Last Updated on January 8, 2024
As a flower enthusiast, few blossoms captivate my senses quite like the elegant and fragrant lily. Its regal appearance, intoxicating scent, and enduring popularity in gardens and floral arrangements have long piqued my curiosity.
Yet, it’s the layers of symbolism and meaning woven into the petals of the lily that truly fascinate me. Join me on a mesmerizing journey into the realm of lily flower symbolisms.
In this article, we’ll uncover the deep-rooted meanings and cultural significance of lilies, which have made them a beloved emblem of purity, renewal, and a myriad of emotions across centuries and cultures.
What Does The Lily Flower Mean?
- Lily Colors And Their Meanings: Lily flowers come in various colors, each representing different emotions and associations.
- Dominant Meanings: The primary meanings associated with lilies are purity and fertility.
- Fragile Beauty And Scent: Lilies are connected to ideas of new life and rebirth, making them a suitable symbol for parenthood and emerging from challenging times.
- Greek Mythology: Greek mythology, particularly the story of lilies growing from drops of Hera’s milk, reinforces the association with motherhood and new life.
- Complex Origins: The myth also involves elements of infidelity and attempted infanticide, which contrasts with the wholesome symbolism of motherhood and new beginnings.
The Linguistic Roots of Lily Flowers: Delving into Etymology
The word lily is derived from the old English, lilies, which, in turn, is derivative of the Latin word Lilia (plural of Lilium) & the Greek word leirion, both of which simply refer to the subject of today’s article, the lovely lily flower.
It’s thought that the Latin and Greek words mentioned above were the product of a corrupted pronunciation of the eastern Mediterranean word, hreri.
The Multifaceted Symbolism of Lily Flowers
|Victorian Language of Flowers
|A symbol of purity and innocence
|Represents love and devotion
|Tied to ideas of traditional femininity
|Often associated with mourning
As mentioned earlier, lilies have some serious allegorical range, so you can bend their meaning to suit almost any purpose.
Purity and Fertility
As we’ve already discussed, purity and fertility are the lily flower’s meat and potatoes, so to speak.
The Western world is also commonly referred to in lily as “the flower of death”, which is why they’re such a popular choice at funerals.
However, there is sound reasoning behind this seemingly unfounded symbolic shift.
In a funeral setting, lilies still represent innocence, but rather than that of a literal or figurative newborn, they refer to the restored innocence of the absolved soul of the deceased.
Lilies reassure us that, though someone may be gone from our side, they’re not gone completely. But in a better place, a place that will eventually host our eternal reunion.
We have Victorian society to thank for a lot of the emotional maturity and fluency we understand in ourselves today.
However, as we still are, the Victorians were a work in progress, and a great deal of the human emotional spectrum was considered unfit for public display.
In light of this, people developed an alternative, more discrete manner of communicating feelings and desires with other members of society: they spoke through the sending of flowers.
This emerging, semi-secret language was floriography, and in this language, each flower pertained to a very specific emotion or message.
The Romans would use lilies to stuff their pillows to provide a lovely scent in the boudoir. As such, the lily became synonymous with love-making and lovers in general, which is why the creators of this floral vernacular chose it as the flower of love.
If you wanted to express your undying adoration and devotion to someone in your life, rather than standing up in the middle of an event and singing to them à la Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, you’d send a bouquet of lilies and a note bearing your name.
The undeniable grace and elegance of the slender lily flower has long drawn ties to ideas of traditional femininity. Yet more sub-symbolism linked into the dominant allegory of purity and fertility.
The connection between lilies and femininity dates back to Ancient Egypt when they would sent new brides garlands of these flowers to represent the purity of their promise to their spouse.
This tradition spread through the years and became a staple of both Ancient Greek and Roman weddings.
Over time, the association blurred from the original meaning of purity, to signify femininity on a border scale.
… There are also a number of different meaning tied to particular varietals of the lily flower:
Asiatic Lily — Purity And Marriage
Staple of the global wedding industry, the Asiatic lily symbolize purity and the beauty of sacred promises.
