Friday 2 May 2014

Pagan Eye: Arum Lily - Symbol of Sex and Death

I photographed this beautiful arum lily in the historical garden at Hampden Park, Sussex, a couple of weeks ago. The flower was introduced to England in the early 18th century, but has gained a mixed reputation in folklore relating to both death and sex.

According to A Dictionary of English Folkloreby Steve Roud: "These are among the white flowers considered unlucky to bring indoors or into a hospital. They are much used at funerals, and for church decoration at Easter."

In fact, the lily was so associated with death it was thought that to bring it into the house would mean a funeral in the family before the year had run its course. The arum lily is poisonous, so perhaps that superstition was based more on practical precaution than Christian connotations with death.

But for pagans and in folk magic, the arum lily - like wild arum - is more of a Beltane bloom than an Easter offering. It represents sexual harmony. The spadix - or central spike - resembles the phallus and the enclosing white spathe looks somewhat yoni-like. It can be used in spells to keep a partner faithful - by planting the flowers in the garden around your house, not by threatening to poison your spouse with them if they stray, I hasten to add!

My Pagan Eye posts show photos that I find interesting - seasonal images, pagan sites, events, or just pretty pictures. If you want to send me a photo for a Pagan Eye post, please email it to Let me know what the photo shows and whether you want your name mentioned or not. For copyright reasons, the photo must be one you have taken yourself.

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Jayne Richards said...

Hmm, some people clearly have very different looking yonis than others! Looks like the proverbial waving a carrot around in an alleyway there!

But seriously, it is interesting that lilies seem to have a cross-cultural association with death. Many years ago while working in Japan I bought some beautiful greetings cards with elaborate lily designs on to send to friends and relatives back home, only to be told by a Japanese colleague that I had made something of a faux pas as the cards in question were traditional condolence designs.

Badwitch said...