Lily Flower Meanings & Symbolism + Mythology & Folklore

Lily Flower Meanings

Lily flower meanings include beauty, purity, fertility, devotion, transformation, and rebirth. The beauty of this flower has inspired the work of writers and artists for centuries. In fact, the lily is considered to be so perfect that it inspired a saying – “gilding the lily” – to express overdoing something because the lily is already immaculate on its own.

In this post, you’ll learn about commonly shared lily symbols and meanings, including color meanings, the lily in cultural mythology, and the spiritual significance of this special flower.

What do lilies mean?

Here are some commonly shared qualities that the lily represents:

  • Beauty

  • Purity

  • Fertility

  • Transformation and Rebirth

  • Devotion

Beauty

The naturalist John Muir wrote about the lily:

“So extraordinary is nature with her choicest treasures, spending plant beauty as she spends sunshine, pouring it forth into land and sea, garden and desert. And so the beauty of lilies falls on angels and men, bears and squirrels, wolves and sheep, birds and bees.”

There are over 90 species of lilies and they can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Few would argue that they make the landscapes where they appear more beautiful. In fact, they are symbols of beauty, which is probably why the name Lily is a very popular name for girls.

Purity

Water Lily Emerging from Water

In addition to beauty, the lily flower is also a symbol of purity, as well as chastity and virtue. Like the lotus flower, some species of lilies grow in murky environments. The lily starts as a bulb in the soil or mud, only to blossom brightly above the surface as if it has been cleansed. This is why the lily also symbolizes immaculacy.

The gift of a lily represents a pure heart and good intentions. It also symbolizes that no matter where you come from or what mistakes you’ve made in your past, there is the opportunity for redemption with pure intentions and good deeds.

Fertility

As the lily flower transforms from a closed bud to a blossoming flower, they are reminiscent of a baby growing in a mother’s womb. So, the lily is also a symbol for fertility. Couples who want to conceive can meditate on the lily. In addition, they can have them around their home and in their garden to bring calm, positive energy to help them conceive.

Transformation and Rebirth

Lilies are often given to the grieving and at memorial services to honor a loved one who has passed. This is why these flowers are associated with grief. However, lily flower meaning represents something deeper – transformation and rebirth.

After all, death is the transition from the Earthly, material plane to the spiritual plane. As a lily emerges from water or the soil and its bud begins to open, it symbolizes the cycle of life and spiritual evolution. Like lotus flower symbolism, lily meaning also represents this cycle.

In this way, the lily shares synergies with the dragonfly, the frog, and the butterfly spirit animals. All go through a metamorphosis.

As the lily flower opens up, it symbolizes reaching a level of spiritual enlightenment. We are all here to evolve on a spiritual level, and death is a major step in that transformation. This is why we give lilies to people who are grieving for a loved one who has passed. It’s a gentle reminder that although they grieve, their loved one has entered a higher state of consciousness.

This is also the reason that the Easter Lily is such a time-honored tradition. It represents hope and the rebirth of the Earth with spring, as well as the rebirth of Christ.

Devotion

Lily flower meaning also includes devotion. Just as it’s a symbol of purity, the lily represents clarity of thought and sincere intentions. Another way to describe this might be faith. Having devotion means dedication to another person, a group of people, children, or even animals. It can also mean dedication to a spiritual practice or calling. Because the lily is a symbol of devotion, it’s given as a gift to celebrate a 30th wedding anniversary. In addition, it is planted in memorials or in gardens that have special meaning.

Water Lily Symbolism

Water Lily

Like the lotus, the water lily is an unusual flower in that it grows in watery environments. Because of this, the water lily is a symbol of transformation and personal growth, as well as our connection to the super-conscious.

While land represents the material world, water represents our ability to connect with our sub-conscious for a new level of understanding and insights. The water lily represents an ability to move back and forth between our conscious and super-conscious states.

Lily Color Meanings

The lily comes in a range of colors, and each one has special meanings. Here’s what different color lilies symbolize:

White Lily Flower Meaning

Field of White Calla LiliesWhite lily flower meaning includes purity, faith, beauty, and angels.

The English composer and poet Thomas Campion described the essence of female beauty when he wrote, “There is a garden in her eyes, where roses and white lilies flow.”

As the rose represents love and passion, the white lily represents pure, natural beauty.

The white lily is a popular flower for bridal bouquets, gift for newborns, and sympathy bouquets.

Pink Lily

Pink lily flower meaning includes platonic love, compassion, and honoring feminine energy. This color lily makes a lovely gift for female relatives, friends, and girls, or and men who love the color pink!

Red Lily Meaning

Field of Red LiliesThe color red symbolizes romantic live and passion. Because they are perennial flowers, the red lily also represents romantic commitment, devotion, and everlasting love.

Orange and Tiger Lily Meaning

Orange Tiger LiliesThere are a few sub-species of lilies that come in the vibrant color orange. Notably, the tiger lily is one of the most popular types. Just as the tiger spirit animal symbolizes strength, confidence, and majesty, so does the tiger lily flower.

The color orange also symbolizes health and wellness. So, orange lily meaning encompasses vitality and long-term healthy.

Quite the opposite of the shrinking violet, the orange lily embodies the saying,

“Fortune favors the bold.”

