The Mythology of Flowers – Lilies

‘lilium’ a Latin term considered to be one of the first words for flower. Traced back to 1580 B.C., with images of lilies discovered in a villa in Crete, the blooms have long held a role in mythology. The Greeks even believed it sprouted from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods. The Greeks and Roman included the lily in many religious myths and ceremonies and cultivated the flower extensively.

Unlike most other flowers, the lily never goes dormant and grows natively all over the world. This strength combined with its beauty, have made it a favourite in stories in many cultures.

In Christian faith, white lilies have been used to represent the Virgin Mary, becoming a Christian symbol of purity. Medicine in Medieval times used the mashed roots of the Madonna Lily to heal skin ulcers and sooth sore tendons, whilst Traditional Chinese Medicine uses various lily varieties to produce a cooling effect on the body. In present day China, the lily is in high demand for weddings as its name is similar to a phrase used to wish the newlyweds happiness for a century. It is also said to help relieve heartache and is given to people that have experienced recent loss.

The lily is also used as the symbol of European royalty, stylised into the well-known fleur de lis and is commonly recognised as being a regal symbol. White lilies are used as a symbol of purity, the striped pink Stargazer Lily is often given as encouragement during difficult times, yellow for good health, whilst red can be used for weddings and proposals.

Lilies are generally the flowers most often associated with funerals, with white specifically used to symbolise that the soul of the departed has experienced restored innocence after death.

The Mythology of Flowers – Carnations

Carnations date back over 2,000 years so there are many myths, stories and symbols behind them. One of the world’s oldest cultivated flowers, the carnation’s scientific name ‘dianthus’, translates to “flower of love” or “flower of the gods”

According to a Christian legend, carnations originally appeared after the Crucifixion of Christ, growing in the spots where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell to the earth. This is said to be how the carnation became associated with a mother’s love.

In the Victorian ages, the colour of a carnation was at times used as a way to send a secret message to an admirer, with a solid colour meaning ‘yes’, striped meaning ‘I can’t be with you’, and yellow meaning ‘no’. In Korea, three carnations were sometimes placed in the hair of a young girl to tell her fortune. It is believed that if the top flower dies first, the last years of the girl’s life will be difficult. If the middle flower perishes first, her youth will be challenging, and if the bottom flower dies first, she will be told that her whole life will be a struggle. Such a dire message from a simple flower.

Carnations have also been used in tea or topical applications throughout history for their healing properties, including as a treatment for depression, insomnia and hormonal imbalances. The ancient Aztec Indians used the blooms as a diuretic and to treat chest congestion. Now it is a common wedding flower in China, whilst in Japan the red carnation is often given for Mother’s Day. Yellow carnations commonly symbolise friendship and white stands for good luck or innocence.

In the Netherlands, white carnations are worn to remember the country’s war veterans, whilst in France, purple carnations are the traditional funeral flower.

Carnations are the flower for January.