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© Swan Pipe made from Pipestone Catlinite
by Nico Verhoeve for Gloria Hazell 2016
*Lady Stearn Robinson & Tom Gorbett/The Dreamer's Dictionary:
The omen here depends on the details of the action and color.
Black swans portend business
problems in the offing; white swans predict happiness in love
or domestic affairs if they were
floating, and business or financial success if they were flying
or walking. To see swans gliding in
a small pond predicts great weath through your own diligent
*Zolar/Encyclopedia of Signs, Omens, and Superstitions:
Because of their size and rather conspicuous white plumage,
swans have always occupied a
prominent place in mythology and folklore. Engravings and designs
that date back to the Stone
Age depict the swan and other long-necked birds in designs that
include the sun disk, suggesting
that these birds were linked with solar mythology from a very
early period. Since swans
appeared every year at the time when the days were lengthening
and the power of the sun was
increasing, it is said they helped usher spring in. To this
day, some inhabitants in Northern Asia
erect poles featuring effigies of flying swans, under which
they place wooden models of fish--
symbolizing the powers of sky, earth, and water.
The belief that people can be transformed into swans is ancient
and widespread. Aeschylus, the
Greek playwright, was perhaps first to mention the swan maidens.
Aphrodite is represented in art
riding on a swan or goose. According to Ovid, Cycnus was turned
into a swan by his father,
Apollo. It was said that both Apollo and Aphrodite rode in chariots
drawn by swans. Zeus was
said to have turned himself into a swan in order to have sexual
relations with Leda.
Traditions in Siberia and Ireland said that killing a swan would
bring misfortune or death. In
County Mayo in Ireland it is said that souls of virtuous maidens
actually dwell in swans.
Generally accepted is the legend that the swan sings while dying.
Although Pliny is said to have
contradicted this belief, it was, nonetheless, endorsed by poets
throughout time. Shakespeare
writes, in Othello, "I will play the swan, and die in music."
In The Merchant of Venice he writes,
"He makes a swanlike end, fading in music." According
to a Hampshire belief, swans are
hatched during a thunderstorm. Generally held is the idea that
a swan can hatch its eggs only
during a storm. In Scotland it is believed that three swans
flying together means disaster is coming.
*Barbara G. Walker/The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:
An ancient, universal shamanic practice of wearing swan-feather
cloaks created numerous myths
of deities able to transform themselves into swans. The Heavenly
Nymphs (Apsaras) of Hindu
mythology were swan maidens. As a phallic god sporting with
these sexual angels of the Vedic
heaven, Krishna became a swan knight. Multiplied forms of his
Goddesses were sometimes
swan-houris, sometimes milkmaids, the Gopis. Kalmuck a swan
knight who courted the Triple
Goddess in the guise of three milkmaids, daughters of the Old
The same Indo-European lore surfaced in Scandinavian myth as
the swan incarnations of the
Valkyries, who wore magic swan-feather cloaks to transform themselves.
Kali or Kauri became
the Valkyrie Karam, who flew in her swan feathers above battlefields
and sang magic charms to
deprive the enemy of strength. Legends insisted that if a man
could steal a Valkyrie's costume of
swan feathers, she would be forced to grant his every wish.
The swan knight Krishna appeared in classic Greek myth as Zeus
in swan feathers, disguising
himself as a swan to seduce the Goddess Leda, who gave birth
to the World Egg, which suggests
that she too was a totemic swan. Sometimes she was confused
with the Goddess Nemesis to
whom Zeus's very life was subject: Leda or "Lady"
being her only title. Northern mythology also
identified her with the Balkyrie Burnnhilde, whose seven children
or Seven Dwarves were
transformed into the seven swans of the fairy tale. Zeus's swan
form can be traced also to the
Vedic image of Brahma in his special vahana ("vehicle,"
animal incarnation): a swan.
Swan maidens and swan knights associated with the Old Religion
were common in European
folklore throughout the Christian era. A certain order of knights
connected with the legendary
Temple of the Grail and the defense of women claimed descent
from a divine swan-hero. The
families of Gelders and Cleves bore a swan on their arms, to
honor their ancestor "the Knight of
the Wan, servant of women," in whose memory Duke Adolph
held a tournament in 1453.
This Knight was sometimes called Lohengrin, a savior of women
like the British hero LancelotGalahad.
After the classic pattern, Lohengrin floated in a mystic vessel
on the sea in his infancy,
and was found and raised by a great queen in a foreign land.
After his death he was reborn or
reincarnated as his own son.
When Lohengrin became one of the Knights Templar of the Grail,
he was sent from the Grail
castle at Montslavatch to champion the cause of Duchess Else
of Brabant, who had been unjustly
imprisoned for exercising the ancient right of noblewomen to
choose a lover from among men of
inferior rank. Having overcome Else's enemies, Lohengrin married
her. According to one version
of the story, probably drawn from the myth of Psyche and Eros,
Else was forbidden to ask her
husband's real name, but couldn't help insisting on it; so,
sorrowfully revealing his name,
Lohengrin was obliged to leave Else and return to the Mount
of Paradise. Other versions of the
story said he took her with him to Montslavatch, where they
lived happily ever after.
