Like the word “set,” which has the most meanings in the English language (464 according to the OED), the calla lily means a lot of different things to different people. Calla lily arrangements can suit almost any occasion, and this flexibility has made them a firm favorite of floral designs all over the world.
The Historical Meanings of the Calla Lily
One of the richest stories of how calla lily flowers came to exist on earth comes from the Ancient Greeks. The greatest of their gods, Zeus, wasn’t a very nice guy and was cheating, as per usual, with a mortal earth woman, Alceme. She got pregnant and had a son, Hercules, but because he was half-mortal, he didn’t have any special godlike-powers.
To get around this, he drugged his wife and fellow god Hera and tricked her into breastfeeding Hercules and giving him divine super-powers. When she woke from a daze , she threw the young Hercules away, and two drops of her breast milk fell to earth and formed the most beautiful flowers in existence, calla lilies. The flowers were thus named after the Ancient Greek word for beauty, “Kallos.”
Romans and Egyptians
The flower also struck a chord with some other major ancient civilizations. The Romans, for example, saw the spike in the center of the petals as emblematic of human genitalia and so associated calla lily arrangements with eroticism and sexuality. This was due to the myth that the goddess of love, Venus, was enraged with jealousy over the flower, seeing it as a rival, and so gave it its large pistil at its center.
The Egyptians noted the same human resemblance but took a slightly more reserved approach, linking the flower to fertility and the inception of children.
Calla lily flowers were endowed with a far more wholesome image through its association with Christianity and especially the Virgin Mary. It was the calla lily that Mary took a sniff of to conceive Jesus and her tomb was later covered with white calla lilies. Thus, the flower came to symbolize purity and faith.
It is also a common Easter flower, due to its resemblance to a trumpet and association with the religion it is seen as a symbol of announcing Christ’s most famous miracle, the Easter Resurrection.
Having created a very reserved society, where lewd talk of love, sex, or anything other than good tea and cucumber sandwiches was highly taboo, calla lily bouquets took on the role of secret messenger in Victorian Britain. They harked back to its most ancient origins, and the inclusion of calla lily flowers in their intricately coded floral designs was an indication of sexual desire.
The calla lily is still full of symbolism today. In different arrangements or wedding bouquets, the flower’s color is what gives special significance.
- White Calla Lilies: Purity and innocence. These are common at funerals of younger people, symbolizing that they have passed before their time
- Yellow Calla Lilies: Joy and growth. A great flower to include in a bouquet celebrating a birth or a big life change.
- Pink Calla Lilies: Appreciation and admiration. Perfect for a Bouq intended to thank someone for what they have given you.
- Red Calla Lilies: Intense passion. Perfect for expressing a hot romance through flowers.
- Blue Calla Lilies: Femininity and refined beauty. Excellent for Mother’s Day or a gift for an awesome girlfriend in your life.
With so many powerful meanings behind calla lilies, with symbolism stretching back thousands of years, they make for an excellent hand-crafted message-in-a-Bouq. At The Bouqs Co., we love the calla lily’s versatility and beauty. Here are some fun and interest facts about calla lilies. And if you’re curious about the difference between callas and regular lilies, read on. Then, browse our collections and have us deliver one of our beautiful and thoughtful Calla Lily Bouqs or a stunning lily bouquet. With flower delivery from The Bouqs Co., happiness is guaranteed!Shop All