I have found that, although certain plants have distinct planetary rulers, each planetary influence is present in some form in every plant. The noble rose is perhaps the choice example here. Similarly, in his work The Witching Herbs, Harold Roth uses the rose as a framework for understanding ruling planetary influences. I wish to take Roth’s example a bit further and describe how all of the planetary influences might be discerned beyond the rulers alone. Along the way, the notion of any one plant ruling altogether is challenged.
Consider the most apparent influences one usually finds upon observing the rose: the petals and scent. One quickly turns their perception to the sweet scent of the rose, as well as its pleasing visual appearance. In turn, a Venusian influence can be gleaned: these qualities are usually concerned with matters of love, passion, romanticism, and intimacy. Roses are often gifted as a sign of affection, and their scent is used in attractive perfumes and aromatics. Because of these elements, primary via tradition — and immediately evident via perception— the rose can be said to be ruled by Venus.
However, the rose has secondary planetary qualities as well. Many of these are apparent in the flower’s slightly less-evident features. Consider the protective thorns of the rose. These barbs of embattlement encompass the influence of Mars upon the rose. Mars, which rules matters of battle, protection, defense, and war, is perfectly embodied in these protective tools. Therefore, while often not the primary perceptual feature of the rose, nor the feature which is always chiefly utilized, their presence still implies a Martial quality. Because of this secondary nature, Mars may be seen as not ruling the rose, yet it still exerts a strong influence upon the plant.
What can be said of the other planetary influences of the rose?
If we continue to look at the subtler and still less evident qualities of the rose, we find deepening influences. The rose is a perennial plant, meaning it lives for roughly three or more years. In a separate work entitled Curating the Magical Garden: Considerations of Life Cycle in the Magical Use of Plants, Harold Roth notes the Saturnine influences of perennial plants: The long haul expenditures of energy, lengthy life cycles, “stable” qualities, and deep-rootedness of these plants relates to Saturnine associations.
Saturn consummately embodies the notion of time, especially the slower and leaden cycles of perennial herbs. In matters of both growth and cultivation itself, perennials require patience and persistence. Perennials also tend to extend their rootedness deeper into the ground, implying an ability to thrive in the underworld. Here, a Saturnine influence is also evident: the underworld, as the space of the dead, serves as the deep origination of perennials. The dark soil, composed of “dead” matter, is of Saturnine provenance.
Annuals, while also rooted in this material (albeit less deeply), are much more solar and focused on the upper world. As Roth notes, these annuals tend to expend much more energy on sexual reproduction via seed production. Perennials, on the other hand, often reproduce asexually from within the realm of the underworld — by extending new growth via sprawling roots, for example.
However, annuals may still be Saturnine in their own way. It only takes some imaginative work with form, content, poesis, and language to discern this. For example, even annuals grow from the deathly materia of the soil. Therefore, it is not a quality unique to perennials alone. A playfulness is required here that, once attained, can help one see the various planetary influences played out in any plant.
Roth makes another planetary observation about perennials by noting their expansiveness. Here, the influence of Jupiter reigns. Jupiter, who rules matters of abundance, expansiveness, and growth can be said to reign over the growth patterns of perennials like the rose. The pure abundance of the roses features, depending on variety, genus, etc. may also contribute to this quality. Consider high yields and multitudinous flowerings for example.
Next, contemplate Mercurial influences. Insofar as the rose communicates matters of love, affection, apology, and gratitude, Mercury can be said to exert its influence on the rose. The nature of the rose as an object of emotional transmission meets its end through the means or mode of Mercurial force.
In other words, whereas the symbolic expression of Venusian affection is the end goal of the gift of a rose, the features that transmit such a message are Mercurial: lovely red petals and sweet scents carried on light and air. Here, the medium itself serves as an extension of the plant itself. The air which carries its scent, for example, commingles with the aromatic chemicals of the rose itself and fuses them into the Mercurial influence. In this way, the rose extends beyond itself, and one is even reminded of the famous Marshall McLuhan axiom that “The medium is the message.”
Finally, one must consider the Solar and Lunar influences of the rose.