Other stories said Lohengrin appeared in his swan-feather costume
to defend Clarissa, Duchess
of Bouillon, against the Count of Farankfort, who tried to steal
her duchy. Or, he took up the
cause of Beatrice of Cleves, whose property rights were threatened
by hostile barons. Though he
sallied forth to the rescue of several ladies in distress, the
Swan-Knight's real home was always
"the mountain where Venus lives in the Grail."
*D.J. Conway/Animal Magick:
There are five species of these very large, long-necked and
web-footed birds in the genus
Cygnus. They are related to geese. Three species are found in
the Northern Hemisphere and two
species in Australia and southern South America. Northern swans
are all white. The Australian is
white with a black neck. The only species without a loud voice
is the mute swan which produces
only hissing sounds. Swans pair for life. They are graceful,
beautiful, and fast fliers and
swimmers, but they can be very aggressive. They glide with stately
dignity on the water.
To the Greeks, the swan was the bird of Apollo. According to
a Greek legend, the swan sings a
melody of haunting beauty just before its death, thus connecting
it with Apollo, god of music. It
was dedicated to the Omphalos stone at Delphi. The swan was
also an emblem of the Muses and
Aphrodite. They were sid to pull the chariot of Venus through
the air. Zeus took swan-form to
satisfy his lust with Leto and Helen.
The Greek love goddess Aphrodite had three bird familiars: the
dove, swan, and goose. A sixth
century B.C.E. statue shows her standing on a giant swan; in
one hand she carries a sacred
casket, symbol of her secret knowledge of death and rebirth.
In another terra cotta image,
Aphrodite sits on a throne made of two swans.
Hindu deities often interchanged the goose and the swan, which
represented breath and spirit.
The swan was a mount for the goddess Sarasvati and sometimes
Brahma. The heavenly nymphs,
called the apsaras, were often portrayed as swans. The goddess
Devi rides a swan that wears a necklace.
Several Celtic folk legends tell of the mystical sacred swan.
Its feathers were used in ritual
cloaks by the Bards since wans are connected with music and
song. People who shape-shifted
into swans were identified by gold or silver chains around their
necks. Norse legend also speaks
of this shape-shifting as one form which the Valkyries could
take; they were called swan
maidens. As an alchemical symbol, the swan stood for mercury.
Superstitions: Some cultures still believe that the swan sings
at its death. It is said the swan can't
hatch its eggs except in a thunderstorm. In Scotland, if three
swans fly together, it means a
Magickal attributes: Aid with the interpretation of dream symbols,
evolution. Developing intuitive abilities; seeing into the future.
If a swan is seen in meditation,
pay close attention to hunches and omens. Divination on a spiritual
*Mary Summer Rain/On Dreams:
Exemplifies an individual's beautiful and grace-filled spiritual
nature; inherent spiritual essence
and resulting gifts.
*Denise Linn/The Secret Language of Signs:
The white swan is the sign of the white goddess and beauty.
If this sign appears to you, plan on
gliding to new heights with freedom and grace. A black swan
can allude to the inner mysteries of
life and to your intuition. Some have suggested that the swan
is a sign of the balance of male and
female energies, because its rounded soft body suggests femininity
and its long outstretched neck
suggests the phallus. Apollo, the god of music, was associated
with the swan because of the
mythic belief that the swan would sing with exquisite beauty
at the point of death--the swan song.
*Bobby Lake-Thom/Spirits of the Earth:
Among birds, for example, the White Swan represents the North
direction, the first power of
Creation, which is the Wind. The color white represents purity,
strength, wisdom, and old age.
*Patricia Telesco/The Language of Dreams:
A recognition of finality and ending (e.g., "singing one's
swan song"). Among Hindus, this bird
is interchangeable with the goose, representing creative origination
and the breath of life. The
Celts regarded the swan as a solar bird that was beneficent
and a shape-shifter. In a dream, this
can relate to your ability to adapt to a new situation gracefully.
Native American: An emblem of
trust and forgiveness. Swans are also representative of love
interests, being sacred to Aphrodite,
Venus, and Zeus, the latter of whom changed himself into a swan
to pursue the affection for
Leda. Dreaming of two swans together portends very devoted relationships.
Swans mate for life.
Because of the story of the Ugly Duckling, swans also represent
positive transformations in selfimage.
It can also reflect spending time with the wrong groups of people
who engender lower
*Jamie Sams & David Carson/Medicine Cards
Grace. Little Swan flew through the Dreamtime, looking for the
future. She rested for a moment
in the coolness of the pond, looking for a way to find the entry
point to the future. This was a
moment of confusion for Swan, as she knew that she had happened
into the Dreamtime by
accident. This was her first flight alone and she was a bit
concerned by the Dreamtime landscape.
As Swan looked high above Sacred Mountain, she saw the biggest
swirling black hole she had
ever seen. Dragonfly came flying by, and Swan stopped him to
ask about the black hole.
