Narcissus Flower Meanings, Symbolism, and Mythology + Uses

Narcissus Flower Meaning and Mythology

Narcissus flower meanings and symbolism include new beginnings, renewal, optimism, grace, inspiration, and self-love. There are approximately 50 species of narcissus flowers, which belong to the genus Narcissus.1 These include flowers from the daffodil and jonquil families as well as other species. Narcissuses are known for their gorgeous fragrance as well as their symbolic meanings and folklore. Notably, the narcissus flower is named for the character in the Greek myth Narcissus, which we’ll get into in more detail below. In this post, you’ll learn about narcissus flower meanings and symbolism, narcissus mythology and spiritual meanings, and more.

Narcissus by Waterhouse

Narcissus by John William Waterhouse, 1912. Source: Private Collection.

What does the narcissus symbolize?

Narcissus flowers, along with crocuses, are often the first flowers we see blooming after the cold, dark winter. Since they emerge in March and early April, the narcissus is associated with the birth month of March and the astrology sign Pisces. In addition, narcissus flowers have other symbolic associations, including:

  • New beginnings
  • Renewal
  • Optimism
  • Grace
  • Inspiration
  • Self-love

Etymology of the Name Narcissus

Before we get into details on narcissus flower meanings, let’s take a look at the root of and meanings behind the name narcissus. The root of the word “narcissus” is the Greek word narke, which means “numbness,” “stupor,” or “sleep.” (The English word “narcotic” is derived from the same Greek word.)2

The narcissus plant contains alkaloids, which can have a sedative effect if consumed. In addition, the full name of narcissus is based on a character from Greek mythology. As the story goes, when Narcissus saw his own reflection in a pool of water, he was so besotted by what he saw, that it intoxicated him into a state of inertia. We’ll get into more details on that story later in this post.

Detailed Narcissus Flower Meanings

Narcissus Art

Here are some details on narcissus flower meanings and symbols:

Renewal and New Beginnings

As winter comes to a close and sunshine begins to thaw the ground, narcissus flowers awaken from dormant bulbs to burst through the snow. It’s as though they are announcing that spring is officially here. Because of this, they are symbols of renewal and new beginnings.

Thus, narcissus flowers make perfect gifts for loved ones who are starting something new in their life. This might be a marriage or the birth of a baby or the adoption of a child, or even a new home or new career path.

Narcissus flowers also symbolize rebirth. So, they are lovely symbols for trying again or starting over, even after many failed attempts!

Optimism

With their association with spring and new beginnings, narcissuses are also symbols of optimism. They can serve as reminders to never give up and to believe in the loving and positive powers of the universe. With their pure beauty and unmistakable fragrance, the narcissus flower reminds us to focus on the positive and to seek out the good in life.

Grace

With their delicate, bell-shaped blossoms and lovely fragrance, narcissus flowers are also symbols of grace. To have grace means to rise above anger, dissatisfaction, and other negative emotions. In essence, it means to raise your vibration and to be gracious.

If you’re ever in a situation where your patience is wearing thin, take a deep breath, envision the beautiful narcissus flower, meditate on the word “grace” (like a mantra!), and exhale. Hopefully you’ll find that this helps to ground you and calm your overwrought emotions.

Inspiration

Field of Narcissuses

Spring is a time of fertility, renewal, and growth. Thus, as a spring flower, the narcissus is associated with these qualities. For these reasons, the narcissus flower is a symbol of inspiration and creativity. It shows us that even when we feel depleted, with rest and relaxation, the creative well will replenish itself and we can be inspired again.

Self-Love

As we’ll cover in more detail in the mythology section below, the narcissus flower is also a symbol of self-love. The idea of self-love and self-care can have both positive and negative associations. On the one hand, love and care for ourselves can empower us to better fulfill our purpose as they energize us to “show up” in our relationships and to work at keeping them healthy and vibrant. However unhealthy self-love can lead to selfishness, avoidant behavior, substance addictions, and other toxic behaviors.

In this way, the narcissus flower can be a positive reminder to practice the kind of self-love that is healthy for ourselves while being a force for good in our relationships.

Narcissus Color Meanings

White Narcissus

In addition to the qualities that the narcissus flower symbolizes, there are also meanings applied to the varying colors of their blooms. While you might associate narcissuses with the color white, they actually come in a range of hues. Here are some of the meanings applied to the different colors of narcissus flowers:

White Narcissus Meanings

White narcissus flowers symbolize new beginnings, innocence, purity, sincerity, and authenticity. In addition, the white narcissus is synonymous with earnest intentions. For these reasons, white narcissuses are ideal for bridal bouquets as well as for births, christenings, adoptions, and other celebrations of children joining their new families. Narcissus plants also make lovely gifts for loved ones who are starting new ventures.

