The flower’s phallic pistil and erotic fragrance made quite the opposite impression on the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. They linked the lily with fertility. It was a popular decorative motif in those ancient cultures. The female principle was artfully suggested when the lily was placed in a vase or jar, as it often was. The connection with procreation may have been behind the French royal family’s decision to adopt the fleur-de-lis as their coat of arms in the 12th century. Three petals bound at the base would ensure the prosperity of the royal line.
The lily is often seen near a coffin, symbolizing death as well as purity. Because of its association with Christ, lilies are symbolic that the newly departed soul, if they have led a virtuous life of faith, will find resurrection in the hereafter. Lilies are often featured in memorial tattoo designs.
In Medieval and Renaissance art, where flower symbolism was almost a language unto itself, the Lily symbolized purity, chastity, and innocence. White lilies represented the purity of the Virgin Mary. The Angel Gabriel was often painted presenting Mary with a white lily when he announced to her that she would give birth to the Son of God.
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