For this week’s pick of the week, therefore, I’ve chosen Daffodil.
The daffodil is well-known as the national flower of Wales, and tomorrow will be worn proudly across the country.
We bought a few bunches of proper Welsh daffodils yesterday and they are now looking very bright and sunny on the kitchen table!
As well as the flower’s connection with Wales, the daffodil is celebrated as one of the symbols of spring par excellence.
Swathes of cheerful daffodils bobbing their heads in the spring sunshine are always an evocative and heartwarming sight after the bleakness of winter.
Indeed, they inspired probably one of the most famous of all poems about flowers — William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
In the language of flowers, the daffodil symbolizes both respect and unrequited love—but it can also stand for vanity and deceit—perhaps because for all its cheery charm, the daffodil is poisonous.
Neverthless, I’ve always been a bit surprised that Daffodil as a name is so rare. Like other flowers, it was first used in the nineteenth century, but for some inexplicable reason simply didn’t grab the limelight, even when the similar Daphne was enjoying its vogue (in the British Isles, at least) in the second quarter of the twentieth century.
But with flower names once more in fashion, and other rarities like Bluebell seeing more use, maybe Daffodil’s day is not far away.
It does have the fetching pet-form Dilly, as well as sharing Daphne’s nick-names Daff, Daffi, Daffie and Daffy.
The daffodil’s original name was actually Affodill — which has distinct potential too — and an old, rather charming variant is Daffodilly. Affodill arose from the medieval Latin afodillus and derives ultimately from the Greek asphodelos — Asphodel.
Also known as king’s spear, the asphodel was grown as a garden flower and medicinal herb from at least the Middle Ages. In the ancient world, it was believed that asphodels grew in the Elysian Fields and were the food of the dead. We know that their roots were certainly eaten by the living poor of Ancient Greece, and the plant was used as a remedy against snake-bites and as a protection from sorcery.
The daffodil’s Pagan connotations don’t stop there. Among modern Pagans, it has become the quintessential flower of the Spring Equinox, and is now particularly associated with the Goddess Eostre.
Some other great names with daffodil associations include:
- Narcissus — used generally of a related flower, as well as being the botanical name for the genus. In Greek mythology, this was the name of the narcissistic youth who fell in love with his own reflection, and the name was often used as a given name in the classical period. The feminine form, Narcissa — pet-form “Cissy” – occurs, of course, in Harry Potter as the name of Draco Malfoy’s mother.
- Jonquil — the name of an old type of daff.
- Narciso — the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish form of NARCISSUS.
- Narcys — the Polish form of NARCISSUS.
- Nargis — the Persian for daffodil, used as a girl’s name in Iran (derives ultimately from Narcissus).
- Nergis — the Turkish for daffodil, used as a girl’s name in Turkey (also derives ultimately from Narcissus).
What better way to capture the spring in a name, than with Daffodil and friends?