Yellow Narcissus Flower Meanings

Yellow Narcissus Meaning
Narcissus Ceylon, United States National Arboretum, Washington D.C. Photo: David J. Stang.

Yellow narcissuses symbolize hope, optimism, joy, good fortune, and friendship. As they are the color of sunshine and gold, they are perfect in gardens where you want to bring more happiness and prosperity to a home or other setting. Yellow narcissus flowers also make perfect gifts for someone whose spirits you want to lift and for good luck when they are starting something new.

Orange or Peach Narcissus Flower Meanings

Orange Narcissus

Some varieties of narcissus blooms have orange or peach-colored centers. Orange narcissus flowers symbolize health, vitality, courage, and creative inspiration. In addition, peach narcissus flowers represent nurturing love. Thus, orange and peach narcissuses are lovely additions in the gardens of healing centers or as gifts for people you love who are dealing with health challenges. The orange narcissus flower also reminds us to be brave, bold, and optimistic.

Pink Narcissus Meaning

Pink Narcissus

There are a variety of narcissus plants that have lovely pink-hued blooms. Pink narcissus flowers represent femininity and platonic love as well as new romantic love. They also represent grace and gentleness. These flowers are the perfect addition to a garden to “soften” things up and make it prettier. And they make lovely forgiveness gifts.

Red Narcissus Flowers

With hybridization and cultivation, you can also find varieties of narcissuses that are red in hue or even contain red centers. Red is obviously the color of romantic love. It also symbolizes primal energy. Thus, red narcissus flowers represent passion and creative inspiration and expression.

Narcissus Mythology and Folklore

The Narcissus genus of flowers arose in the Iberian Peninsula about 33 million years ago.3 So, it’s no surprise that these ancient fragrant flowers appear in human mythology and folklore. Here are some of the cultural stories that involve the narcissus:

Narcissus in Greek Mythology

Narcissus and Echo
Narcissus and Echo by Franciscus de Neve. Ca. 1650-1704. Source: Christ Church, University of Oxford.

From the Greek myth about a young man named Narcissus, we have the name of the beautifully fragrant narcissus flowers as well as the often-used term in the modern English vernacular: narcissist.

According to the story, there was once a young hunter named Narcissus who was known for his drop-dead gorgeous looks. The son of the river god Cephissus and a nymph named Liriope, Narcissus was such a beautiful man that he attracted all kinds of suitors, including mortal women and men and nymphs. However, he rejected all of his suitors’ advances.

As is typical with the Greek myths, there are a few different versions of this story. One of the most enduring is the version by the Roman poet Ovid in Metamorphoses Book 3.

Echo and Narcissus

Echo and Narcissus
Echo and Narcissus by Nicolas Poussin, Ca. 1630. Source: Louvre Museum.

According to the tale, one day when Narcissus was hunting in the woods, a mountain nymph named Echo saw him. Overcome by his beauty, she immediately fell in love with him.

Echo followed Narcissus as he hunted in the woods. Sensing he was being stalked, Narcissus called out, asking, “Who is there?” And not wanting to appear too eager, Echo simply mimicked him, saying, “Who is there?”

After some time, Echo revealed herself and professed her love for Narcissus. However, Narcissus coldly rebuked her advances. Devastated, Echo wandered away in the woods. And she continued to wander forlornly for years, only hearing the sound of her own voice.

Someone else was there…

Echo and Narcissus were not the only ones who had witnessed their initial exchange, however. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, had been following them. She was well aware of Narcissus’ habit of breaking hearts, and seeing Echo’s heartache, Nemesis had had enough.

So, one day as Narcissus was hunting, Nemesis appeared and asked him if he was thirsty. The handsome hunter said that he was indeed. So, Nemesis led him to a glassy pool of fresh water.

Narcissus Greek Myth
Narcissus by Jan Cossiers (1600–1671). Source: Museo del Prado.

When Narcissus leaned down to take a sip of the water from the pool, he was dumbstruck to see the most beautiful face he had ever laid eyes on staring back at him. Not realizing it was his own reflection, Narcissus fell in love with the beautiful being looking back at him. He stared and stared, unable to leave the pool.

After some time, Narcissus reached to the water, but the beautiful creature he saw disappeared beneath the ripples and out of his reach. So, he waited, and eventually the beautiful being came back. However, every time he reached out to touch the gorgeous face in front of him, the being disappeared again.

