Micro-Season: “The Daffodil Flowers” (2022)

We have entered the micro-season of “The Daffodil Flowers”.  This is the third micro-season of the mini-season of First Winter.  The micro-seasons within First Winter  are:

  • The First Camellia Blossoms (Nov. 8- Nov 12)
  • The Earth First Freezes (Nov. 13 – Nov 17)
  • The Daffodil Flowers (Nov 18 – Nov 22)

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

To celebrate this season, we will learn about the daffodil, its mythology, and its symbolism.  We will then read daffodil-themed haiku from Basho, Issa, and Buson.


The Daffodil

Daffodil is the common name for perennial flowering plants within the Amaryllidaceae family and the genus Narcissus.  The term Narcissus is believed to be derived from the Greek word “Narke” which can be translated to numbness or stupor.(3) Daffodil flowers can be identified by their distinct pattern of six petals around a cup, or trumpet-like, center, and are known for their sweet scent and toxicity.(1)

The daffodil is native to Europe and North Africa and was introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794–1185). If you happen to be in Japan anytime between December and March, you can find daffodils blooming in the Fukui Prefecture near the Sea of Japan, in Chiba southeast of Tokyo, and on Awaji-shima Island in Kobe Prefecture in western Japan.(2)

In Japan, the daffodil is also called suisen, which means “water hermit”.(4) This is a fitting name that connects this plant to its preferred habitat and its possible origin story.

The Myth of Narcissus

In the story of “Echo and Narcissus” recorded by the Roman poet Ovid in Book 3 of Metamorphoses, Narcissus is the son of the river god Cephisus and nymph Liriope.  Shortly after Narcissus was born, Liriope consulted the seer Tiresias and was told that Narcissus would live a long life he never discover himself.  

One day, when Narcissus was about sixteen, he was walking in the woods and a nymph named Echo noticed him.  Echo fell madly in love with Narcissus and started following him. Narcissus had a feeling he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?”  Echo repeated, “Who’s there?”  This continued for some time before Echo revealed herself and tried to embrace Narcissus.  Narcissus responded to Echo’s advances by telling her to leave him alone. This left Echo heartbroken. In her despair, Echo spent the rest of her life in the woods until nothing but an echo of her voice remained.

Nemesis, the Goddess of Revenge, heard this interaction and decided to punish Narcissus. The punishment occurred on a hot summer day when Narcissus was out hunting and became thirsty.  Nemesis lured Narcissus to a pool of water where he saw his own reflection. Narcissus did not realize that the reflection was his own and fell deeply in love with it. He was unable to leave his reflection and when he realized that his love could not be reciprocated, he melted away from the love burning inside him. He died at the water’s edge and turned into a gold and white flower.(5,6)

The Symbolism Of The Daffodil 

Much like the Camellia flower from the micro-seasons of “The First Camellia Blossoms“, the symbolism of the Daffodil varies depending on your location.

Because daffodils bloom in the spring in European countries and parts of the United States, the narcissus can be a symbol of rebirth or new beginnings. In China, the narcissus is said to bring good fortune to a home. In Japan, the flower represents self-love and respect. Other traits linked to the plant are creativity, inspiration, awareness and inner reflection, forgiveness, and vitality.(7)

However, this flower has not always had positive associations. The writers at Interflora state that in “medieval times when Europeans believed that if a narcissus flower drooped as you looked at it was an omen of death.” They also state that giving a person just one narcissi flower can bring them bad luck and misfortune.(7) Luckily for the narcissus, its negative symbolism didn’t stick.

Daffodil in Snow, ForestWander, Creative Commons 3.0
Photo Credit: ForestWander-Creative Commons

Seasonal Haiku

On the Saijiki for Europe website, which is maintained by Dr. Gabi Greeves, the suisen, narcissus, paper-white narcissus, and paperwhites are all listed as winter kigo. However, other daffodil references could place a haiku in spring or summer.  For example, “red-mouthed daffodil” is a spring kigo, and “natsu suisen” or “summer narcissus” are summer kigos. With this in mind, let’s read some daffodil-themed haiku.