Dragonfly said, "Swan, that is the doorway to the other
planes of imagination. I have been
guardian of the illusion for many, many moons. If you want to
enter there, you would have to ask
permission and earn the right."
Swan was not so sure that she wanted to enter the black hole.
She asked Dragonfly what was
necessary for her to earn entry. Dragonfly replied, "You
must be willing to accept whatever the
future holds as it is presented, without trying to change Great
Spirit's plan." Swan looked at her
ugly little duckling body and then answered, "I will be
happy to abide by Great Spirit's plan. I
won't fight the currents of the black hole. I will surrender
to the flow of the spiral and trust what I
am shown." Dragonfly was very happy with Swan's answer
and began to spin the magic to break
the pond's illusion. Suddenly, Swan was engulfed by a whirlpool
in the center of the pond.
Swan reappeared many days later, but now she was graceful and
white and long-necked.
Dragonfly was stunned! "Swan, what happened to you!"
he exclaimed. Swan smiled and said,
"Dragonfly, I learned to surrender my body to the power
of Great Spirit and was taken to where
the future lives. I saw many wonders high on Sacred Mountain
and because of my faith and my
acceptance I have been changed. I have learned to accept the
state of grace." Dragonfly was very
happy for Swan.
Swan told Dragonfly many of the wonders beyond the illusion.
Through her healing and her
acceptance of the state of grace, she was given the right to
enter the Dreamtime.
So it is that we learn to surrender to the grace of the rhythm
of the universe, and slip from our
physical bodies into the Dreamtime. Swan medicine teaches us
to be at one with all planes of
consciousness, and to trust in Great Spirit's protection.
If you pulled Swan, it ushers in a time of altered states of
awareness and of development of your
intuitive abilities. Swan medicine people have the ability to
see the future, to surrender to the
power of Great Spirit, and to accept the healing and transformation
of their lives.
The Swan card is telling you to accept your ability to know
what lies ahead. If you are resisting
self-transformation, relax; it will be easier if you go with
the flow. Stop denying that you know
who is calling when the phone rings. Pay attention to your hunches
and your gut knowledge, and
honor your female intuitive side.
Contrary: If you have pulled Swan in reverse, it is a warning
that you must acknowledge what
you know, so stop denying your feelings and clutzing up. You
may be bumping into furniture or
forgetting what you are saying in mid-sentence. If so, this
is a sign that you are not grounded.
Jump in place and hold the top of your head as you do so. This
will get you back in touch with
the Earth, and keep you from wandering into a dreamy reality
that lessens your focus. Baths
help, as does going barefooted or doing some gardening.
In any case, Swan reversed says that you need to pay some attention
to your body. It can seem as
if you are flying without a pilot's license if you are not aware
of when you take off or land. Not
recognizing the shift from left brain to right brain is common
when you are evolving spiritually.
This is all a part of developing the intuitive side of your
nature and is a sign that you are not
being conscious of your entry into other levels of awareness.
In the development of higher mind,
you are embarking on new territory that has rules or universal
laws of its own. In the world of
Spirit you need to pay close attention to the unseen. You may
sense or feel in a slightly different
way, but this is gradual. Sometimes this shift is lost among
your normal activities until you feel
"spaced out." At these moments it is time to reconnect
with Mother Earth.
The solution to contrary Swan is:
1) Notice your surroundings and touch the Earth with your feet,
hands, or both.
2) Focus on one reality or the other; if you are being called
to visit the Dreamtime, stop what you
are doing and be still. Enter the silence and empty your mind
of chatter. Be receptive and open so
that the message may enter your consciousness.
3) If you are just preoccupied, daydreaming, or "spacey,"
you need to focus on doing some
physical activity. Use the reasoning side of your brain to make
a list of what you need to do next,
and this will stop the clutter in your mind that may be causing
Keynote: Awakening the True Beauty and Power of the Self
Cycle of Power: Winter
The swan is one of the most powerful and ancient of totems.
This is reflected even in its name. It
is one of the oldest names in the English language, and it has
come down un-changed since
The swan is a stately aquatic bird with a long graceful neck
and beautiful white plumage. It is the
largest of all waterfowl. It feeds on soft water plants, and
its bill is so sensitive that it serves as a
feeler underwater. For those with this totem, the emotions will
become more sensitive, and you
will find yourself becoming more sensitive to the emotions of
others as well.
The swan is usually pure white (except for the bills and feet).
This makes it a solar symbol.
There is a black swan (Australian) and it is more of a nocturnal
symbol. It is also considered a
symbol of something rare and/or nonexistent.
The neck of the wan is long and graceful. It is one of the swan's
most distinguishing features.
The neck is a bridge between the head (higher realms) and the
body (lower worlds). In the swan
totem, as you begin to realize your own true beauty, you unfold
the ability to bridge to new
realms and new powers. This ability to awaken to the inner beauty
and bridge it to the outer
world is part of what swan medicine can teach. It can show how
to see the inner beauty within
yourself or in others, regardless of outer appearances. When
we are capable of this, we become a
magnet to others. This is reflected in the familiar story by
Hans Christian Andersen, "The Ugly Duckling."
