Every flower has a history and every flower symbolizes something. Often the history and symbols are confusing and contradictory but they are still fascinating. If your birthday is in the month of March, your flower is the daffodil or jonquil. Here is the story and language of your flower.
Linguistic Roots for the Various Names of the Daffodil
The Latin name for the daffodil, narcissus, has roots in Greek mythology. The Greeks called the flower narkisso because of its overpowering narcotic-like scent and they associated it with Hades.
The word narkisso also reminds of us of another Greek legend surrounding a god with a similar name. The God Narcissus was known for being so self-absorbed that he wasn’t interested in the love of the nymph Echo (who entered a cave and allowed herself to die because of her obsessive love). Later, Narcissus paused to gaze at his image in a stream. As he leaned closer to view it more clearly, he fell in and drowned. The gods placed flowers (narcissus) on the bank in remembrance of him.
The name jonquil was given to the flower by the Spanish whose word jonquillo meant rush. Apparently the leaves of the flower reminded them of rushes.
The Language of Daffodils and Jonquils
The story of Narcissus makes it clear why vanity and death are associated with the flower. The Greeks also gave the flower tones of resurrection and rebirth because the narcissus was the flower which Persephone was about to pick when Hades carried her to the underworld to be his wife. The world mourned her death and became barren until Hades relented and agreed that Persephone could walk on the earth from spring through fall. It was not until Persephone’s resurrection or rebirth that the world experienced spring again – probably some of the first blossoms people saw were the sunny bloom of spring’s daffodils.
The narcissus was also used as a ritualistic flower of death by the Egyptians. When Pharaohs were buried the skins of daffodil bulbs were placed over the eyes, nose, and mouth of the mummy.
Christians often use daffodils to symbolize both Christ’s death and resurrection.
During the Victorian era those who sent bouquets that included a daffodil were telling the recipient of their regard. Those who included the jonquil were sending the more personal message saying “I desire a return of affection,”
Speaking with Daffodils
If you send daffodils or jonquils to someone you are sending them a message of regard, perhaps a remembrance of vanity and death, the hope of resurrection and rebirth, and the promise of eternal life, or you are simply letting them know you wish for them to return your favor.
Take a look at a complete list of Flowers of the Month.
Greenaway, Kate (illus), Marsh, Jean (text). The Illuminated Language of Flowers. Balance House, Ltd, 1978.
Heilmeyer, Marina. The Language of Flowers: Symbols and Myths. Prestel Verlag, 2001.
Wells, Diana. 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1997