References to Blue Lily can be found throughout ancient Egyptian history, in which the plant seems to have occupied a central role. Culturally the blue lily was used as an enhancement to their wine, and spiritually the plant was part of their creation history:
“In the beginning were the waters of chaos ... Darkness covered the waters until ... the Primeval Water Lily rose from the abyss. Slowly the blue water lily opened its petals to reveal a young god sitting in its golden heart. A sweet perfume drifted across the waters and light streamed from the body of this Divine Child to banish universal darkness. This child was the Creator, the Sun God, the source of all life.”
It is for this reason that it held great religious and ceremonial significance, and has been found in the tombs of pharaohs, depicted in tombs and temples, and used to symbolise the union of Upper and Lower Egypt.
It was believed that the opening of the lily each morning, with its blue petals and gold centre, imitated the way the sky greeted the sun, only to close at dusk as the sun set. This caused blue lily to be tied to the rising and setting of the sun, and the Egyptian gods are associated with the sun. One such god was known as Nefertem, who was not only linked to the sun, but also beauty and healing. It was Nefertem who brought the Blue Lily flower to the sun god Ra, to help ease his ageing body.
The significance of the Blue Lily was not only contained to religion. Evidence from mass spectroscopy conducted on the Egyptian mummy Azru has found traces of Blue Lilly within the mass of the mummy itself. Writings and pictures found suggest that this sexually oriented society used Blue Lilly as both a medicinal and party drug, to relieve pain, increase memory, increase circulation, increase sexual desire, and induce feelings of euphoria and ecstasy. It was so important to the ancient Egyptians, that it was specifically cultivated and farmed in manmade pools.
Whilst it was once a prominent feature of the Nile, Blue Lilies are now all but gone from the river, and the plant is classed as endangered. It is mainly through human cultivation that its numbers are being brought back up.