The swan is a cold-loving bird. They do not like the heat, and
can stand the cold very well, as
long as there is food. Those with this totem will find it easier
to stand colder climates than
warmer. Because of this, the swan also has ties to the direction
of North, and its symbolism
should be examined as well.
The kind of swan and its characteristics will have significance
unique to themselves and to you.
The largest of all swans is the trumpeter. It is named for its
loud, far-carrying call. The whistling
swan is our most common. The sound it makes is actually more
of a whoop than a whistle. The
mute swan, best known in America, is named for the belief that
it loses its voice as it reaches
maturity. It is not truly voiceless, but it does epitomize the
idea of strength through silence.
Swans are powerful birds. They can break a man's arms with the
beat of their wings, and they
have strong bites as well. They are also devoted parents and
they mate for life, and some live as
long as 80 years. They reflect the power and longevity that
is possible as we awaken to the
beauty and power within ourselves.
The swan is the totem of the child, the poet, the mystic, and
the dreamer. Swans fill mythology
and folklore, usually as traditional symbols of beauty and grace.
Swans were sacred to
Aphrodite, the goddess of love. They were depicted pulling the
chariot of Apollo. Zeus took the
shape of a swan to make love to Ledo, a mortal--reflecting the
ability of a swan to link different
worlds and dimensions.
The swan fills folklore and fairy tales. Many speak of young
maidens who turn into swans by
putting on the magic garment of a swan's skin. If the skin were
found, the beautiful maiden had
to remain human and marry whoever found the skin, or do their
bidding. The swan thus has
come to be a link to the Faerie realm of life. Many of these
tales involving swans ended
tragically, hinting at the primal life-changing power of beauty
when released freely. it hints of
the control necessary to effectively work with such energy.
From Greece comes the mystery of the swan song. This belief
taught that the swan sang its most
beautiful song when it died. The swan song has come to be synonymous
with poetic fancy. The
swan can teach the mysteries of song and poetry, for these touch
the child and the beauty within.
Swan represents dreams, transition, and evolution; self, silence,
and grace; she speaks of entering
Swan's graceful glide across water is an example of a beautiful
journey. She was not always a
beautiful creature. Initially she was clumsy, awkward, and gangly.
Not until she experienced the
transition from youth to maturity, from ignorance to enlightenment,
and from the mundane to the
spiritual did she manifest the glory that is hers. While she
will ease you into social grace and
style, she will also teach you the importance of the transformation
that comes when you combine
that with a spiritual essence. She speaks of emotions and sensitivities,
of purity and a higher state
Swan encourages you to discover your own inner beauty and let
it speak for what is in your
heart. At home in water or on land she can teach you to enter
other realms gracefully and that
through silence there is no intrusion, simply a melding of a
union with others. There is a gentle
strength in her entrance and she will become your muse if you
open to her. She teaches the
balance needed to control your own actions, to find harmony
with the energies of any given
situation, and the silence that allows you to perceive the Great
Swan's gentle nature teaches you to summon your courage to face
the darkness that guards the
Dream Lodge. It urges you to surrender to the will of Spirit
and to accept that the transformation
you will undergo will be a blessing. She wants you to see that
you will grow and amaze yourself
in the process if you shed your fears. By going with the flow
of the waters she floats upon she
demonstrates this ability. She has the ability to heal those
fears, to calm anxious emotions, to
counsel your thoughts, and to cleanse them.
The heightened states of awareness she announces are there to
aid you in expanding your own
intuitive talents. She will teach you to heed your impressions
and to trust them. She will help you
to focus, to pay attention to your inner self, and recognize
the subtle shifts of reality as they take
place. If you are unable to sense these things she will urge
you to ground with the Earth Mother
and to reconnect with the cosmic energies of the universe. She
will call you to the Dream Lodge
and show you what you need to know so that you can transform
yourself into a more spiritual
The Druid Animal Oracle by Phillip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm
Swan: Soul, Love, Beauty
Swan brings us the qualities of soul--of love and depth, grace
and beauty. Being associated with
the druid festival time of Samhuinn, the swan is also a bird
of the threshold, and represents that
part of us which can travel into the Otherworld. It may indicate
that you will receive inspiration
from the Otherworld, or that love is entering into your life.
It is auspicious if you are preparing to
write a song or poem, for the swan's skin and feathers were
used to make the bard's ceremonial
cloak, the tugen.
Contrary may mean that you need to come to terms with a separation.
The old tales of the swan
show that in reality there is no separation from the ones we
love--only transformation from one
from to another. But to continue our journey in this world,
we need to be able to say 'goodbye' to
those we are separated from, even though we know that ultimately
we may be together again.
The separation we are faced with, however, may be internal rather
than external, and swan may
be calling us to connect more deeply with our own soul.
