The Lily on Headstones
The connection of flowers with death goes back to the dawn of history. Lilies were connected with funerals in ancient Egypt and the Roman era.
Until the late Victorian era, the recently deceased would rest in their home until being taken to their funeral. Flowers would be spread around the room to mask the sadness and 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 and the varying species lilies had different symbolic meanings. To decipher the true meaning of a lily on a headstone, you have to look at the other symbols surrounding it.
Lily 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 it represented ‘return of happiness’. The lily of the valley 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 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
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
Lilies on Headstones Gallery
The individual symbolic meaning of flowers and plants are listed on the main A to Z headstone meanings page.