As far as flowers go, none are as interesting from a symbolic point of view as spider lilies. These flowers have fascinated people for decades, and the debates on their meaning are still ongoing.
This spider lilies meaning and symbolism guide will compile them all in one place and attempt to give you all the explanations needed to understand these beautiful plants. Read on!
Spider Lilies Introduction
Spider lilies, also known as Lycoris, belong to a genus of about 20 perennials native to China and Japan. Most of them have flowers with petals that are long and thin, which is what gives them their spidery appearance.
This genus got the name Lycoris from the Roman actress of the same name who was Mark Anthony’s mistress. However, these flowers are much more famous as spider lilies, which is how most people know them.
These beauties bloom for just a few days during autumn when they flower and take over fields all over East Asia. You can find them close to graveyards and riverbanks, both of which are locations that give them a bit of a bad reputation.
You can find spider lilies in a wide range of colors. The most common ones are white and red, but yellow, purple, and violet ones are also prominent. Regardless of the color, people tie many different symbolic meanings to the flower, which is what the following sections will delve into.
The Symbolism of Spider Lilies
1. Star-Crossed Love
Anyone who knows a little bit about spider lilies knows that they bloom in a rather unnatural manner. Namely, the plant flowers long before any of its leaves grow. The leaves only come out once the flowers start dying and fall off completely, which is a phenomenon that not many other plants on the planet exhibit.
The unusual flowering process was explained through a myth that also made spider lilies the symbolic flower of all star-crossed lovers. According to the myth, the Chinese goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, was the one who made the flower. She assigned two fairies to guard different parts of the flower. One guarded the flowers, while the other guarded the leaves.
There was one condition that the fairies had to respect: they knew of each other but could never meet. If they did, the flowers would die. The fairies did their duties for a long time, but they longed to meet each other.
One day, they decided to do so in secret. However, they ended up falling in love, and that meeting was not their only one. All of that angered the Sun goddess, who cursed them so that they can never meet again. That is why the leaves can only come out once the flowers have died and vice versa.
This myth is what ties spider lilies to star-crossed love. These flowers, thus, represent a love that is strong and transcends the ordinary world but is, ultimately, doomed to fail. It is simply not meant to be due to different circumstances, which makes it tragic. That is why you can find spider lilies in many works of art whenever a star-crossed love is mentioned.
2. Death and Goodbyes
Throughout history, spider lilies were often used to cover up graves. That gave them the reputation of Death Flowers, which is something they maintain even today. However, there is no fantastical story behind why people put them on graves. They actually did so due to convenience.
Most parts of red spider lilies, from the flower to the bulb, are poisonous. If people ate them, they could have a severe reaction and even die. As such, they are something that all animals stray away from. That made these flowers perfect for shallow graves, as they ensured that no scavenging animals disturbed them.
However, this convenient nature was soon lost on most people, and they started associating the flowers themselves with death and corpses. That is where the names Death Flower and Corpse Flower come from, both of which are nicknames for spider lilies.
Another factor that tied these flowers to death was their appearance. Their long and spidery flowers would always sway in the breeze, which reminded people of ghosts. Given that they were mostly present in graveyards, this fact made the flowers quite notorious.
Though most people know that spider lilies were only planted on graves for protection, they still symbolize death even today. They are seen as something ominous and almost horror-like, especially if they are red. People think that the flowers bring bad luck, and many are terrified to bring them inside their homes.
In Chinese culture, spider lilies are often associated with autumn and the death of summer. Since the flowers bloom around the autumn equinox, such associations make a lot of sense.
Generally speaking, autumn is often seen as a moody and depressing point in a year. It marks the time of the death of nature, but it is also quite picturesque and beautiful, evoking feelings of nostalgia.
Those are the exact same feelings people tie to spider lilies as well. Their vibrant colors also help connect them to autumn, especially the orange and red variants.
When they take a look at spider lilies, most people notice their unique appearance only. And it is easy to see why. Their petals are extremely long and thin, and they truly resemble spider legs. That is especially the case when it is windy outside. Though they are quite unique and different from anything else, no one can deny that spider lilies are pretty.
Thus, these flowers help celebrate uniqueness in all its forms. They are there to remind you that everyone is beautiful in their own way, and that standard notions of beauty mean quite little in real life. These flowers can help remind you that you do not have to conform to societal beauty standards to be gorgeous. After all, they don’t look like ordinary flowers either.
This interpretation of spider lilies is quite important, especially in today’s world. People aren’t that used to celebrating differences quite yet. Thus, having something that is effortlessly beautiful but completely different from anything else can help them a lot.