Found at http://www.druidry.org/
By Susa Morgan Black, FSA Scot
Swan of beauty, swan of grace
A queen among her ancient race
She glides across the mirrored lake
No ripple does the surface break
Scots Gaelic: Eala
Old Celtic: Alargh
Anglo Saxon: Swan
Species: Whooper, Trumpeter, Tundra, Mute, Black-necked, Black,
Berwick, and Coscoroba
A male swan is a cob; a female is a pen, and the young are called
Swans are the largest of the aquatic birds, closely related
to the Goose. They are known for their
grace and beauty and have long been considered "ornamental
birds" which float on ponds in
zoos, parks, and botanical gardens. Swans are long necked and
web-footed. The most common
swan, the Mute Swan, is a large, all white bird with a pink
bill that ends in a black knob. The bill
of a swan is so sensitive that it serves as an underwater feeler.
Swans have the longest neck of any bird, with 23-25 neck vertebrae.
Swans have as many as
25,000 feathers. They are long-lived birds, and can live up
to twenty years in the wild, and even
fifty years in captivity!
Swans prefer wetlands and land surrounded by water, where they
build their nests on mounds.
The Tundra swan builds its nest in the tundra wetlands, where
they maintain a territory of one
square mile and defend it from other swans. Swans prefer cooler
environments and avoid
extreme heat. The Tundra and Whooper nest all across northern
America, the Arctic Islands and
Northern Russia. The Black-necked and Coscoroba are found from
Brazil southward. The Black
Swan lives in Australia and New Zealand. The Mute Swan resides
Diet and Feeding Habits
In the wild, swans feed on the starchy roots and tubers of aquatic
plants. Their scissor- like bills
have cutting edges that can tear at the underwater grasses.
They can submerge from ten to
twenty seconds at a time, and the Bewick Swans for up to thirty
seconds. Due to the length of
their long, sinewy necks, the birds can dip their heads by curving
their necks into the water, and
lay their chins flat on the bottom, continuously swallowing.
For deeper waters, the swan will upend
itself to reach the bottom. Swans can also eat grains on the
land, but must jerk its head
backwards to shake foot into its gullet. Most species of swan
are vegetarian, but the Mute Swan
has been known to eat fish.
Swans have a gland just above their eyes that enables them to
drink salt water. The gland
removes salt from the water and concentrates it into a solution
that is excreted from the nostrils,
which the bird can shake its head to clear. In captivity, swans
are fed wheat, barley, maize,
lettuce, watercress, endive, cabbage, grass, and even biscuits
and brown bread.
Swans will both display before mating, then mate for life. They
are devoted to each other, and
remain together throughout the year. They keep their young with
them until they nest again,
some staying through a second clutch. If one of a pair of swans
dies, the survivor usually takes a
new mate, and they form a dedicated pair. Breeding Swans usually
mature in two to three years,
and breed at around 3-4 years of age. The northern birds do
not breed until their fifth or sixth
year. Birds kept in captivity take much longer to establish
a breeding pair. In their bulky nests,
females do most of the egg incubation. The average clutch is
about five eggs, but may be as many
as ten. Incubation lasts about 30 days. Cygnets first learn
to float in the water, then start to fly in
about 60-75 days. Swans molt in July and August, when their
cygnets are too young to fly.
Swans are powerful birds, they bite, and their beating wings
can break a man's arm. Swans
display aggression by lowering their neck, hissing, and rushing
forward. They protect their
territories from strangers and other swans, although they will
tolerate ducks and smaller fowl.
Swans migrate in winter, in flocks of twenty to forty birds.
The cygnets travel in their parent's
flock for at least a year, in order to learn the route, where
to feed, rest, etc. They have been
clocked between 35-50 mph in the air, and prefer to fly at night.
They can fly at heights of 28,000
feet, and travel over 2,000 miles, often over sea.
Around half of the young birds who nest in the far North perish
on their migration south because
they are forced to leave before they are strong enough. Swans
are also susceptible to fungal
diseases, particularly aspergillosis, parasites, and viruses.
German Tale: The Swan Maidens a traditional tale collected by
There was once a hunter who spent his nights stalking deer,
setting traps for game, and shooting
birds with his bow and arrow. One day, near the lake he heard
the whirring of wings in the sky,
and took up his bow and arrow, ready to shoot what he thought
were ducks. To his amazement,
he saw seven stunning maidens, all clad in white feather robes.
They alighted on the banks of the
lake, took off their robes, and waded into the lake to bathe.
The youngest and smallest of the
maidens caught his eye - she was the most beautiful of them
all. The hunter crept to the bushes
where they'd left their swan robes, and stole the smallest bundle,
and hid among the gnarled
roots of an old tree.
After the maidens had sported in the lake to their heart's delight,
they came ashore to find their
robes and be on their way. Alas, there were only six bundles,
the smallest one was missing. They
searched the lakeshore, the bushes, the woods, but found nothing.
At last, near dawn, the elder
sisters said with dismay, "We must away. It is almost dawn!
You must meet your fate, whatever it
may be." Sadly the elder sisters donned their robes and
flew away leaving their youngest sister
behind, before the sun cracked over the horizon.
