Narcissus and Echo

It’s Ostara today! Even though the temperature outside doesn’t really fit the time of year, it is genuinely the spring equinox. On this day, day and night are equal in length, and the sunlight will definitely take over from the darkness from now on. As we have more light each day, more and more flowers erupt from the soil, making the natural environment a colourful pallet during spring.

For me, I always associate Ostara with growth, with potential and obviously with fertility. The colours that belong to this sabbat are (for me) yellow, light green and purple, because of the daffodils and crocuses that are blooming. In the Netherlands, they are the most common flowers to plant on fields or on the side of the road, so I have enjoyed their colours since my early childhood.

Especially the daffodil reminds me of spring, starting out very small and that rocketing into the sky, the flower similar to a trumpet shouting out that spring has arrived. Therefore, I’d like to share the tale of Narcissus and Echo with you, a story that explains how the flower came into being (and why we call self-loving people ‘narcissists’. The story has been told in many different ways, yet I will tell you the tale as I remember it.

Narcissus and Echo

Narcissus was a young man, a hunter, envied by all other men for his beauty and strong appearance. One day, as he ventures into the woods, following deer, he feels he is being followed. “Who’s there?” he asks, but all he gets is an echo in return.

Or so it seems. For after a short moment, he realizes he has not made the feeling up, that indeed someone is following him. He calls out to his pursuer once again, urging him to make himself known, but again, his own words come back. Yet he can see a glimpse of a person between the trees.

A nymph has been following him. Echo, once a great singer until she tricked Hera, is only able to repeat the last words uttered by others. Incapable of producing her own speech, she could answer Narcissus’ questions only with his own words.

Echo, it appears, has fallen deeply in love with the beautiful young man as he passed her while hunting. Unable to call out to him, she decided to follow him, and take in the sight of his strong body running through the forest. When Narcissus eventually notices her, she makes it known to him that she loves him as much as one ever could.

How wrong she is! For Narcissus, proud of his own body and very much aware of his beauty, loves only himself, more than any other ever could. He rejects poor Echo, who wastes away after this, until only her voice remains. When Nemesis, goddess of revenge, hears the sad echo that was once a lovely nymph, and is told what happened by Echo’s sisters, she decides to punish Narcissus.

Unable to catch any deer, and tired from following them, Narcissus rests at a spring. As he drinks the refreshing water, his eyes catch an image of the water. He sees a young man, beautiful features, strong arms and lovely thick blonde hairs. Narcissus falls in love with this image, which is, of course, his own reflection. Nemesis’ revenge is sweet, as Narcissus wastes away of love for himself, mimicking how Echo wasted away.

After a short while, his body is gone, and all that remains is a lovely, yellow flower, its reflection clearly visible in the water of the spring.

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