Basho

the first snow,
just enough to bend
the leaves of the daffodils.
(translated by Eri Takase)

Dr. Greeves comments that in this haiku “the kigo here is ‘first snow’. Leaves of the daffodils are not seasonal.”(8)

the narcissus
with the white a shoji screen
shines together.
(retrieved from Masterpieces of Japanese Culture)

Issa

are you blooming well
daffodils?
at home in the hollow
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
daffodils--
the old scarecrow
seems busy
(translated by David G. Lanoue)

Buson

a narcissus flowers
the beauty appears to have
a headache
(translated by W.S.Merwin and Takako Lento)
Narcissus! In the chilly capital, some here, some there
(translated by Yuki Sawa & Edith Marcombe Shiffert)

A Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references daffodils/narcissus.

For many people, placing daffodils in winter may be a challenge. Perhaps you can draw inspiration from Basho and see the daffodil as a subject in the haiku and not necessarily the kigo.  

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!


Resources:

  1. “Narcissus(plant)”; Wikipedia
  2. “Tokyo’s 4 Best Spots to Enjoy Winter’s Daffodils and Seasonal Flowers”; The Gate
  3. “All About Narcissus”; Little Flower Hut
  4. “Gardens of Japan: Narcissus or daffodils in March”; Nature In Japan
  5. “Narcissus (mythology)”; Wikipedia
  6. “The Myth of Narcissus”; Greek Myths and Greek Mythology
  7. “Narcissus: Ultimate Flower Guide”; Interflora
  8. “Daffodil and Narcissus”; Sajiki for Europe

Basho’s haiku were retrieved from Sajiki for Europe and Masterpieces of Japanese Culture.  Issa’s haiku were retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s HaikuGuy. Buson’s haiku were retrieved from “33 Buson summer, autumn and winter haiku”, and “Haiku of Yosa Buson” by Terebess Asia Online (TAO).

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38 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Daffodil Flowers” (2022)

Add yours

    1. Thank you! IAlthough the picture is not my own, ForestWander was nice enough to share their work with the world and designated it with an open use creative commons license. It is a perfect fit for this season.

  1. I really enjoyed this tribute to the daffodils, Mark. I liked the well-written myth, hearing about the daffodil season in Japan, and of course all the beautiful poetry embracing this unique and lovely flower.

    1. Hi Jet, Thanks for kind words! I am glad that you enjoyed today’s post. We just got another couple of inches of snow today so the daffodils still have many months before they bloom here. Thanks again for the comment.

  2. still sitting
    by the water’s edge
    narcissus

    One of my favorite myths, Mark. Hard for me to imagine daffodils at this time of year. I was sad we missed the first freeze micro-season.

    1. Wonderful haiku! You almost retold the myth of Narcissus in three lines! You didn’t miss the first freeze micro-season, I didn’t write anything for that one. Sometimes the season shift faster than I have time to write. Maybe I’ll get that one next year. Thanks again for sharing your haiku. Have a good weekend!

  3. Thanks for writing up this interesting article on the micro-season of the daffodil! Reminds me that my wife & I just planted about a hundred bulbs of daffodil along the paths out back in anticipation of another season. Also, here in linear format, my short poem “Echo,” based on the Narcissus myth: “He collects/ the pool’s last/ ripple smooths/ his world to deadly/ silence as he drinks/ reflected beauty as/ she who sings forever/ for his gaze for/ love cannot be heard”.

    1. Thanks for sharing your poem with us! I feel like many people know about Naricissus, but they don’t know about Echo. It is so great to see that she made it in to writing. Thanks again for sharing you work and I hope you have a good weekend. Let’s hope those bulbs come up next spring!

  4. Thanks Mark for another great and informative post. Love the image and poems. A little early for daffodils here. A nice reminder that Spring lies waiting round the bend. Today winter’s first frost arrived.BRRR!

    1. Hi Tracy, What a great haiku that reminds us the spring is around the corner! Well, maybe not right around the corner. Maybe in 6 months or so. Thanks so much for sharing you work. I hope all is well!

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