Yellow Lily Flower

Yello Lilies

Yellow lily flower meaning represents joy, happiness, laughter, and gratitude. Like warm sunshine, these are feel-good flowers. They are ideal for lifting others’ or your own spirits, whether in a bouquet or the garden. They also make lovely thank you gifts.

Green Lily Flower Meaning

Green lily flowers are rare, and they usually come in light, limey green hues. The color green symbolizes nature, renewal, growth, and feelings. A green lily is also symbolic of long-term romantic love or friendships being renewed. In addition, a green lily is a good-luck flower to plant in the garden when you want a business or other financial endeavor to grow. For this reason, they also make great gifts for loved ones who are trying to build a business or a practice.

Blue Lily

A type of blue lily grows in the Nile River Delta, which is sometimes called Blue Heaven or the Blue Lily of the Nile. The color blue symbolizes trust, loyalty, and spiritual awareness. Giving the gift of a blue lily or planting them in your garden is a lovely tribute to long-term friendships and trusted relationships. In addition, blue lilies symbolize dedication to faith and trust in a higher power.

Purple Lily Flower Meaning

Purple Water LiliesThe color purple symbolizes peace, harmony, royalty, and spiritual enlightenment. Water lilies often come in purple hues, including fuchsia, lavender, and blue tones. Because of this, a pond with purple water lilies makes an ideal spot for mediation and the growth of a spiritual practice, or for a peace garden. The purple lily also makes a lovely gift for making up and bringing more harmony to a relationship.

Spiritual Meaning of the Lily

Sun Rays and Lilies“Faith is like a lily, lifted high and white.”
– Christina Rossetti

In Christianity and other spiritual practices, the lily is a symbol of faith and devotion. As with lotus flower meaning, the lily represents reaching for a higher state of consciousness and a connection to the divine. On a spiritual level, the lily also represents our potential to transform and renew our lives so we can live in a more Godly way

Associated Spirit Animals

Lily and FrogThe lily shares some traits and symbiosis with certain wild animals and insects. For example, moths, bees, and hummingbirds pollinate lilies. And dragonflies and ladybugs prey on insects that eat lilies. In addition, aquatic animals, such as fish, frogs, and turtles, find shelter under water lily leaves.

On a symbolic level, the butterfly and hummingbird spirit animals are said the bring messages from angels. They share spiritual synergies with the lily, which is associated with transitioning to the spiritual realm.

In addition, the dragonfly, alligator, frog, and turtle spirit animals all symbolize spiritual transformation, which the lily also represents. Of course, the tiger lily is also associated with the animal it was named for. Thus, the tiger lily shares synergies with the tiger spirit animal.

Lily Flowers in Cultural Mythology and Folklore

The lily is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. So, the lily flower appears in the cultural mythologies and folklore of many of the cultures in these regions. Here are some of those stories:

The Lily Flower in Greek Mythology

In Greece, the lily symbolizes purity and beauty – a perception that dates back thousands of years to Greek mythology. Hera, the wife of Zeus, was renowned for her beauty. However, as many of us know, Zeus was unfaithful.

In fact, one evening, as Hera slept, Zeus tried to let his illegitimate child Hercules, drink from Hera’s breast. However, Hera awoke and threw the child from her. As she did, her breast milk spilled, and lilies (or the Milky Way, depending on who tells the story) were created from her breast milk.

Lily Symbolism in Ancient Egypt

In Egypt, a blue lily grows in the Nile River Delta. It’s also described as the blue lotus. For the ancient Egyptians, the lily symbolized purity and transformation, including rebirth to the afterlife.

Lily Meaning in Christianity, Judaism, and The Bible

The lily is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. Some believe that lilies grew in the Garden of Eden in the spot where Eve cried her tears of regret.

In the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Hosea says, “I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:5). Biblical scholars say that the lily in this case represents Israel. Though it has shallow roots, with faith in God, Israel will be rooted like a cedar tree.

For Christians, lily flower meaning is emblematic of Christ’s rebirth and ascent to Heaven. In addition, the lily symbolizes the purity of the Virgin Mary.

Lily Symbolism in Victorian England

Augustine Henry
Augustine Henry, who studied the lily and brought it to England, with fellow author Henry John Elwes, 1913.

Augustine Henry, an Irishman who lived during the Victorian era (1837 – 1901), “discovered” the lily while working as a customs agent in China. He became fascinated with the beautiful flower and others, dedicating all of his free time to learning more about them. Eventually, he began sending samples back home to the Royal Botanical Gardens in England.

It didn’t take long for the Victorians to become enamored with the lily. In fact, flower symbolism and meaning was a popular pastime of that era. The lily came to symbolize innocence and purity for the Victorians. And for his efforts, Augustine had one sub-species named after him – the Lilium henryi, or Henry’s Lily.

Lily Meanings in China

Native to Asia, the lily flower also has special meaning Chinese culture, where it symbolizes everlasting love and a happy marriage.

Lily Tattoo Meaning

Lily TattooThe lily flower can make a wonderful design for a tattoo. A lily tattoo can symbolize the pure love you feel for another, such as a child, parent, lover, or pet. It can also symbolize your dedication to your religious faith. In addition, as the lily is a symbol of transformation and rebirth, a lily tattoo can show the world that you are a person who has gone through challenges in life, yet your spirit has emerged unscathed.

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