The daffodil is the ultimate sign of Spring, offering the promise of warmer days. Victoria Earle delves into the symbolism of this joyful flower.
There is nothing more hopeful and cheering than seeing the first daffodil come up. Even if we’re not flower experts, we all know they are a sign that winter is over and Spring is here. These gorgeous yellow or white and orange blooms are not only uplifting to behold, but they are also full of meaning.
The daffodil blooms in March and early April, awaking from a dormant bulb each year, hence they represent survival and the hope of renewal. Also known as the Lent Lily, the daffodil flowers at Easter (also the Pagan festival of Oestre). It is therefore associated with resurrection, rebirth, new life and forgiveness.
The daffodil symbolises good fortune. The Welsh have it as their national flower and believe that if you see a daffodil on 1st March, St David’s Day, it will bring you a year of good luck! In China, daffodils are also a sign of prosperity and good luck. They symbolise new beginnings as daffodils bloom around the time of Chinese New Year. Hence daffodils are common Chinese New Year gifts.
The daffodil belongs to the narcissus genus, a large family of flowers that includes paperwhites and jonquils. The name stems from the Greek god Narcissus. Narcissus was so handsome and vain that he fell in love with his own reflection as he gazed into a stream. A wood nymph named Echo saw him and fell in love with him. However, he was too self-absorbed to notice her. She pined away until nothing was left but her voice. Narcissus himself drowned in an attempt to capture his own reflection. In another version of the story, nymphs turned him into a flower to stop him from wasting away while he stared at himself.
According to this legend, that is why daffodils and other narcissus flowers grow along stream banks. It is also why the daffodil can represent unrequited love and a warning against too much inner reflection.
Most of the daffodil’s meanings are positive, though. Mythology and symbolism expert Kristen Stanton says the daffodil can signify the very first, shy stages of a new relationship, before the red rose of passion blossoms. Daffodils are also lovely gifts for rekindling a romance or friendship or when you need to say sorry.
They also signify rebirth, vitality, creativity and fresh ideas, inspiration, emergence, self-reflection and joy.
Like the rose, the daffodil has links with the Middle East. Some historians believe the Rose of Sharon mentioned in the Bible was a flower similar to daffodils. One legend says that a daffodil bloomed in Gethsemane to console Jesus just before his crucifixion.
The Prophet Mohammad praised the flower saying, “Whoever has two loaves of bread, sell one and buy narcissi, for while bread nourishes the body, the narcissus feeds the soul.”
The Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II was said to have been buried with daffodil bulbs. Daffodil wreaths have been found in ancient Egyptian graves.
The daffodil bulb is very resilient and can withstand freezing temperatures. Dormant in the winter, it comes alive again in Spring. Hence, the daffodil is a powerful symbol for survival despite the odds, surmounting obstacles and bouncing back from hardships. Daffodils remind us of how far we’ve come on the path.
So go buy yourself some daffodils. Let them uplift you, remind you of the progress you’ve made and bring you hope that better days are ahead.
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