Calla Lily Meaning

Calla Lily Meaning: History & Mythology

Calla lily meaning is magnificent beauty. Calla lilies also mean faith and hope. Calla lilies have extensive historical and mythological meaning. They have been used to symbolize both the highest aspirations and basic lusts of mankind.

Flower of Beauty and Desire
The calla lily has both religious significance as a symbol of purity, faith and holiness, and more earthly meanings from Greek and Roman cultures. Clearly, the popularity of calla lilies began in ancient times and continues to grow today. Learn more about this fascinating flower of beauty and desire!

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Calla Lily Color Meaning

Calla Lily Meaning by Color

Understanding flower color meanings brings new life to paintings, bouquets, gardens and gift-giving! Flower color meaning can be specific even for the same type of flower. Calla lilies come in white, yellow, orange, pink, red, lavender, purple, black and dark maroon. Here are the specific meanings of a few these popular colors:

White Calla Lily Meaning

Spiritual Meaning of White Calla Lilies
White calla lilies are a symbol of hope, beauty, peace and purity. White calla lilies also mean faithfulness, innocence and holiness. White encompasses all other colors and symbolizes a spiritual source or the energy behind all things. The white calla lily is the national flower of Ethiopia, used as a sign of peace.

General Meaning of White Flowers
White flowers in general symbolize purity, contemplation, and innocence. Many night-flowering plants are white, symbolizing the feminine energies of the moon. White awakens creativity and stabilizes energy, giving a general boost that amplifies all other colors.

White Flowers and Natural Elements
White is associated with the metal element in feng shui and the five element system. The five-element system is a powerful way to view the world and the process of transformation. The Chinese five-element system uses wood, fire, earth, metal, and water as the primary natural elements. A person attracted to white is often idealistic but may be fanatical or rigid. 

Yellow Calla Lily Meaning

Symbolism of Yellow Calla Lilies
Yellow calla lilies mean gratitude. Sunshine yellow flowers stimulate clear thinking. The general color meanings of yellow are enthusiasm, cheerfulness, sense of humor, fun, optimism and intellectuality. Yellow also aids with depression and digestion. However, too much yellow may result in nervousness and a racing mind.

Symbolism of Yellow Flowers
Yellow flowers are the heralds of spring. Sunshine yellow flowers symbolize the clearing away of the winter. Yellow flowers mean friendship in the Victorian language of flowers. This makes them the perfect gift for a friend! 

Orange Calla Lily Meaning

Symbolism of Orange Calla Lilies
Orange calla lilies mean excitement and energy. Orange flowers raise the spirits and reflect the joy of sunshine. Cheerful orange flowers symbolize warmth, fire, energy and vitality. Flower color meanings for orange include creativity, confidence and intuition.

Benefits of the Color Orange
The color orange stimulates sociability and promotes emotional health. On the physical level, orange supports the health of the digestive system including the spleen, pancreas, stomach, intestines and adrenals. Some color therapists say that orange can help mitigate conditions that involve limited movement or paralysis.

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Pink Calla Lily Meaning

Pink calla lilies symbolize appreciation and admiration. In a more general sense, pink flowers symbolize love and healing from grief, anxiety or emotional trauma. Pink is related to warmth and love, gentleness, beauty, and an outward orientation.

Red Calla Lily Meaning

Red calla lilies symbolize courage, love and beauty. The color symbolism for red flowers includes pleasure, desire and vitality. In addition, red represents the will to win, love of sports and the survival instinct. Red flowers are stimulating and eye-catching. 

Lavender Calla Lily Meaning

Lavender calla lilies mean relaxation and healing. Lavender is a gentle form of purple and usually has religious connotations. For example, lavender is closely associated with Easter. Lavender flowers encourage tranquility and peace.

Purple Calla Lily Meaning

Purple calla lilies represent passion and charm. Purple is also the color of royalty. Purple and violet colors soothe the mind and nerves. Some color psychologists say purple helps to relieve tension and dissipate anger and violence.  

Black Calla Lily Meaning

Black calla lilies suggest elegance and mystery. Black may also be connected to sadness. Black is a practical color that makes a strong statement. The power of black gives a fundamental sense of strength.

Moroon Calla Lily Meaning

Maroon is a sophisticated form of red. Maroon flowers are unusual and striking. Maroon calla lilies symbolize controlled intensity and passion. Maroon can increase energy levels is a measured, dignified way.

Calla Lily Meaning

Calla Lily Meaning in Mythology

Calla Lily and a Greek Legend
Calla lilies are a unique and beautiful flower with an interesting mythological history. Calla lilies are said to come from the ancient god Hera, the wife of Zeus. In this Greek legend, Zeus brought Hercules to nurse from his wife while she was sleeping.

Calla Lilies and the Milky Way
Zeus wanted his son to have the strength of the gods. Hera awoke and pushed the baby away from her. Drops of milk flew across the sky. This created the Milky Way. Calla lilies bloomed on earth everywhere the drops of milk landed as they fell out of the galaxy.

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Calla Lily Meaning and the Romans

The Romans associated calla lilies with winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. Calla lilies were forced to bloom indoors to celebrate the preservation of the light and to bring this flower meaning light indoors. The Romans also viewed the flower’s large spadix, a phallic flower stalk containing many male (pistillate) as a symbol of lust and sexuality.

Calla lily flowers also appear in Roman mythology. According to Roman legends, Venus saw the flower and felt her beauty was threatened by its pure white blossoms. She cursed the flower so that it would grow a large and unsightly pistil.

Calla Lily Meaning in Hinduism

Calla Lilies and the Goddess Kali
Calla Lilies are associated with the Goddess Kali. Also referred to as Ma Kali or Maa Kali, she is a powerful, fierce goddess who has mastered both time and death. Although fearsome, Kali is the most loving of all mothers because she liberates her children by removing all illusions. Those who do not fear liberation see her as overflowing with love for all of her children.

