(sensual) lily


Sensuality, Sex, Intensity, High Quality, Contentedness, Maturity

About the meaning: Before you read on, know that there are two different schools of thought concerning the Lily's meaning. According to one the Lily is about sex and sensuality. The other says the Lily is about purity and virtuousness. I don't think these two meanings are incompatible; sensuality and virtuousness can definitely coexist. But I think they are not part of one superordinate category. They are not two points on the same spectrum; one is not a weak form of the other, or an exaggerated experience of the other. I believe they are completely separate issues. This is the reason I don't use both meanings for the same card in my readings, and why I found it impossible to paint an image that eloquently illustrated both. So I decided to paint two separate Lily cards. I personally use both (I read with 37 cards), but you can choose just one if you wish, the one with the meaning you are used to.
The version you're looking at now is Sensual Lily. Virtuous Lily you can find >> here!

Sensuality / sexuality / pleasure / lover: First and foremost, this version of the Lily stands for the sensual aspects of life. It could stand for the sensual approach to the world, which focuses on sensual experiences (hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, seeing), and for any objects which are experienced by one or more of the senses - the most prominent example being food and drink. But it mostly represents sensual pleasures in particular; any sensual impressions which are not just mildly pleasant but actually pleasurable, which we relish deeply.
If you look at sensuality in the context of inter-human relationships, the Lily represents welcome physical touch (e.g. a massage), caresses, and sex. The Lily can stand for human sexuality in general, for one's own sex drive, for sexual passion, and for sexual relationships. You can have a look at surrounding cards to describe more clearly what type of sexual relationship is meant. But the Lily by itself, not modified by other cards, can be understood as (most probably) very good sex. The Lily by itself hints at sexual encounters that are not about a quick relief of sexual tension but about a generous, extensive celebration of each other's bodies. And as a representative of a person, the Lily can stand for a (potential or actual) lover, probably experienced and skilled.

The arts / creativity: The Lily is about passion, and the senses. One of the most important sensual way of expressing one's passions is art. This is why the Lily to me represents creativity in general and any specific art form: visual and performance arts, music, dance, poetry etc. The Lily could be interpreted as an invitation to go to a museum or a concert etc., but more often I interpret it as the suggestion to become creative oneself, to express one's own passions through whatever type of art one feels most comfortable with.
Side note: Some people interpret the Bouquet as creativity. I personally make the difference in the motivation. Art work motivated by the Lily is art work created as an expression of one's passions - it can be but is not created with the intention to be pretty or easy to stomach. Art work inspired by the Bouquet, on the other hand, is more like design, or embellishment: it is created to prettify one's surroundings, or to please others.

Slowness / Intensity: If you want to really appreciate what your senses convey to you, you have to give yourself the time to actually appreciate it. The Lily can be taken as a suggestion to do just one thing at a time and really pay attention to it. And slowness can also mean that in order for something to become really enjoyable, you first have to invest a lot of time. For example, learning to play an instrument well enough to be able to enjoy its full potential takes a lot of practise. This is why I think it is highly appropriate that the Lily also represents slow processes and long time periods.
Now, if we focus on one thing only, and/or if we take our time to actually learn to appreciate something, it also means that this experience may become very, very intense. Intensity therefore is another possible meaning of the Lily. Often, when the Lily is next to another card, I interpret this combination as meaning that the issue the other card addresses is experienced very intensely, possibly even as all-encompassing. This could be a good thing - for example "intense, all-encompassing joy" (Sun+Lily) - but also destructive, for example "intense, all-encompassing despair" (Clouds+Lily).

Maturity / experience: As I have already alluded to in the last paragraph I think that in order to really appreciate something, we have to know it at least to a certain degree of intimacy. And this intimate knowledge comes only with maturity, or with experience. This is also the point where one other traditional meaning of the Lily - [old] age - actually becomes a legitimate sub-meaning of the card. Still, I would never interpret the Lily as old age in the sense of decline (except maybe if the Coffin were next to it). I almost exclusively interpret it as maturity in a positive sense. For example, becoming older might enable you to let go of stressful pretensions and instead start to really enjoy the present moment.

High quality / talent: I often find myself interpreting the Lily as "high quality" - as representing something which is top-grade, excellent, exquisite. These attributes can apply to more or less anything, for example: food, a relationship, a conversation, an ability... The Lily to me represents not just high-grade products but anything that is made or done or acted out with a great consideration for the quality of its parts, and for the quality of the sum of its parts. In this aspect, I find the Lily to be the exact opposite of the Fish (which are all about quantity).
If someone's potential ability is of a very high degree, this could also be taken as "an extraordinary talent". So in some cases I interpret the Lily as "talent"; often as the suggestion to utilize a talent to its full potential.

Contentedness / peacefulness / harmony: One sub-meaning of Sensual Lily, peacefulness and contentedness, was an interesting find for me. It is the one theme which is also an important part of Virtuous Lily's meaning. But the feeling of peace in Virtuous Lily's case stems from an absence of something: we feel peaceful and content when there is an absence of cravings, an absence of inner disturbance. But in Sensual Lily's case, contentedness and peace stem from the presence of something: the presence of sensual harmony. We feel peaceful if we are able to fully enjoy the pleasures of the present moment. We feel content if what the here and now offers to us is enough to fulfil us.

Overindulgence / debauch / excess: The appreciation of sensual pleasures, the celebration of intensity and slowness, can be very positive, productive. But if they are acted out too excessively, they can become unproductive at best. At worst, they evolve into overindulgence, laziness, lack of intellectual depth and emotional shallowness, debauch, gluttony etc. So the Lily can be a warning to restrain oneself a bit more, to be more disciplined. In this regard, there is another bridge from Sensual Lily to Virtuous Lily. If Sensual Lily's properties are exaggerated, Virtuous Lily's qualities are desperately needed for balance!

See also the annakblogs article >> So, is the (sensual) Lily a positive or a negative card?

About the Image: The illustration of Sensual Lily shows the velvety, warm atmosphere of a dark winter evening in front of the fireplace, when the senses are filled with impressions: strong light/dark contrasts, the taste of good food, the heat from the fireplace, music playing in the background, and, possibly a lover's gentle touch...
Because white lilies are a prominent symbol for purity I chose a very different, warm, and passionate, colour - orange - for Sensual Lily. I painted walnuts and a glass of wine for the sense of taste. Wine, because wine tends to become more exquisite when it matures, and because the more knowledgeable, the more experienced you are with wine, the better you'll be able to appreciate a really fine one. And the walnuts? Walnuts yield high quality, delicious oil but it can take a lot of patience to crack them - walnut-eating is a slow process. To represent (sexual) passion (and also as an indicator that this card stands for the cold time of the year) I painted a fireplace with smouldering embers. A second whine glass on the fireplace also hints at the "shared sensuality" aspect of this card. (If you wish you can imagine that two lovers, after sharing a glass of whine, reading poetry, and playing music together, have now retreated to the bed just outside the frame of the card!). The Viola da Gamba and Violin in the background represent not just the sense of hearing and the appreciation of music, but the arts in general, and also again the time factor. It takes a long time and much patience to learn to play an instrument well.
In short: Everything in this card speaks of sensual pleasures, a slow kind of intensity, and passion.

If you haven't done it already I highly recommend to now compare both the illustration and the meaning of Sensual Lily with the ones of >> Virtuous Lily. They are like fire and ice, literally!

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