The young hunter had hid himself well, and watched as the swan
maidens searched, never
finding his hiding place among the roots of an old tree. When
the six swans flew away, he
emerged from his hiding place and approached the beautiful young
swan maiden. He had the
feather robe held tightly against his chest. Seeing him, the
woman begged him to return her
property, for she was cold and alone. He handed her his cloak
instead, but kept the feather robe,
knowing she would fly away and be lost to him if he returned
it. He told her that he loved her,
and would marry her, and she finally agreed, and he led her
home. He hid away the feather robe
behind the wainscoting, where his new wife would never find
The years went by happily enough, and the lovely Swan Maiden
produced two extraordinarily
beautiful children, a boy and a girl. Their mother loved them
with all her heart, but still longed
for her sisters, and her freedom. One day, the children were
playing hide and seek, and the girl
found a new hiding place - behind the wainscoting. There, she
discovered a beautiful white robe
made of feathers, and forgetting the game, took it to show her
mother. The Swan Maiden gazed
at the robe in utter joy, laughing out loud, slipped it over
her shoulders, and raised her glorious
feathered arms to fly away back to her beloved sisters. But
then she looked at her daughter's
puzzled face, and remembered her new family.
"Tell father that if he wishes to see me again he must
find me in the Land East of the Sun and
West of the Moon;" and raised her arms, and in a dazzling
flash of brilliant white, she leapt to
the sky and flew away.
When the hunter returned from his night's work the next day,
his children told him what had
happened, and her last words to her daughter. The forlorn hunter
left them to search for their
mother, seeking the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
In his travels, he came across
an old man who had fallen helpless to the ground. Helping him
regain his seat, he tended the
elderly man until he felt better. The hunter told man the story
of his wife, the Swan Maiden, and
asked him if he'd heard of the Land East of the Sun and West
of the Moon.
The man said, "No, but I will ask." And gave a shrill
whistle. Soon, all the beasts of the forest
had assembled before them, for he was the King of Beasts. The
old man inquired if they knew the
whereabouts of the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
The animals looked at each other in puzzlement, for none had
heard of this magical land. So the
King of Beasts told the hunter, "You must seek my brother,
the King of Birds. Surely he will
know." And told him where to find his brother.
The hunter found the King of Birds, who called for his avian
subjects to gather, and asked them
the same question, "Do you know of the Land East of the
Sun and West of the Moon?" None
knew, and the Kings of Birds gave the hunter directions to yet
another brother, the King of the
Fishes. "For surely he must know!"
At the seashore, the hunter found the King of the Fishes, and
asked him if he knew the
whereabouts of the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
The King of Fishes did not know,
but obligingly called out over the sea for his subjects to gather,
and put the question to them.
None could answer the question, and the forlorn hunter was about
to move on, when a dolphin
called out from the sea that he knew.
The hunter waded into the breakers and met with the dolphin,
who had swum in as close as he
dared. "Though I have never seen it, I have heard tale
of a Crystal Mountain near the Wild
Forest. On top of that mountain in a place called the Land East
of the Sun and West of the
Overjoyed, the hunter thanked the Dolphin, and the King of the
Fishes, who directed him toward
the Wild Forest. Just outside the forest, the hunter found two
brothers quarreling. Spotting him,
the hunters approached him and asked him for a favor.
"What is it?" inquired the hunter.
"Can you settle the dispute between us, so that our quarrel
does not come to conflict?" One
"Of course." Agreed the hunter.
"Our father just died," explained the other brother,
" and left us two treasures. This cap, which
renders the wearer invisible, and these shoes, which will carry
you immediately to your
destination, no matter how far away."
He displayed the two items, a golden cap, and a pair of sturdy
"As the elder son, I should have the first right of choice."
One brother declared,
"No, as the younger, I have the right to my father's shoes!"
insisted the other.
"Can you settle our dispute?" the elder pleaded.
The hunter puzzled for a moment, then an idea dawned on him.
"There is only one way to settle
the dispute." He pointed to a tree, off in the distance.
"Race, both of you, to that great oak
yonder. Whoever first returns to me, shall have first choice,
and I will hand him his prize." And
the hunter took up the cap and the shoes in his hands.
Both brothers were pleased to agree and anxious to begin the
race. "GO!" cried the hunter, and
they were off.
As soon as their backs were turned, however, the clever hunter
placed the cap upon his own
head, and the shoes up his feet.
He whispered to the shoes, "Take me to the Land East of
the Sun and West of the Moon." And off
he flew, over seven bends, over seven glens, and over seven
mountain moors, until he came at
last to the Crystal Mountain. The shoes transported him to the
top of the mountain, and he found
himself in the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
Taking off his magic apparel, he found someone who ruled this
land, and was told, "There is a
king with seven daughters, swan maidens, who could fly wherever
they wish." He pointed his
way to the castle, and the hunter, knowing this was the land
of his wife's origin, strode to the
castle and entered the Great Hall.
There sat the king on his wooden throne. The hunter boldly approached
the king and said,
"Greetings, O King. I have come to seek my wife."
