Roses have held significant meaning since the ancient Greeks. Down through the ages the meaning has changed somewhat and different colors of roses have come to have different meanings. Roses first appeared about 35 million years ago. The 150 naturally occurring species have been found in the Northern Hemispheres. Wild roses are white, red or pink with five petals. They bloom once a year in early summer. Down through the ages the meaning of white roses has changed.
The early Greeks designated the white rose to mean the goddess Aphrodite. When the foam from the sea at her birth met the shore it turned into white roses. The Romans changed the Greek goddess Aphrodite to the goddess Venus and said when the love of her life, Adonis, died her tears turned into white roses.
The white rose in Christianity symbolizes a love without expectations or demands, in other words unconditional love. It also represents celibacy. The five petals represent the five wounds, one in each hand, one in the feet, the wound from the crown of thorns, and the wound in Christ's side. The white rose turned red when it was touched by a drop of Christ's blood. The white rose also represents the Virgin Mary as a symbol of purity.
War of the Roses
In the mid-1400s the white rose came to denote the House of York, while the red rose stood for the House of Lancaster. The War of the Roses, which should more accurately be stated as the Wars of the Roses because there were a number of battles, was fought to determine which house would attain the throne. These wars were also known as the Battles of Cousins.
Communication between courting couples was somewhat limited during Victorian times. There were no email, no phone, no texting, and couples were always chaperoned. Flowers took on meanings and different colors of the same flower meant different things. White roses signified innocence, love, purity and virtue. White rose buds came to signify youth. Not only did the type and color of the flower influence the meaning, the number of the flowers sent in the bouquet changed the meaning of the message as well.
White flowers in general are considered pure and represent love. White roses have become one of the most popular wedding bouquet flowers representing pure love and innocence. Mixing red and white roses means unity which is especially appropriate for a marriage ceremony.