes for the ancient Rose Goddesses and Rose Queen’s whose mystical practices were outlawed by patriarchal religions. Allow their aroma and flavour to uplift your spirit and nourish your soul. Consider them a sacrament to Queen of Heaven and Earth, “the one who makes all things flourish”.
Divine Rose Cupcakes w/Rose Sugar Frosting
Makes Approx. 24 mini-cupcakes
- 3 cups of rose petals (make sure they are scented! Rugosa Rose is divine)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 cups sugar (1/2 cup for cakes, 1 cup for rose sugar,1 & 1/2 cups for rose syrup)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
- 1/2 cup rose syrup (you will add to cupcakes and reserve some for frosting)
- 2 cups of icing sugar
- Place all your petals in a sieve/colander and gently shake to release the little critters. You may want to do this several times! (No washing – it will dilute the volatile oils). Take 1 cup of rose petals and whir into half a cup of sugar. Process thoroughly. Your sugar is ready.
- Put 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar into a pot. Boil until it thickens into a syrup. Take off heat, let cool slightly, then place in 1 & 1/2 cups of rose petals. Make sure syrup is cool enough that the petals don’t COOK when you add them. Infuse for a couple of hours. Strain off petals.
Directions for Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 375 and butter your mini-cupcake tins.
- Finely mince 1/2 cup of rose petals.
- Cream 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of your pre-made rose sugar together till light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
- Add flour, baking powder and salt. Then slowly add half a cup of the rose syrup, beat well; stir in vanilla. Lastly, stir in the finely minced rose petals.
- Pour into cupcake tins and bake for approx. 18 minutes. Let cool.
- Frost with icing and then sprinkle each cupcake with rose sugar.
Voila. Cakes fit for the Queen of Heaven. P.S. They won’t last long!
P.S. If you’re out of fresh rose petals don’t worry – you can make rose sugar for these cupcakes with dried rose petals – see this post. I made the batch of cupcakes below for Valentine’s Day completely with dried petals! (Recipe available for Gather Victoria Patrons)
For more on hidden herstory of the rose and a recipe for Rose Marchpane Cookies in honour of the Tudor Queens click here.