As already mentioned above, spider lilies have an unusual blooming routine. They essentially die twice. The first time, the plant appears lifeless as its flowers shrivel and fall off. For a day or so, nothing changes, and it seems like the pant’s life has really ended.
But then, the leaves start to emerge. Soon enough, the plant is blooming with life again, and this time it is enveloped in vibrant greenery. This quick and unexpected change is what makes certain symbolism experts associate the flower with rebirth.
Rather than just thinking about death, these experts choose to focus on the fact that the flower comes alive once more. It looks different and loses its color, but it is just as alive and as beautiful as before.
If you apply this reading to life in general, spider lilies can become a rather positive symbol. They can remind you that change can be a good thing and that some things happen to you for a reason. No matter how much something hurts you, it is leading you toward a better version of yourself and toward a better life.
Seeing a spider lily can, thus, be a sign that change is on the way. That change might be sudden and even painful, but it will lead to something beautiful and fulfilling in the long run. That is a great way to take the often misinterpreted connection that spider lilies have to death and put a different spin on it.
6. Good Health
Throughout history, people in Japan and China have used spider lilies to make various healing creams and potions. They mostly used this medicine to treat ulcers and other similar stomach problems. Furthermore, people also used spider lilies to bring down any kind of swelling, especially of the abdomen.
Thus, many people actually associate these plans with health and living a long life. That reading stands in stark opposition to others which paint these flowers as clear signs of death that you should steer clear of. That just goes to show that symbols are always open for interpretation and that you can choose which side you want to believe in more.
If you choose to view spider lilies positively, they will represent a reminder to focus on your health. Nowadays, people often neglect doing so, saying that they have no time or that other things are more important. However, there is nothing more important than health.
Besides physical health, spider lilies can also be a reminder to care for your mental wellbeing. They are supposed to let you know that making sure you are okay mentally is just as important as treating any sign of physical illness.
So, spider lilies are there to remind you to listen to your body and take good care of yourself whenever you can. You deserve to live a long and healthy life, and you have to work on yourself to have it.
In Buddhism, spider lilies have a deep connection to spirits. The name that the flowers bear in Japanese is Higanbana, and the Higan part translates to “the other shore”.
The shore that the name refers to belongs to the mythical Sanzu River. In Buddhist scripture, spirits have to cross this river to find enlightenment and reach the afterlife. In many depictions of this river, spider lilies grow all over its shores. There, they greet each new spirit as it crosses into death and offer them a warm welcome.
Though you can tie this meaning with that of death, here, spider lilies are positive symbols. They represent the barrier between this world and the next one, and they are what helps spirits cross over. As such, they act as symbols of spirituality and new beginnings, even if it is in the afterlife. It is from this particular reading that another famous name for spider lilies stems: Hell Flowers.
If you take a look at spider lilies, you will immediately notice their unique beauty. They are quite a sight to behold, especially in those few weeks of autumn when they are in full bloom. They come in different shapes and colors, which adds another layer to it all.
As such, these flowers can stand for timeless beauty that never fades. Thus, gifting them to someone can help you show your appreciation for them better than just about anything else.
Apart from making a beautiful addition to any bouquet, these flowers will let that special know that they mean a lot to you. Spider lilies can also stand for passion and sexual desire, especially if they are pink.
Spider Lilies Meaning According to Color
Though the symbolism above is valid for spider lilies in general, their meaning always changes based on their color. You can find the various interpretations based on color in the sections that follow.
1. Red Spider Lilies Meaning
Red spider lilies are the most common type there is. They are fully poisonous, and they are the ones people planted around graves to deter animals from disturbing them. Thus, all the symbolism connected to death and corpses usually only refers to red spider lilies.
Another thing that ties these lilies to death is the fact that their color reminds most people of the color of blood. That is why most are afraid when they see them, taking the flowers as a sign of imminent doom.
However, there are other characteristics that people often tie to the color red. The positive ones are love, energy, desire, and sexual attraction. On the other hand, the negative features are jealousy, possessiveness, aggression, and danger. People also tie all of these with spider lilies, regardless of their usual meaning.
Thus, if you ignore the disturbing connection with death, red spider lilies can even serve as tokens of love and appreciation. Men can gift them to the women they want to woo and show that they have feelings that go deeper than just mere physical attraction.
2. White Spider Lilies Meaning
As you may have expected, white spider lilies have absolutely no connection to death, corpses, or spirits. Rather, people see them as signs of cleanliness, innocence, and new beginnings. That is the case with most white plants on the planet, as white is always the color of virtue.
