Lily of the valley is a woodland flowering plant with sweetly scented pendent bell-shaped white flowers borne in sprays in spring. It is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia and Europe. Although there are no recorded deaths caused by this plant it is still classified as poisonous.
According to ancient astrology the flower was under the protection of the son of the goddess Maia. For the Greeks this was Hermes and for the Romans it was Mercury. Another legend tells of a Lily of the Valley who fell in love with a nightingale’s singing and only bloomed when the bird returned to the woods in May.
Over the centuries the Lily of the Valley has developed many meanings. The fragrant white flowers are often associated with traditional feminine values such as motherhood purity chastity and sweetness.
In German pagan belief Lily of the Valley were closely associated with Ostara. This divine virgin goddess of spring and dawn appears to help banish the cold winter and renew life. The sweet smelling white flower symbolizes her purity and humility. And the green leaves are associated with hope.
The church adopted Lily of the Valley as a symbolic plant for the Virgin Mary. Legend says that it first appeared near the base of the cross where Mary shed tears for her son. These “Woman’s Tears” or “Mary’s Tears” became symbolic of pure Christian love.