What does a lily mean? The Fleur-de-lys

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

Behold my friends, the power of three. For some reason it always comes down to three. Bad things supposedly come in threes; for me it’s more like tens. Wiccans observe the rule of three, mind the threefold law ye should, three times bad and three times good. The influence of three can even be felt in the symbolic life of the lily. Welcome to The Magical Buffet, the fleur-de-lys.

The lily flower itself can symbolize many things: fertility and erotic love (because of it’s scent and phallic pistil), purity, innocence, and Christian piety. In alchemy the lily symbolized the female principle and it has also symbolized the fertility of the Earth Goddess. The white lily is said to have come from the milk of the goddess Hera, and the fertility implied by this caused it to be a popular decorative motif in Greece, the Middle East, and Egypt. Once you reached Byzantium, the lily symbolized prosperity and royalty. Some say this is where the fleur-de-lys (flower of the lily) gained its nobility. For others, it is ordained by God.

The fleur-de-lys, a stylized lily, traditionally represents the kings of France. There is the legend of Clovis, the Merovingian king of the Franks. Clovis converted to Christianity, and once he did an angel gave him a golden lily as a symbol of his purification. This legend is helped by the fact that for many, the three “petals” of the fleur-de-lys represent the Holy Trinity or the Virgin Mary.

Others attribute the symbol to Clovis, but instead of a divine origin they say it became Clovis’s adopted emblem after he was able to spot a part of the river Rhine that he could ford and it was spotted by him due to the water lilies there. Of course, this led to his victory in battle. Later Louis VII used it on his shield and by then the fleur-de-lys’s connection to French royalty was secured. English kings would have the symbol on their coat of arms to signify their claims to the French throne.

Oddly, despite the strong female and fertility associations with the physical flower, the fleur-de-lys is linked to masculine, martial power due to its resemblance to a spearhead.

The fleur-de-lys has become a decorative symbol found anywhere from ancient shields to modern interior design. It’s got the power of three on its side. Here’s just a few threes:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Mankind’s body, mind, and soul
God, the creation, and royalty
Scout’s Promise: duty to God (and/or my country), to help others, to obey the Scout Laws

The fleur-de-lys has a rich history that I have barely touched on here. For a good starting point to learn more, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleur-de-lis.