In this regard, the photosynthetic influences of the Sun in the growth of any plant garners a solar influence. The energy from our nearest star helps the plant develop into the being that we know as embodied all the aforementioned qualities. In a way, the Sun “rules” every plant insofar as their sheer existence is predicated on its energy!
As for the Moon, the lunar influence is bound up in the same energy that rules the tides: The moon’s gravity affects the fluids and subtle energies of the rose (or, again, any plant), causing it to wax and wane with various intensity. To the extent that any plant is used for matters or uses of magic, intuition, and occult properties, it can be said to have lunar influences. The moon rules these matters of magic and enchantment.
In light of all this, one can see how the initial notion that Venus truly rules the rose has been called into question. Which influence can be said to truly rule the rose? Are petals and scents really the primary qualities encountered upon a meeting with the rose?
To a certain extent, this is purely contextual: How is one chiefly utilizing the plant and its properties? If roses are cultivated purely for their use in aromatic essences or philtres, surely Venus rules. But for the rose that is used to form a natural barrier or bramble among the garden, its scent and petals of less importance, than perhaps Mars does rule. If anything, it rules this particular rose plant used for bramble and border.
Again, these influences can be discerned in numerous ways through close engagement with any plant. As mentioned, all it takes is a bit of imaginative/imaginal thinking and a degree of poetic modality.
It was said previously that these qualities are just one of the many ways one can learn deep occult principles from the herbs themselves — How elemental forces, ruling and secondary planetary energies, etc. interact to inform and reify various qualities. This dynamic can be mapped onto objects and processes beyond plants, including metals and minerals, human relationships, and even social or political systems.
Roth notes that planetary and elemental forces are not one-dimensional or literal embodiments of fire, lunar force, etc. Rather, they function as an occult poesis that describes various energetic streams. These streams often function dynamically and relationally to create particular effects
Try to cultivate some playful insight into the next plant you come across? How is it Jupiterian — does it have an expansive quality in any way? Perhaps its scent is powerful to the point of maintaining an expansive quality.
These practices help us to not only know the plant allies more intimately, but also to reify and reinforce occult frameworks like ruling planetary forces. If all else fails, simply ask the plants themselves. You may be surprised at how the answer resonates through the wild patch or garden.
• Roth, Harold. Curating the Magical Garden: Considerations of Life Cycle in the Magical Use of Plants. From CLAVIS vol. 4. Three Hands Press. 2016.
• Roth, Harold. Curating the Magical Garden: Considerations of Life Cycle in the Magical Use of Plants. From CLAVIS vol. 4. Three Hands Press. 2016.• Roth, Harold. The Witching Herbs: 13 Essential Plants and Herbs for Your Magical Garden. Red Wheel/Weiser. 2017.
Images (in order of appearance):
• From Thesaurus Thesaurorum. (Wellcome MS4775). c.a. 1725 (?). Various authors. Via Wellcome Library. Via Wellcome Library. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk. @wellcomecollection. Unless otherwise stated, all content on the site is © The Wellcome Trust and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 [https://wellcomecollection.org/works/nc2fz6ee]
• Rose flowers (5 varieties). Coloured engraving by H. Fletcher, c. 1730, after J. van Huysum. Huysum, Jacob van. 1730. Via Wellcome Library. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk. @wellcomecollection. Unless otherwise stated, all content on the site is © The Wellcome Trust and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0[https://wellcomecollection.org/works/h5v3tuh5]
• A flowering rose (Rosa species). Coloured lithograph, c. 1850. Via Wellcome Library. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk. @wellcomecollection. Unless otherwise stated, all content on the site is © The Wellcome Trust and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Public Domain Mark (PDM) [https://wellcomecollection.org/works/we7pgehw/images?id=mchdzfdk]
• Dog rose (Rosa canina): flowering stem, leaf and fruit. Coloured engraving, c. 1829, after J. Sowerby. Sowerby, James. Via Wellcome Library. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk. @wellcomecollection. Unless otherwise stated, all content on the site is © The Wellcome Trust and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0[https://wellcomecollection.org/works/nakmdb86/items]