Water Lily flower derives its meaning from its rich mythology. From Egypt to India and Native Americans the plant was deemed as sacred.
The plant also had various uses across the world from medicinal to culinary.
In this blog we will explore the symbolic meaning of the water lily plant. We will get in depth with its mythologies, why it makes a perfect July birth flower and its uses.
What does the Water Lily flower symbolises?
The Water Lily or Nymphaeaceae symbolises birth and death. Rebirth is the core symbolism of this flower. Additionally, it also symbolises purity of heart, life, harmony and sun. The Nymphaea Alba or Nenuphar means spiritual enlightenment, healing, purity, peace and pleasure. American Lotus or Nymphaea Lutea’s symbolic meaning is growing indifference. The possible powers of the plant is protection and spirituality. According to Alchemists and Astrologers the Water Lily falls under the dominion of moon. Therefore, it makes a perfect gift for a Cancerian.
Water Lily scientific name
The scientific name of the Water Lily is Nymphaea. This name comes from the nymphs in Greek mythology with which the Water Lily was associated.
Back then the plant was a symbol of purity, coldness and chastity. Moreover, in Greece the plant was believed to have anti-aphrodisiac qualities.
Water Lily July birth flower
The Water Lily shared a close link to the moon in mythology. It is one of the birth flowers of the Cancer zodiac. Lets look at some myths.
In Ancient Mayan cultures the Water Lily Serpent features on various pottery and was portrayed with a snake body and a down turned bird head with a lily pad and flower headdress.
It was sometimes portrayed with a fish nibbling at the flower. The Water Lily Serpent was also a variant for the number 13.
Additionally, the Water Lily Serpent was identified with the Ik wind sign.
In Sanskrit poetry the Water Lily or the variety Nymphaea pubscens translated to Kumada. Furthermore, they describe a particular strong connection to the moon.
Kaumudi or the hairy water lily means moonlight and the moon itself was kumuda-pati or the master of the hairy water lily.
Water Lily Egyptian Mythology
In ancient times it was common to call several species of the water lily as Lotus. Consquently both Water Lily and Lotus were colloquial.
The Egyptian Water Lily was called Seshen and it played a prominent part in their mythology. They would wear the Water Lily as wreaths and also carried them as bouquets.
The Water Lily featured on different Egyptian art, columns, staves, prows of boats and other objects. Further, the most important symbolism was the Shesen as an emblem of Nefer Atum.
Nefertem or Nefer Atum was the son of the god Ptah and the goddess Sekhmet. Additionally, he was the first rays of the sunlight and sweet smell of the Blue Lotus.
Nefertem played an important role in the ancient Egyptian creation myth. The ancients believed that the Blue Lotus (Nymphaea Caerulea) was the first living entity that appeared from the primeval mound at the beginning of time.
This was perhaps where the Water Lily flower gets its meaning of sun and life.
Water Lily Indian Mythology
The Nymphaea nouchali in Indian ancient literature comes from the god Krishna.
In Sanskrit the Nymphaea nouchali was Neel Kamal and it was akin to the dark complexion of the god Krishna. It was also why the Blue Water Lily was also called Krishna Kamal.
The god Rama was an avatar of the god Krishna and in the Ramayana the god Rama goes to Lanka in order to rescue his abducted wife Sita from Ravana.
Before he embarked on the journey to save his wife Sita, he wanted the blessings of the goddess Durga. However, the goddess would only grant the blessings if he worshipped her with 100 Blue Lotuses.
Rama travelled the whole world to gather the blue Water Lilies. Despite his best attempt he was only able to collect 99. He decided to offer one of his eyes which resembled a blue lotus as the 100th lotus.
The goddess Durga was pleased by his devotion and she granted Rama her blessing.
This myth is possibly where the Water Lily flower gets its meaning of purity of heart.
Water Lily Flower Amazon Legend
The Amazon Water Lily is a white flower that floats on the surface of the Amazon River and it represents the purest form of love.
This meaning comes from a legend from the area of the Jamunda River. The legend recalls how the creation of the Water Lily was connected to a tribe of warrior women who fought alongside men.
Caititi was the bravest women amongst the warriors and she once caught a man hidden in bushes on the riverbank. This was unlike any other she had ever seen. He was tall with skin like the moonlight and golden hair.
The man ran towards her and it startled her. So she shot her bow and it hit his shoulder. The man raised himself to look her in the eye. She fled the scene however, she was plagued with the memory for the rest of the day.
After a sleepless night she decided to row back to the area. She hoped that he was still alive but she was also worried he might attack her.
She heard a hawk cry as she pulled towards the shore, it was a sign of a bad omen. Caititi found the man where she had shot him. He was on the ground burning with fever.
Despite not understanding each other’s languages, she was able to make him understand that she was here to help him. She moved him to a cave nearby, lit a fire and tended to his wounds. She then left back to her village. This went on for many nights.
As time passed Caititi thought of the man as her lover. She braided the feather of a Urutaí bird into her hair which was a symbol of love and virtue.
Transformation into a Water Lily
The man eventually became stronger with time and also became her lover. However, the chief’s son was also in love with Caititi and one night he followed her to the cave.
He saw her meeting the strange man and when she left he followed the strange man to his camp. Armed men were in the camp and this sight filled him with jealousy and anger.
He returned to his village and informed the people to prepare for war. In order to test the loyalty of Caititi he asked her to climb the tallest tree as a lookout.
This broke Caititi’s heart as she didn’t believe that her lover would be a threat to her village. However, this quickly changed when she spotted the invaders. She knew that she couldn’t go against her people.
The battle ensued and Caititi concentrated her strength on defending her village while she led the women bravely. Her lover ran towards her and in an instant an arrow was shot piercing his heart.
Caititi was shook and realised that he had incurred a mortal blow. She left everything and ran towards him. Her lover was dying so she dragged him to her canoe and into the river, the canoe floated away from the fight.
Her lover died in her arms and a heart broken Caititi prayed to the moon. She prayed so that his body would turn into the most beautiful flower on the water.
She slid off the canoe to drown while still cradling him. Meanwhile, the villagers had won the battle and they began searching for Caititi. She was nowhere to be found however, they found her canoe on the river surrounded by white Water Lilies the most delicate ones.
Water Lily meaning Buddhism
In Buddhism it is the lotus that is most revered however, the water lily also holds great importance.
In the branch of Tibetan Buddhism the blue lotus or Nymphaea Caerulea is an attribute of the Green Tara and many other Vajrayana deities.
Water Lily Flower Uses
The Water Lily had various uses in history and until now, some of them are:
- During the 12th century in Britain, the water lily had medicinal uses for monks.
- The herbalist Culpeper also recorded the herbal remedies of the flower. He prescribed the flower for agues, to settle the brain, acts as a cooler for tumours, eases pain and helps sores.
- In creams you would find the water lily used against rashes, sunburns and freckles.
- Massage parlours would make use of the water lily in their oils.
- The Water Lily had culinary uses too such as desserts and salads.
- In the Middle Ages the Water Lily was a symbolism for priesthood. The young virgins back then had a water lily painted on their door.
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Deena Bsingh, a UK-born, Mauritius-raised content writer, is a dedicated explorer of the ancient world’s hidden treasures. Armed with classical studies knowledge and a decade of spiritual immersion, Deena delves deep into the wellspring of ancient wisdom. Her illuminating writings on flower meanings and culinary history are imbued with the profound insights she has gathered on her journey. Through her Medium articles, she guides readers on transformative journeys that bridge the gap between ancient cultures and contemporary consciousness, offering a rich tapestry of understanding that endures through time.