Oriental Lilies — The Virgin Mary
The stem of this lily represent Mary’s faithful mind; the petals, her purity and virginity; the scent, her divinity; and the leaves, her humility.
Calla Lilies — Faith, Strength, Beauty… And Vaginas
In Christian circles, the calla lily is a symbolic representation of both religious and marital faith. To the Ancient Greeks, it was more of a physical embodiment of the concept of beauty.
And in western society, they’re a token of strength due to their ability to re-flower after being cut.
Many also considered this flower quite vaginal in appearance, establishing ties to femininity, feminism, sex, and fertility.
Deciphering the Symbolic Significance of Lily Flower Colors
|Purity and Innocence
|Femininity, Love, Adoration
|Love, Passion, Determination
|Warmth, Positivity, Congratulation
|Fresh Starts, Happiness, Loyalty
|Pride, Respect, Royalty
Perhaps more important than the species of lily in terms of how people perceived them is their color.
- White Lilies: Versatile and pure, white lilies symbolize innocence and are commonly used in weddings.
- Pink Lilies: Pink lilies represent femininity, love, and admiration. They convey care and are a symbol of kinship, especially among female friends and family.
- Red Lilies: Red lilies convey romantic love and passion. They also symbolize determination and achievement, making them a great gift for hardworking individuals.
- Orange Lilies: Symbolize warmth and positivity, making them an ideal gift for those starting new ventures or to convey congratulations.
- Yellow Lilies: Yellow lilies signify fresh starts, happiness, and loyalty. They represent the light and warmth of sunshine and are a way to express thanks and cultivate togetherness.
- Purple Lilies: Symbolize pride and respect, with associations of royalty and dignity, making them a perfect gift for special individuals, especially matriarchs.
Exploring the Profound Botanical Traits of Lily Flowers
As we touched upon earlier, the slender stem and delicate petals of the lily associated with notions of traditional femininity, gentleness, and grace.
Some species of lily grow stolons, creeping stems that reach out in the earth from an established plant, releasing roots along their length in order to form fresh life.
This hidden connection between seemingly separate plants symbolizes the strong link we share with loved ones, regardless of distance.
It infers a perpetual sense of togetherness and support. Most lily bulbs are also buried deep underground, signifying strength, and an eradicable sense of purpose.
Blooming in late spring through summer, even white lilies radiate a warmth, stoking the embers of the soul, reminding us that, though we experience coldness in this life, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Lily Flowers in Celebration: Signifying Special Occasions
|Symbolizing unity and commitment
|Representing sympathy, renewal, and restoration of innocence
|Perfect for celebrating new life and purity
|A beautiful gift for special occasions
|Signifying achievement and new beginnings
|Marking the transition to a new phase
|The official flower for celebrating 30 years together
The obvious events that spring to mind when thinking of lilies are weddings and funerals. But, as you now know, there’s a lily out there for any occasion.
They’re perfect for baby showers, birthdays, graduations, retirement shindigs… you name it!
They’re also the official flower of 30th wedding anniversaries.
So, if there are some real “couple goals” people in your life celebrating their third decade together, you can’t go wrong with lilies as a gift.
The Rich Cultural Significance Of Lily Flowers
Lilies hold profound cultural significance in various parts of the world. They are known for their multifaceted meanings and have played essential roles in diverse cultures and traditions.
Here are some key aspects of the cultural significance of lilies:
Lilies have strong associations with religious traditions. In Christianity, the Madonna Lily is linked to the Virgin Mary’s purity and motherhood. It is often depicted in religious art and is a symbol of the Annunciation.
In Greek mythology, lilies are associated with the goddess Hera, symbolizing both purity and majesty.
Funeral And Mourning
Lilies are a common sight at funerals and are often associated with mourning and the transitory nature of life. White lilies, in particular, symbolize sympathy, renewal, and the restoration of innocence.
Weddings And Celebrations:
On the flip side, lilies are also widely used in celebratory events. In weddings, they symbolize unity and commitment, making them popular choices for bridal bouquets and decorations.
The lily, particularly the daylily, holds a special place in Chinese culture. It represents motherhood and a love for one’s children.
