Although open to dispute, the derivation of this word from Greek narke (numbness) would help to explain the connection of this flower with the cults of the Underworld and with the initiation ceremonies associated with the worship of Demeter at Eleusis. Narcissi were planted on graves. They symbolize the numbness of death, but of a death which is perhaps no more than a sleep.
Wreaths of narcissi were offered to the Furies, who were believed to paralyse the guilty.
The plant flowers in the Spring in damp places. This relates it to the symbolism of water and the seasonal cycle, and in consequence to fertility. This is the meaning of its ambivalence - death, sleep, rebirth.
In Asia, narcissi are symbols of good fortune and are given as New Year gifts.
In the Bible, narcissi, like lilies, characterize Spring and the end of the world (Song of Solomon 2: 1).
The flower also serves as a reminder, but at a lower level of symbolism, of that version of the myth of Narcissus in which he drowned in the pool in which he was complacently admiring his own beauty. This is why the moralists see him as the emblem of vanity, selfishness, self-love and self-satisfaction.
Persephone was drugged with the scent of narcissi when Hades, enraptured by love of her beauty, seized the girl and carried her off to the Underworld.
Because of its straight stalk, Arab poets see the narcissus as a symbol of the righteous man, the faithful servant and the pious man who tries to devote himself to God’s service. The Greek myth is foreign to a view which deploys in so many poems all the metaphors evoked by the flower’s graceful appearance and powerful scent.