The Flowers of Easter – Part 2

Daffodil (Narcissi)

The daffodil is a symbol of rebirth – a sign of the new beginnings that come with spring. Daffodils are often found connected with Easter and Easter religious services because of their new birth significance.

Daffodils are the birthday flower of March, the same month as the spring equinox that heralds the beginning of a new season.

Long celebrated in art and literature, narcissi (various common names include daffodil and jonquil) are associated with a number of themes in different cultures, ranging from death to good fortune, and as symbols of Spring. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales associated with St. David’s Day. In other cultures it many be associated with wealth, good fortune and beauty. Because of the time that it flowers it is also a symbol of Spring, and associated religious festivals such as Easter, hence the use of Lent lily or in German, Easter bells, among its common names. The appearance of the wild flowers in spring is also associated with festivals in many places. While prized for its ornamental value, there is also an ancient cultural association with death, at least for pure white forms.

Historically the narcissus has appeared in written and visual arts since antiquity, being found in graves from Ancient Egypt. In classical Graeco-Roman literature the narcissus is associated with both the myth of the youth who was turned into a flower of that time, and with the Goddess Persephone, snatched into the underworld as she gathered their blooms. Narcissi were said to grow in meadows in the underworld. In these contexts they frequently appear in the poetry of the period from Stasinos to Pliny.

In western European culture narcissi and daffodils are among the most celebrated flowers in English literature, from Gower to Day-Lewis, while the best known poem is probably that of Wordsworth. In the visual arts, narcissi are depicted in three different contexts, mythological, floral art, or landscapes, from mediaeval altar pieces to Salvador Dalí.

The narcissus also plays an important part in Eastern cultures from their association with the New year in Chinese culture to symbolizing eyes in Islamic art. The word ‘Daffodil’ has been used widely in popular culture from Dutch cars to Swedish rock bands, while many cancer charities have used it as a fundraising symbol.

Symbols

The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, where it is traditional to wear a daffodil or a leek on Saint David’s Day (March 1). In Welsh the daffodil is known as “Peter’s Leek”, (cenhinen Bedr or cenin Pedr), the leek (cenhinen) being the other national symbol. The narcissus is also a national flower symbolizing the new year or Newrozin the Kurdish culture.

The narcissus is perceived in the West as a symbol of vanity, in the East as a symbol of wealth and good fortune (see Eastern cultures). In classical Persian literature, the narcissus is a symbol of beautiful eyes, together with other flowers that equal a beautiful face with a spring garden, such as roses for cheeks and violets for shining dark hair.

In western countries the daffodil is associated with spring festivals such as Lent and its successor Easter. In Germany the wild narcissus, N. pseudonarcissus, is known as Osterglocke or “Easter bell.” In the United Kingdom, particularly in ecclesiastical circles, the daffodil is sometimes variously referred to as the Lenten or Lent lily.[ Tradition has it that the daffodil opens on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and dies at Easter which marks the end of Lent.[

Although prized as an ornamental flower, some people consider narcissi unlucky, because they hang their heads implying misfortune, and hence refuse to have them in the house. White narcissi are especially associated with death, especially the pure white N triandrus ‘Thalia’, and hence are considered grave flowers.[ Indeed, in Ancient Greece narcissi were planted near tombs. Robert Herrick, describes them as portents of death, an association which also appears in the myth of Persephone and the underworld.

The daffodil is the American Cancer Society’s symbol of new life and hope that a cure for cancer will be found. “You see a daffodil and know there’s hope,” says Debbie Jaramillo, volunteer chair, California Division Daffodil Days. “And with hope, there’s a cure. They’re a burst of sunshine, a ray of hope. Even if it is still cold outside, you know there’s warmth and light ahead.”

More about flowers used at Easter in Part 3.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)