It is also linked to the idea of “forever in love” because the Chinese word for lily sounds like the word for “forever in love.”
Victorian Language Of Flowers
During the Victorian era, flowers were used to convey secret messages, and lilies had specific meanings. For example, the calla lily symbolizes magnificent beauty
In some cultures, white lilies are associated with Easter, symbolizing the resurrection of Christ and the hope of eternal life.
Mourning And Death
In some Asian cultures, lilies, especially white ones, are associated with death and are commonly used in funeral rituals.
Discovering Intriguing Lily Flower Facts and Trivia
Lilies have been used as symbols in various ancient cultures. In ancient Greece and Rome, they were associated with motherhood and fertility, particularly the Madonna Lily.
In Christian symbolism, the Madonna Lily represents the Virgin Mary’s purity and motherhood.
Lilies are prominent in Christian religious art and literature. They often symbolize purity, chastity, and the resurrection of Christ. The Easter Lily, in particular, is a symbol of the resurrection in Christianity.
Lilies are mentioned several times in the Bible, often associated with positive qualities.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referenced the lilies of the field, highlighting their beauty and simplicity as an example of God’s care for creation.
In ancient Egypt, lilies, particularly the blue water lily (Nymphaea caerulea), were associated with the sun and rebirth.
They were often depicted in ancient Egyptian art and used in religious ceremonies.
In Asian cultures, lilies have spiritual significance as well.
In Buddhism, the white lily is associated with the Great White Tara, a goddess of compassion. In Chinese culture, lilies are associated with good luck and abundance..
During the medieval period in Europe, lilies were associated with the Annunciation and the purity of the Virgin Mary. They were a common motif in religious art and illuminated manuscripts.
Victorian Language of Flowers:
In the Victorian era, flowers were often used to convey sentiments and emotions. Lilies, particularly the calla lily, were associated with purity and were used in wedding bouquets to symbolize marital unity and virtue.
In Greek mythology, the lily is associated with various stories and gods. It is said to have sprung from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods. Additionally, the lily is linked to Apollo and the Muses.
Versatile Applications of Lily Flowers
- Unlike our cats, lilies are on the menu for humans. The Chinese, in particular, are fond of including these flowers in their cuisine.
- Lily roots and bulbs can be used to make medicinal tea to ease the discomfort and pain of stomach issues, combat fevers, and help women during labor.
- Lilies can also be used to form soothing ointments for treating rashes, burns, ulcers, and inflammation. It will also minimize the development of scar tissue in the problem area.
- Tiger lilies can be used as cough medicine.
The Symbolic Essence of a Lily Flower Tattoo
A tattooed lily doesn’t stray too far from the cultural meanings and spiritual symbolism of the actual flower.
They often symbolize femininity, motherhood, natural beauty, devotion, purity, sensuality, optimism, togetherness (especially with someone who has the same or similar tattoo), gentleness, peace, strength, fertility (strife and success), and inner beauty.
Mythology Linked To Lilies
|Originated from the milk of Hera, symbolizing motherhood and fertility
|Associated with Easter, symbolizing purity and new beginnings
|Linked to Venus, goddess of love and beauty, representing love, purity, and transitory beauty
|Symbol of brightness and radiance, connected to the sun
|Associated with the god of war, Huitzilopochtli, symbolizing power
|Signifies purity and abundance, associated with the goddess Lakshmi
|Representing the afterlife and rebirth, often found in tombs
|A symbol of enlightenment and spiritual growth
|Symbolizes purity, elegance, and grace
Lilies have deep-rooted connections to various mythologies, often symbolizing different aspects and characters within these stories. Here are some mythological associations with lilies:
- Greek Mythology – Creation of Lilies: In Greek mythology, the lily is said to have originated from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods, who was nursing her son Hercules. Drops of her milk fell to the Earth, and from them, lilies are said to have sprung forth. This connection with motherhood and fertility is one of the key aspects of the lily’s symbolism.
- Easter and Resurrection: In Christian traditions, lilies are closely associated with Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The pure white lily is seen as a symbol of purity and new beginnings, making it an apt representation of the resurrection and life after death.
