The daffodils are beginning to make an appearance in NE Scotland. This beautiful plant is a welcome sign of spring’s arrival and a great opportunity to celebrate its old and new traditions and folklore.
The story from my childhood that characterised daffodils was the Greek or Roman myth about Echo and Narcissus which continues to capture children’s imagination. Narcissus is the botanical name for the daffodil genus.
Echo and Narcissus
Echo was a nymph, a beautiful spirit of nature who loved the woods and mountains. Echo also loved to talk. She was a chatterbox and had to have the last word in any conversation.
One day, Echo’s ability to chatter got her into a lot of trouble. Zeus was spending time with the wood nymphs and did not want to be disturbed. When his wife, Hera, came looking for him, Echo distracted her with conversation, allowing Zeus to escape. When Hera realised what Echo had done, in anger, she prevented Echo from ever speaking first. She could only repeat the final words of others.
Echo was mortified. In shame and frustration she ran away and hid in the mountain caves and cliffs and no longer lived with the other nymphs. One day she saw Narcissus, a handsome youth out hunting. Echo fell in love at first sight, and followed him, answering his calls, the only way she could, by repeating his last words. When she did have the courage to reveal herself to Narcissus, he dismissed her. He did not care for her.
In sorrow, Echo returned to the mountains and caves. She was so full of grief that she no longer cared whether she lived or died. She slowly faded away. Eventually her bones became rocks. All that was left of Echo was her voice which can still be heard today.
Zeus and the other gods saw Echo pine away. They knew that Narcissus had treated other nymphs badly too because he was so vain and proud of his handsome looks. He thought he was more important than anyone else. So they decided he needed to be punished and feel the pain he was causing others.
Shortly, Narcissus went out hunting again in the mountains. As he passed a pool of water, he decided to stop for a quick rest and drink. As he leant over the water, he saw his own reflection, but did not recognise it to be his own. He thought it was a beautiful water nymph living in the pond. Every time he tried to reach into the water to touch the nymph, the reflection disappeared with the ripples. As the water became still, the reflection returned. Narcissus fell completely in love with his reflection. He could not and would not leave the pond. Eventually he also pined away and died at the edge of the water, forever under the spell of his own beautiful reflection. As a reminder to others of Narcissus, the gods created daffodils which grew beside the pond. They are a symbol of beauty, self-obsession and unreturned love to this day.
The Daffodil Principle
I first hear this story several years ago and it struck a chord about the need for beauty in our lives.
Somewhere near Lake Arrowhead in California is a little church with a sign that says “Daffodil Garden” on the far side of the graveyard. In spring, if you follow the path through the gravestones, you are in for a big surprise. In the property beside this church, all you can see, is thousands of daffodils of different colours and types. They cover the hills, slopes and land as far as you can see.
It’s possible to walk up to the house and there you will find a hand-written poster that states:
Planted one at a time, by one woman,
two hands, two feet and very little brain
Began in 1958
This is The Daffodil Principle. An unknown woman has forever changed the world she lives in by her act of planting bulbs. She has brought a little more beauty, inspiration and joy into the lives of herself and others by a frequent, regular, sustainable act of passion.
Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do is something small, little and often, that makes a difference over time. A positive baby-step we can each do, that quietly makes our world a little more beautiful and better place to be in many years to come.
St Francis, Daffodils and the Easter Bunny
This story is based on Saint Francis. He was a nature lover, whose best friend was a rabbit. All the animals in the forest loved Saint Francis and decided to give him a gift, a nest full of brightly coloured eggs. The rabbit had asked the daffodil for it’s brilliant yellow colour, the crocus for it’s blue, and violet for the purple.
Saint Francis was so overwhelmed with joy, in receiving such a lovely present that he proclaimed that from now and forever, every year a basket full of coloured eggs would return in memory of Rabbit’s gift. So to this day, the tradition of the Easter bunny continues.
Daffodil Tea Parties
In the spring, daffodil tea parties remain popular. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, which celebrated St David’s Day on 1st March so this month is particularly apt for such celebrations. If you are fund-raising, then consider making a donation to the Marie Curie Cancer Care – March is their big fundraising month as this charity’s symbol is a daffodil.
It makes for an ideal opportunity to hold an outdoor tea party with your class or group of children.
- Ask your children to decide the best place. Amongst the daffodils or where you get a view of them? Think about what would be needed to make the tea party work well.
- You may want to bake a Daffodil Cake.
- Will someone recite Wordsworth’s famous poem, Daffodils?
- Consider which story would work best. Will there be an Easter Bunny theme and a treasure hunt for colourful eggs? It may link nicely to making Pace eggs using celandine flowers and onion skins.
- Ask the children to consider the Daffodil Principle and how their class could do a small, significant act of stewardship which brings a little more beauty into the world.
- Re-tell the story of Echo and Narcissus and enjoy hunting for beautiful or interesting reflections.