Kali and the Goddess Durga
Kali is often depicted with dark blue or black skin. Kali and the Goddess Durga are sometimes seen as interchangeable. However, Kali is said to love battle while Durga slays demons only when absolutely necessary, remaining placid and peaceful at all times. Learn more in Ma Kali: Goddess of Time and Death and Durga Mantra: Stories of the Hindu Goddess.

Origin of the Calla Lily Name

The calla lily is not actually a lily, but a separate genus. Although the calla lily was known in ancient Rome, it was first catalogued in modern times. During the Victorian era, an increase in disposable income led to more travel. This resulted in the discovery of new and interesting plants to cultivate.

Call Lily Name in Modern Times
In the 18th century the flower was misnamed by the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus. The calla lily is actually not a true lily. Later the German botanist Karl Koch found the error and established a new genus, zantedeschia, for the calla lily and related flowers. However, the original common name of “calla lily” has continued to be used. The word “calla” comes from the Greek word for beauty.

Calla Lily Spiritual Meaning
Photo by Bernard Sprang, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Calla Lily Spiritual Meaning

The calla lily was a sacred flower to the Minoans and also prized among the ancient Jews. In Christian iconography, the calla lily means purity, chastity and the ascension. The calla lily also has spiritual significance as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. This is partly because they bloom near Easter.

Calla Lily Shape Symbolism
In addition, the trumpet shape is symbolic of victory, as in the triumph of Christ over death. It is also commonly depicted with the Virgin Mary. Other saints appear with with white calla lilies symbolic of the ascension into heaven. This is in sharp contrast to the view of the calla lily as a phallic symbol.

Calla Lily Meaning in Weddings

Calla Lilies in Weddings

As calla lilies have shifted into prominence, they have become a popular wedding flowers. A single calla lily in a tall vase on a reception tables is a classic statement of elegance and beauty. White calla lilies are said to be a good luck charm for newly married couples.

Calla Lilies and the Symbolism of Rebirth
In many cultures, calla lilies symbolize new beginnings and rebirth. The connection to beginning a new life together at a wedding is clear. Therefore, calla lilies are extremely popular in bridal bouquets. The calla lily is also the flower associated with the 6th wedding anniversary, representing the couples’ ongoing love.

Calla Lilies for Illness and Funerals

Calla lilies are sometimes associated with funerals. In this context, calla lilies are a symbol of death, especially an early death. In this capacity, calla lilies have been placed on the graves of youth who have suffered untimely deaths. Although calla lilies symbolize death, they specifically are associated with passing into a new dimension triumphantly. 

Symbols of Heaven
Calla lilies symbolize a victorious arrival in heaven as a rebirth into the spiritual world. Rather than simply mourning for the loss of a loved one, calla lilies help to orient towards a celebration of ongoing life. They can be used as a celebration of a life well-lived or a heroic effort.

Calla Lilies as Get Well Gifts
Calla lilies are also perfect for get well gifts and recovery from illness. The bright, bold flowers are an affirmation of life in the face of major thresholds and challenges. The strength of each flower is an appropriate symbol of the strength of bonds between family members as hard times are traversed.

Calla Lily Art

Calla Lily Meaning in Georgia O’Keefe’s Art

Georgia O’Keeffe successfully brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted to have the viewer really look at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions. Her sensual flowers redefined calla lily meaning through a pure, almost geometric form. The calla lily is also visible in many of Diego Rivera’s works of art.

Origin of the Calla Lily Name

The calla lily is not actually a lily, but a separate genus. Although the calla lily was known in ancient Rome, it was first catalogued in modern times. During the Victorian era, an increase in disposable income led to more travel. This resulted in the discovery of new and interesting plants to cultivate.

Modern Classifications of the Calla Lily
In the 18th century the flower was misnamed by the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus. The calla lily is actually not a true lily. Later the German botanist Karl Koch found the error and established a new genus, zantedeschia, for the calla lily and related flowers. However, the original common name of “calla lily” has continued to be used. The word “calla” comes from the Greek word for beauty.

Growing Calla Lilies

Growing Calla Lilies

Calla lilies are native to Africa. They are a corm-based plant with disc-shaped bulbs. The calla lily is a flowering genus of twenty-eight species growing mostly in marshy areas. Calla lilies reproduce by creating clusters of smaller bulbs at the top and bottom of the central corm.

Botanical Form of the Calla Lily
The calla lily flower is comprised of two parts. The  spathe is the outer leaves of the flower. The spadix is the yellow spike in the middle. The spathe is actually a modified leaf and the spadix is the true flower.

Versatile Growing Conditions
The calla lily grows continuously in water and can survive mild frost. Calla lilies make hardy cut plants and can survive for quite a while in vases. Calla lilies can grow in a variety of extreme conditions, including frost. The hardiness of calla lilies make them a good choice for beginning gardeners.

Calla Lilies in Africa
On the African island Madagascar, the calla lily thrives due to the steady temperatures and moderate seasons. Calla lilies will bloom all year around as long as they have a sufficient supply of water, energy and nutrition.

Toxicity of Calla Lilies
However, calla lilies are toxic to both humans and animals, causing stomach upset and swelling of the lips, tongue and throat. In spite of this, calla lilies are eaten in bulb form in some countries and considered a delicacy. The toxic inner flowers are removed before cooking.

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Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew, and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.

CALLA LILY ARTICLE SUMMARY

This article includes the history, meaning and mythology surrounding the unique and beautiful calla lily. Covers the origin of the calla lily name, calla lily symbolism in various cultures, calla lily flower colors, and the modern meanings associated with calla lilies in art and life.

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