The king asked, "Who is she?"
The hunter said, "Your youngest daughter." And proceeded
to tell him how he had discovered
her, fallen in love, and won her as his bride.
Unconvinced, the king laughed, and declared, "If you can
tell your bride from her six sisters,
then I shall believe you."
The king summoned his seven daughters. When they arrived, they
were all dressed alike in their
white feathered robes, looking like a bevy of beautiful swans.
The hunter looked at them in dismay, but then remembered something,
and a gleam came into his eye.
"May I take each of them by the hand for a moment, for
surely then I will know my wife."
"I see no harm in it." Agreed the King.
Taking the hand of each lovely maiden, whose beautiful face
was hidden in the folds of the
downy white hoods, at last he felt one that he knew to be his
wife. She had sewn the clothing of
her children, and his own shirts and trousers for all the years
they were together, and the
forefinger of her right hand was calloused from the needle.
Astonished, the king examined his daughter's hand. "It's
true! And I am a man of my word."
Whereupon the king sent them off with many a treasure and sent
When they arrived home the happy hunter allowed his wife to
keep her snowy feather robes to
visit her father and sisters, as long as she promised to always
return to him. And so lived happily
together ever afterwards. (European Folk and Fairy Tales, no.
12, pp. 98-104)
Danish Tale: The Wild Swan, by Hans Christian Andersen: ( See
Hans Christian Andersen:
Fairy Tales and Stories ).
The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen. An awkward young
cygnet, is called an ugly
duckling by the other young waterfowl in the lake. Seeing his
reflection in the watery surface, he
can't help but agree, and hangs his young head in shame. The
other birds refuse to play with the
pathetic creature, and he is left to himself. At last his mother
finds him, and assures him that this
phase will pass, and he will grow into the most beautiful bird
of all - a magnificent snowy white
swan. And as time passes, so he does.
This is a familiar tale for every child, reassuring them that
beauty is from within, and not a
matter of outward appearance. This healing tale has been told
for over a century, to children
who feel isolated, or that they don't fit in, teaching them
to look within to find their own inner
beauty and radiate it. When their time comes, they will be transformed,
and have the grace,
beauty and eloquence of a majestic white swan.
Native American: In Navajo tradition, the Great White Swan can
call up the Four Winds. The
Great Spirit will use swans to work its will.
Australian: The aborigines saw the Black Swans as the wives
of their All Father.
Japan: In Ainu folk tales, the swan was an angelic bird who
lived in heaven. When the Ainu
fought amongst themselves killing all but one boy, the Swan
descended from heaven, transformed
into a woman, and reared the boy to manhood. She then married
him to preserve the Ainu race.
India: It was the swan that lay the Cosmic Egg on the waters,
from which Brahma sprang. The
Swan was the vehicle of Brahma's wife, Saraswati, the Goddess
of Wisdom, Education, and
Music. In Hindu tradition, swans represent the perfect union,
and the spirit of Brahma.
Greek: In Greek tradition, the Swan is the symbol of the Muses.
The swan also has erotic
connotations - Zeus seduced Leda in the form of a swan, and
Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love,
had a swan-drawn chariot. The swan, as a symbol of music, is
also dedicated to Apollo, who was
said to transform into a swan. Socrates wrote that the swan
sung it's most beautiful song just
before it died, leaving us with the phrase "swan song".
The constellation Cygnus, depicts a swan
sailing down the Milky Way.
Serbia: The Vila, Serbian nymphs, take the shape of swans and
Norse: The Norse Valkyries often take the shape of swans and
they fly, singing, through the air.
Russia: Swan Maidens were the subject of the Russian composer,
Tchaikovsky's ballet, "Swan Lake".
England Tradition: According to Ted Andrews, in Animal-Speak,
"The swan is one of the most
powerful and ancient of totems. It is one of the oldest names
in the English language and has
come down unchanged since Anglo Saxon times." (page 195)
In Britain, Mute Swans are the
property of the Crown. The Crown may grant "royalties"
or ownership rights to companies or
individuals, where they mark their swan's bills during the ceremony
of "swan-upping". Boat
builders used swans as figureheads to bring good luck.
Celtic Tradition: In Celtic tradition the Swan is associated
with deities of healing waters and the
sun. They are associated with music, love, purity and the soul.
They are shape-shifters, can take
human form, and have mastered the elements of water, earth and
air. They can always be
recognized by the gold or silver chain that hangs around their
neck. Among Druids, the Swan
represents the soul, and is associated with the Festival of
Samhain. The swan aids us in traveling
to the Otherworld. Swans are also sacred to Bards, and their
skin and feathers were used to
make the tugen, the ceremonial Bardic Cloak.
Irish tales: Swans appear throughout Irish folklore. An Otherworldly
bird, they are often the
disguise of Fairy Women. At certain times of year, a swan maiden
can transform herself back
into a human, such as Summer Solstice, Beltaine or Samhain,
when the veils between the worlds
are thin. The White Swans of the Wilderness were children of
the Tuatha de Danaan, who settled
Ireland, and became the sidhe after the invasion of the Milesians.
