That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty.”
—The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare, c. 1610-1611
A symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, the daffodil has inspired writers and poets for centuries. And no wonder! Among the earliest spring blooms, their bright, trumpet-shaped coronae seem to jubilantly herald winter’s end. Missing one petal, this daffodil is a small badge that was cast of pewter in a low-relief mold. The perforation above the stem was for attachment to clothing or a hat. Likely a secular badge, it may have been given as a token or a memento before a colonist headed for the New World.
Badges like this example were mass produced during the Middle Ages as souvenirs for pilgrims, for secular purposes such as love tokens, or as emblems worn on the livery of soldiers or servants. Bearing iconographical themes, pilgrims’ badges are by far the most common. They were inexpensively produced at holy shrines, and were purchased by pilgrims as souvenirs and sewn on clothing to display one’s devotion to a saint. Furthermore, if rubbed against a relic or reliquary, it was believed pilgrim badges gained powerful spiritual or magical properties for later use.