Eventually, Narcissus realized that his love was unrequited, yet he was unable to leave the pool. Heartbroken, he began to wither away, and eventually he died of a broken heart. Yet where Narcissus fell, beautiful narcissus flowers grew and bloomed.4

Narcissus Flower Meaning in Ancient Egypt

Across the Mediterranean Sea from Greece, the ancient Egyptians were also aware of the narcissus flower. For them, it was a flower that had sacred significance. The Egyptians were some of the earliest perfumers, so they were likely well aware of the pungent fragrance of these beautiful flowers. In addition, they entombed narcissus bulbs with the mummies of loved ones and other important people so they could take them with them to the afterlife.5

Chinese Narcissus Flower Meanings

Narcissus Meaning China
Narcissus, Rock, Bees, and Linghzhi by Ju Lian. (1828–1904). Source: Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Because narcissus flowers bloom around the time of the Chinese New Year, they are symbols of luck and good fortune in China. In fact, the Chinese often give narcissus flowers as New Year’s gifts as well as adorning their homes and workspaces with them.

Spiritual Meaning of the Narcissus

Narcissus Emerging from Snow

As a symbol of hope, purity, and inspiration, the narcissus has profound spiritual meanings for many. Its beauty and resilience as it starts to bloom in late winter and early spring reminds us to raise our vibration. In every situation and interaction, we have the choice to approach it with optimism and loving kindness or another way of being. The fragrant beauty of the narcissus reminds us to take the high road.

Narcissus Meaning in the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity

While biblical translations vary, some scholars attest that the narcissus was an important flower in Judaism and Christianity. For example, in Isaiah 35:1-2, when God promises restoration of the land, the narcissus (also translated as crocus) represents hope and optimism: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the narcissus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”6

In addition, some scholars say the rose of Sharon referenced in Song of Solomon 2:1 was also a flower related to the narcissus: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”7

Furthermore, some believe that a narcissus flower bloomed in Gethsemane (the garden outside Jerusalem where Jesus was arrested) to console Jesus before the crucifixion.

As spring flowers, narcissuses are also associated with Easter and Christ’s resurrection.

Narcissus Flower Meaning in Islam

The narcissus is a sacred flower in Islam. The Prophet Mohammad said, “Whoever has two loaves of bread, sell one and buy narcissi, for while bread nourishes the body, the narcissus feeds the soul.”8

Associated Spirit Animals

Rabbit in Nature

The narcissus shares symbolism and synergies with certain animals and insects, especially those associated with springtime. For example, both the narcissus and the dove are symbols of inspiration, optimism, and new beginnings. In addition, like the narcissus, rabbits are associated with springtime, new beginnings, and fertility (thus prosperity.) Furthermore, the butterfly is a symbol of faith and inspiration.

Narcissus in Astrology: Birth Flower of Pisces

Pisces Symbol

Because they bloom in March, narcissuses are also associated with the astrological sign of Pisces. As a water sign, Pisces is synonymous with sensitivity, empathy, and creativity. Pisces people are selfless and spiritual. Thus, as a flower of creative and spiritual inspiration, the narcissus is an apt symbol to go along with the zodiac’s sign of the fish.

When to Give Narcissus Flowers

Narcissus flowers make beautiful gifts that bring smiles to people’s faces with their sweet perfume. They make especially lovely gifts for anyone who is:

  • Experiencing a health challenge and needs an extra dose of hope and optimism.
  • Starting something new, whether it’s a relationship, a family, a garden, or a new venture.
  • On a spiritual path and is seeking greater wisdom and understanding.
  • Celebrating a springtime birthday.

Narcissus Tattoo Meaning

Narcissus Tattoo Meaning

Narcissus blossoms make a lovely design for a tattoo. And one of the best things about flower tattoos is that it’s unlikely you’ll regret getting one! A narcissus tattoo shows the world that you are an optimist who believes there is always hope for people and situations to blossom and improve. It can also demonstrate that you are a spiritual person who is deeply connected to your faith. While tattoos and their meanings are deeply personal, hopefully understanding more about narcissus flower symbolism will bring deeper meaning to your tattoo.

Narcissus Flower Uses

While they are beautiful to look at and smell, narcissus plants are toxic to humans if ingested. For this reason, they are not used in many herbal or traditional medicines. In fact, narcissus bulbs resemble onion bulbs. So, if you grow both and use your onions in cooking, be sure you know that difference!

Despite those drawbacks, perfumers use narcissus in perfumes, and herbalists do in essential oils. The essential oil is often labeled with its Latin name Narcissus poeticus. When used properly, narcissus essential oil can promote sleep and relaxation. (As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, it does have slightly “narcotic” effects.)

While the narcissus does have some negative associations, dating back to the Greek myths, its beauty, fragrance, and positive symbols make it easy to forget them!

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