Firstly, the connection of flowers with death goes back to the dawn of history, and it is quite common these days to find a Lily on a headstone.
In ancient Egypt and during the Roman Era, Lilies were often associated with death and funerals.
Commonly for the Victorian’s, the recently deceased would rest in their home prior to their funeral taking place. The use of flowers surrounding the body served to not only mask the sadness, but also the smell of the body. The lily deserves special prominence as it has a strong fragrance and was a favourite symbol of the Victorians.
Last but not least, their are varying species of lilies, each with their have different symbolic meaning. To decipher the true meaning of a lily on a headstone, you have to look at the other symbols surrounding it.
Lily on a headstone representing Majesty
- Juno, Queen of Heaven was a Roman mother-goddess protecting childbirth, marriage and women in general.
- Solomon’s temple – 1 Kings 7:19 – The capitals which were on the top of the pillars in the porch were of lily design, four cubits
- Luke 12:29 – Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these
Lily of the Valley
In Victorian symbology a lily of the valley represents the ‘return of happiness’. This lily has a look of bluebells and is not to be confused with other lilies. It is also known as the Ladder to Heaven.
Lily representing Purity and Immortality
There’s an old legend about Jove desiring to make the baby Hercules immortal. Whilst Hera, Queen of Heaven was asleep under the influence of a sleeping drug prepared by Somnus, Jove placed the baby to Hera’s breast in order to take the milk that would ensure his immortality. Hercules drew the milk too quickly and some drops fell to Earth, and the white lily was born symbolising purity.
White lilies are also associated with funerals as they represent the soul returning to innocence after death
Lily on a headstone representing Virginity
The white lily also symbolises the Virgin’s purity and is often associated in the Catholic church with the Virgin Mary
Lily representing Resurrection
Finally, the Easter Lily represents new life and hope.
Their white colour represents purity and trumpet shaped bloom corresponds to Gabriel’s trumpet on the Day of Judgement
Varieties of Lily
- Calla Lily
- Easter Lily
- Imperial Lily
- Lily of the Valley
- Water Lily
Flora symbolica; or, The language and sentiment of flowers by Ingram, John H., 1869