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The narcissus is a flower with a powerful symbolism. In fact, in different cultures, myths and legends exist that see him as the protagonist and metaphor of human characteristics, but also a symbol of good and bad auspices.
Plant native to Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia, it was introduced in China around the year one thousand and today it is widespread in all continents. It flowers from March to June, we find it in many varieties, with linear leaves and flowers with six white petals. The petals are joined to the center, from which a deep yellow crown starts. In nature, it grows wild in woods and meadows with good exposure to sunlight.
The different meanings of the narcissus
We find different meanings and symbologies associated with the narcissus, linked to cultures that are very distant from each other.
The ancient Romans thought that the narcissus was a flower that grew in the Elysian fields, a symbol of the afterlife in Roman religion, and therefore had the custom of planting them on the graves of their deceased loved ones.
The Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, associated the symbol of purity with daffodils. At one point, however, the legend spread that these flowers had the power to absorb the negative and evil thoughts of human beings and for this they became poisonous (in fact they are flowers with a certain toxicity).
In ancient Jewish culture, however, the narcissus is associated with the beauty and fertility of women, while in Christian iconography it became a symbol of rebirth after death and therefore associated with Easter. In some works by Dutch painters, we also find the narcissus as a symbol of God's eternal love against the selfish love of men.
In China the flower is a symbol of luck and prosperity for the new year, since its flowering corresponds to the Chinese New Year period. In the art of Chinese tattooing, the narcissus represents the wish to bring out its inner potential and to obtain recognition for its work. This is why giving daffodils is very welcome in the case of a new job or if you are trying to have more luck in life.
In Wales the narcissus is called the "Lenten lily", because it flourishes there at this time. It is customary to wear it pinned to the jacket on March 1, St. David's Day and it is believed that its early flowering brings a year full of prosperity.
The superstition around this flower has also led to believe that. if in a field there is only a bud to bloom first, this is a sign of bad luck. In Maine, in the United States of America, it was believed then that if this bud was facing the observer, it would bring him bad luck for the rest of the year.
The Greek myth
The Greek poet and playwright Ovid tells us the myth of the young Narcissus, the fruit of the love between a nymph and the river god Cefiso. The result is a beautiful child, whose destiny, however, prophesied to the mother by the Native Tiresias, will be to die as soon as he looks at himself. Narcissus grows and his beauty only increases, as does his vanity and an unconditional self-love that leads him to reject the feelings of anyone who falls in love with him.
Eco also falls in love with him, a nymph of the woods condemned by Era to remain mute because of his previous gab. Eco was guilty, according to Era, of distracting her with his excessive chatter while her husband Zeus entertained her lovers. Thus condemning one to remain mute and to have the power to repeat only the last words heard by someone else.
Eco meets Narciso while he was hunting for deer in the woods. He falls in love instantly and hugs him. Narcissus is disgusted, he drives her away and flees to a stretch of water. He sits on the bank and in the gesture of collecting water in his hands to drink it and wash his face, he sees his face reflected in the source. If he falls in love, he tries to kiss him, but he can't. It remains so to contemplate itself and at that point the ancient prophecy is fulfilled: Narcissus has seen himself and in the impossibility of realizing the extreme desire of love towards himself, he pierces himself with a sword and dies. There where his blood fell a flower was born, which from then on will bear his name.
The symbolic meaning of the Greek myth
From the Greek myth there comes therefore the symbolism that links the narcissus to beauty and, above all, to self-love. Love that does not allow us to look outside, which leaves no feelings for others and which, in the idea of knowing, feeding and admiring only one's own self, is destined to die. Hence the term, precisely, of "narcissist". Narciso therefore represents the one who knows how to love only himself, keeping the rest of the world outside, unable to see and to open up to the other.
Looking outside, for the narcissist, can become a risk. The risk of questioning oneself, of feeling fragile, of depending on the other, who could disappoint us or, even worse, betray us.
Narcissists, therefore, have a very high idea of themselves: they feel perfect and love to feed on fantasies of fame, success, money, awards. With extreme presumption they feel they are experts in everything and know how to do everything well.
The criticisms that come from outside are experienced as the result of envy and jealousy. They love to surround themselves, of course, with those who do nothing but confirm their beauty and, if they do not arrive, they feel offended and frustrated.