- Roman Mythology – Venus and the Lily: In Roman mythology, lilies are associated with Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. According to the myth, when Venus emerged from the sea, the lily sprang from the water, symbolizing love, purity, and transitory beauty.
- Chinese Mythology – 100 Sons: Chinese mythology features a story in which the lily is said to have had one hundred sons. These sons represented the sun and the power of sunshine, highlighting the flower’s connection with brightness and radiance.
- Aztec Mythology – God of War: In Aztec mythology, the god of war, Huitzilopochtli, was often depicted with a headdress adorned with lily-shaped feathers. The lily was associated with his fierce and powerful nature.
- Hindu Mythology – The Goddess Lakshmi: In Hinduism, the goddess Lakshmi, who symbolizes wealth, prosperity, and beauty, is often depicted sitting on a lily flower. This image signifies her connection to purity and abundance.
- Egyptian Mythology – Afterlife and Rebirth: In ancient Egyptian mythology, lilies were associated with the afterlife and rebirth. They were often placed in tombs and depicted in artwork, symbolizing resurrection and the eternal cycle of life.
- Buddhist Mythology – Symbol of Enlightenment: In some Buddhist traditions, the lily is considered a symbol of enlightenment. It represents the idea of purity and spiritual growth, similar to the lotus flower.
- Roman Mythology – Juno and Lilies: Another Roman myth connects lilies with the goddess Juno. It is believed that lilies grew from the breast milk of Juno, signifying motherhood and the regenerative power of women.
- Persian Mythology – Symbol of Purity: In Persian literature and mythology, lilies are often used as symbols of purity and beauty. They have been associated with concepts of elegance, grace, and purity in Persian culture.
I think we can all agree that the lily flower is one awesome plant (unless you’re a cat, that is). It’s likely one of the most mythologized life forms on the planet. By the look of things, we’re not willing to let these time-earned associations fall by the wayside.
The lily will forever be an integral part of our identity, and I couldn’t be happier about it!
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the Lily symbolize in different cultures?
Lilies symbolize various attributes across cultures. In Christian traditions, they represent purity and resurrection, while in Greek mythology, they are associated with motherhood. In Chinese culture, lilies represent good luck and abundance.
Why are Lilies associated with funerals and mourning?
Lilies are often linked to funerals due to their symbolism of purity and the transitory nature of life. Their use in funerals signifies the hope for the deceased’s soul to find peace and new life.
What do different Lily colors symbolize?
The color of lilies can carry different meanings. White lilies symbolize purity and virtue, while pink lilies represent love and admiration. Yellow lilies convey gratitude, and orange lilies symbolize passion and confidence.
How are Lilies connected to spirituality and enlightenment?
Lilies are often associated with spiritual enlightenment, especially in Buddhism. Their growth from the mud to the surface of the water is seen as a metaphor for spiritual emergence and purity of heart.
What is the role of Lilies in mythology and ancient legends?
Lilies feature in various myths and legends. In Greek mythology, they were believed to have sprung from the milk of Hera. They are also associated with goddesses like Venus in Roman mythology and Lakshmi in Hinduism.
Are Lilies associated with rebirth and renewal?
Yes, lilies symbolize rebirth and renewal, particularly in ancient Egyptian culture. They were placed in tombs to signify the hope of resurrection and the continuation of life after death.
How do Lilies relate to love and relationships?
Lilies have a connection to love and romance, with pink lilies symbolizing love and devotion. They are often given as gifts to express deep affection and admiration for someone.
What is the significance of the Madonna Lily in Christian art?
The Madonna Lily, a type of white lily, is often seen in Christian art and symbolizes purity, motherhood, and the Virgin Mary. It signifies the idea of Mary’s immaculate conception and divine motherhood.
Why are Lilies often seen as a sign of femininity?
Lilies are associated with feminine qualities, such as purity, grace, and beauty. They are often given as a symbol of appreciation and admiration for women.
Can lilies be used in religious ceremonies and rituals?
Yes, lilies are commonly used in religious ceremonies, including weddings, funerals, and other significant events. They are often seen as offerings to deities and symbols of spirituality and purity.
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