Thus, seeing a white spider lily can mean that a bright new beginning awaits you. If you are waiting on some important news, this flower can mean that that news will be favorable. It could be a new job offer, an award of some kind, or getting the opportunity to travel somewhere. Either way, luck will be in your corner.
You can connect this meaning with the general one that ties spider lilies to rebirth. Wherever it is that awaits you, you can be sure that it will change your life for the better and lead you on a path to your true self.
3. Yellow Spider Lilies Meaning
Yellow or golden spider lilies often symbolize wealth and richness. Since these flowers remind one of thin stripes of gold due to their appearance, it is easy to see where this connection comes from.
As with most yellow flowers, these spider lilies represent happiness and light. They stand for positive energy and can lighten up any flower arrangement that you introduce them into. They will make beautiful additions to any garden, especially due to the fact that they will keep annoying pests at bay.
Yellow spider lilies can also symbolize remembrance. People often paint them or use them as symbols in literature to pay homage to someone who is no longer present but is still remembered fondly.
Thus, seeing these flowers around graves does not evoke such a violent and scary reaction as seeing red ones does. Rather, people see yellow spider lilies as something positive and something that proves the deceased is still respected and remembered by their loved ones.
Finally, yellow spider lilies can also stand for courage. Gifting them to someone can be a sign of your belief in them and what they are doing. They can give that person the strength and courage necessary to face any obstacle and return victorious, no matter how challenging the journey might be.
4. Orange Spider Lilies Meaning
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As a color, orange often symbolizes pride, self-assurance, endurance, and a fiery nature. If you combine these meanings with regular spider lily symbolism, you get rather interesting readings.
For one, these flowers represent the strength of one’s spirit. They stand for a person who will not break under any circumstances, no matter how hard life might get for them. Even if everyone and everything wants to tear them down, they will rise again and again and be just as strong each time.
Similarly to white and yellow lilies, orange ones can also represent success and good energy. However, the color orange carries some more fire and feistiness in it, which reflects in what these lilies represent as well.
5. Blue Spider Lilies Meaning
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Blue spider lilies are the rarest of the bunch. They are quite symbolic, especially due to all the connections that people usually find with the color blue.
Firstly, blue spider lilies stand for immortality. This meaning is mostly present in Japanese and anime culture, as many of their stories feature using blue spider lilies to concoct some sort of immortality elixir.
Then, these lilies can also stand for dreams and spirituality. They can represent the subconscious parts of one’s psyche that are deeply hidden and sometimes a mystery even to the person themselves. These parts of a person’s mind can be full of different memories, from pleasant to traumatic ones.
That is why blue spider lilies can represent venturing into this mysterious inner world. This adventure can be surprising and painful, but it can also help one get to know themselves better than ever before.
Blue spider lilies also stand for truth and calmness. These flowers represent reaching a state of mind that not much can disturb and finding inner peace that will be permanent.
Artists often use blue spider lilies to denote trustworthiness. If a person in a certain work of art is adorned with blue spider lilies, you can conclude that they are trustworthy and fully reliable. As those traits are hard to come by nowadays, such people are ones that you should hold onto for dear life.
Finally, people also tie blue spider lilies to freedom. You can analyze them as symbols of letting go of the past or anything else that might be holding you back. They represent finally doing away with heavy burdens and opening yourself up to a brighter and better life.
6. Black Spider Lilies Meaning
Black spider lilies are the rarest type you can find, and they are mostly present in some parts of Japan. These flowers represent shadows, doubt, and uncertainty. As such, for most people, they are neither positive nor negative symbols. Rather, they are somewhere in-between.
Seeing a black spider lily can mean that you will need to make an important decision soon. This decision will determine the course your life will take from that point on, which is why you have to think about it carefully.
However, do not spend so much time weighing the pros and cons that the opportunity passes you by fully. Oftentimes, making a decision is much harder than actually following through with it. Be brave, and embrace your destiny with open arms, whatever it may bring you.
7. Pink Spider Lilies Meaning
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Pink spider lilies are a cross between the red and white varieties, and they are quite common in areas near rivers. As a color, pink is rather vivacious and passionate, and those are the features you can tie to pink spider lilies as well.
These flowers represent feminine beauty, love, and passion. They have no ties to any of the darker meanings that other spider lilies often bear. Instead, they are a true sign of passion and desire. As such, they can make great gifts to ladies that you are interested in and want to wow.
Gifting them these flowers will show them that your intentions are serious and that they can trust you. It will also help you gain their trust more easily and set the groundwork for a fulfilling and long-lasting relationship.