There are hundreds of species of the lily family (Liliaceae). In the New World, Lilies extend from southern Canada through much of the United States. In the Old World, they extend throughout much of Europe, through Asia to Japan and the Philippines and to the Nilgiri mountains in India.
Legend has it that the creation of the lily was dedicated to the goddess Hera, who was the wife of Zeus. Zeus fathered Hercules with a mortal woman named Alceme – he then wished his son to partake more fully of divinity. He then had Hera drugged and brought the baby to her, placed the baby to her breast and Hercules nursed. Hera was horrified when she awoke and flung the baby from her. As she flung, the milk gushed across the heavens and formed “the milky way”. Then a few drops fell to earth, and it was from those drops that sprang the first lilies.
Then there’s the Roman legend that tells of Venus rising from the sea-foam and then seeing a lily. She becomes filled with jealousy and envy at the beauty and whiteness of it. She saw the lily as a rival to her own beauty – so she caused a huge and monstrous pistil to spring from the lily’s snow-white center. This is the myth that accounts for the lily being associated with the Satyrs and Venus who are the personification of lustful ardor.
Lilies are associated with many ancient myths dating all the back to about 1580 BC, which is around the Minoan Period where pictures of lilies were discovered in a villa in Crete.
Historically, opinions differ as to the lily of Scripture. Eastern peoples use the same word interchangeably for the tulip, anemone, ranunculus, iris, the water-lilies, and those of the field. The superb scarlet Martagon Lily (L. chalcedonicum), grown in gardens here, is not uncommon wild in places like Palestine.
In the Old Testament and also in the New Testament, lilies symbolize chastity and virtue. The lily is also a fertility symbol in both Christian and pagan traditions. In a Greek marriage ceremony, the bride will wear a crown made of lilies and wheat, which represents purity and abundance. Lilies have also been placed on the graves of children, being a symbol of death.
It is enough that scientists – now more plainly than ever before – see the universal application of the illustration the more deeply they study nature, and can include their “little brothers of the air” and the humblest flower at their feet when they say with Paul, “In God we live and move and have our being”.
A quote from Matthew 6:28-29 “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”.
Tallest and most prolific of bloom among our native lilies, as it is the most variable in color, size, and form, is the Turk’s Cap or Turban Lily (L. superbum). Travelers by rail between New York and Boston know how gorgeous the low meadows and marshes are in July or August, when its clusters of deep yellow, orange, or flame-colored lilies tower above the surrounding vegetation.
Like the color of most other flowers, the lily intensifies in salt air. Commonly from three to seven lilies appears in a terminal group. But under skillful cultivation, even forty will crown the stalk that reaches a height of about nine feet where its home suits it perfectly.
Lilies are a beautiful fragrant way to accent your home. You may want to cut off the 6 stamens after the lily blooms – they may be colorful, but they will stain anything they fall onto.