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Springs blooming flowers

Spring is upon us. It is a time of rebirth and renewal, physical as well as spiritual. One of

the signs of this renewal and the earth waking up from the darkness of the winter

months is the blooming of flowers. One of the earlier blooms we see is lilies. Lilies are a

flower closely associated with the Easter holiday because they are often pictured as

part of the images shown of the resurrection of Jesus. They are also often tied to the

Blessed Mother due to their association with purity.





The iconography of lilies is one of purity and renewal. In part due to their association

with the holy mother and in part their association with Jesus’s transition into eternal life.

But this symbiology actual predates the Christian narrative and goes back into before

the common era into the ancient Greek mythologies involving Zeus, king of the gods,

and Hera, his wife. Zeus, as he was prone to do, fathered a child with a mortal woman.

Zeus then tricked Hera into nursing it because she thought it was her own. When Zeus’s

deception was discovered, the infuriated Hera cast the baby aside. In the process, drips

of milk fell from her bosom onto the earth, and from that sprung the first lilies. They

literally grew from one of the purest and most natural sources of nourishment in the

world: a mother’s milk. And that of a goddess, no less. One has to wonder how the story

of Hera’s rejection of a half mortal/half god child in any way parallels the Easter story of

the world’s rejection of a god who was both true god and true man and was also the son

of God.


Lilies are also found in cultures and mythologies other than ancient Greece, such as in

Mesopotamia, where they are closely related to the fertility goddess Ishtar. What this

indicates is several things: That lilies are ancient, that they have a long history of

symbolism, and different cultures have different ways of viewing things. It is a striking

dichotomy to see how in ancient Mesopotamia, that lilies were associated with a fertility

goddess and in the common era they were associated with the Blessed Virgin, who was

basically a symbol of perpetual sexual purity. Fertility cults and goddesses do not have

a place in the Christian world. That archetype did not exist and was replaced by the

image of the sinless, pure, virgin mother of God.


One can see that long before the Christian religion took on the flower the lily played a

role in religious mythology. Like many things (holidays, customs, traditions) it was

adopted and adapted to Christianity in order to mesh with the cultures that already

existed.





In addition to being a symbol of purity, and symbol of renewal, and of spring in general,

the lily has a lot of iconographies associated with it around death. That indelible image

of a body in a coffin, arms crossed, white lily between the folded hands is such a trope


that I can recall seeing it even in cartoons as a child. This is such the case that lilies are

often part of funerary flower arrangements and given as part of a condolence gift as

well. The reason behind this association of the lily and dying is that the lily represents

the moment the soul separates from the body. The way I see it, the reasons for this are

a couple: Given the other symbiology tied to the lily it would not surprise me at all if that

is seen as a purification of the soul. Separation from the baser, more earthly component

of its being that is the physical body. And, as they are often pictured as present at the

resurrection of Jesus, perhaps, just maybe, they are meant also to be seen as the

promise of eternal life for the pure soul.


So next time you see a lily, know that there is a lot of weight and gravitas behind those

delicate petals. You do not need to speak to send a powerful message.


by Julie Morse




Community questions


Feel free to answer any of these questions or ask your own question below!


1. What is your favorite spring flower?

2. How can we incorporate the spiritual meanings of flowers into our daily lives and rituals?

3. How can we use flowers to connect with our spirituality and inner selves?

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