“For the authors of the Middle Ages, the color white had three referents: snow, milk, and lily….
“The lily is the white flower par excellence, the one opposed to or associated with the rose, the archetypal red flower, even though roses and lilies of different colors exist in nature. It was already the case in Roman antiquity that these two flowers dominated over all others….
“Among the ancients, admiration for the lily dates back very far. In various forms — true flower, simple floret, stylized plant motif — it can be seen represented on Mesopotamian cylinder seals, Egyptian bas-reliefs, Mycenaean pottery, Gallic coins, and Eastern fabrics. Not only does it play a decorative role, but it also often adds a strong symbolic dimension….
“Sometimes it is a matter of a nurturing fertility figure, sometimes a sign of purity or virginity, sometimes an attribute of power and sovereignty. These three symbolic meanings seem to merge in the medieval lily, simultaneously fertile, virginal, and sovereign.”
“The rose, though a queen, is a friendly queen; but about her rival, the lily, there is always an atmosphere of isolation. Lilies do not reign like the roses, they live apart. There is some indefinable enchantment which puts the whole lily tribe in an altitude so far above other flowers that they are more than regal. How conscious one was in childhood of this strange sweet aloofness of the lilies….
”The rose sleeps in her beauty, but the lily seems unaware of her own exceeding loveliness.”
This is the third of three posts featuring photos of Easter, Madonna, and Regal lilies, that I took a few weeks ago at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The first post is Easter, Madonna, and Regal Lilies (1 of 3), and the second post is Easter, Madonna, and Regal Lilies (2 of 3).
Thanks for lookin’!