The night Cuchulainn was born, a pair of swans wearing Otherworldly
silver chains attacked
Emain Macha. In a later tale, the Princess Derbforgaill fell
in love with Cuchulainn, and
transformed herself and her maidens into swans to be near him.
A hunter by nature, he threw a
stone at hone, none other that Derbforgaill herself, and brought
her down. She transformed back
into a woman, and lay bleeding at his feet. Cuchulainn restored
her, sucking some of her blood,
which rendered him unable to take her as his bride. She subsequently
married his son.
In The Dream of Angus Og, the young God fell in love with a
woman he saw in his dream, named
Caer. So great is his longing for her, that he grew ill. He
set out to search for her, and
discovered that she is no dream, but a mortal woman under enchantment.
She and her sisters are
transformed into swans at Samhain, and must remain so for six
months, until Beltain. Angus
found her at Loch Gel Dracon, where the transformation took
place. When he arrived, there
were 150 swans, all with Otherworldly silver chains around their
necks, and he could not
distinguish Caer from the others. Cuchulainn then called out
to her, changing into a swan
himself. In that shape, he recognized his beloved, and they
flew off together, chanting such
ethereal music that all who heard it fell into unconsciousness
for three days and nights. He
brought her home to Brugh na Boinne (Newgrange).
The Children of Lir is the most marvelous swan tale of all.
An Irish princess's four brothers were
condemned to live as swans for eternity by their jealous step
mother, Aoifa, the wife of King Lir.
The princess's only hope is to remain mute for seven years while
she wove four shirts of flax for
her brothers, which will break the enchantment. There are several
variations of this tale. In
another variation, they were swans for 900 years, and when they
were transformed back to
humans, upon being baptized by St. Kernoc, the priest of the
new religion, and they fell to the
earth dead (but their souls were saved).
Native American tradition: According to Jamie Sams and David
Carson, who collected Native
American tales from elders in the Choctaw, Lakota, Seneca, Aztec,
Yaqui, Cheyenne, Cherokee,
Iroquois, and Mayan traditions, Swans represented "Grace".
Swan tells Dragonfly in legend, "I learned to surrender
my body to the power of Spirit and was
taken to where the future lives. I saw many wonders high on
Sacred Mountains and because of
my faith and my acceptance I have been changed. I have learned
to accept the state of grace."
Swan is the bird who may enter the Dreamtime and bring back
knowledge and healing to the
tribe. Swan medicine "teaches us to be at one with all
planes of consciousness, and to trust in
Great Spirit's protection." (Medicine Cards, pages 192-195)
Totem: The swan is a totem of beauty and grace. As in the story
of the Ugly Duckling, it connotes
inner beauty as well. If Swan is your totem animal, you are
emotionally sensitive, and empathic
towards the feelings of others, and you draw people to you.
The pure white swan is a solar
symbol, whereas the Australian Black Swan is a nocturnal symbol.
The swan, with its long neck,
acts as a bridge between the worlds, making it an oracular bird.
Being a cool weather bird, its
direction is North. Swans are excellent totems for children,
those connected to the Fairy Realm,
poets, bards, mystics, and dreamers. (Animal Speak, page 196)
Healing: The swan is master of the elements Earth, Air and Water,
and is and excellent guide to
the therapeutic powers of these elements. Many healers use a
swan feather in smudging and
healing ceremonies. A swan feather tied to an instrument such
as a harp would be a powerful
adjunct to music therapy.
Oracle: In the Medicine Cards, pulling the Swan card tells you
to "accept your ability to know
what lies ahead, pay attention to your hunches, gut knowledge,
and female intuitive side."
(Medicine Cards, page 194) Reversed, the Swan card means you
are not grounded, not paying
attention to your intuition, or the Unseen. The authors suggest
that you "notice your
surroundings, and touch the Earth; be still and focus on one
reality or the other - the Dreamtime
or the mundane world; stop the clutter in your mind and listen;
or focus on a physical activity
that will ground you." (Medicine Cards, page 195)
In Celtic lore, pulling the swan card can mean poetic inspiration
from the Otherworld. It can
also mean an enduring love is entering into your life. Many
swan tales have to do with sad
partings, separation, and suffering loss with grace. Swan can
be a symbol of transformation.
Swan often indicates a soul level experience about to commence.
Celtic Totem Animals, by John Matthews, Red Wheel Press, Boston,
Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams and David Carson, St. Martin's
Press, New York, 1999
The Druid Animal Oracle by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, A
Fireside Book, London, 1994
Animal-Speak, the Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures
Great and Small, by Ted Andrews,
Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, 1994
Sevenwaters Trilogy, (Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows,
and Child of the Prophecy)
by Juliet Marillier, Tor Fantasy, New York, 2000 (a fiction
based on The Children of Lir)
European Folk and Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs, New York: G.
P. Putnam's Sons, 1916, no. 12, pp. 98-104.
Symbolic and Mythical Animals, by J. C. Cooper, Aquarian/Thorsons,
Feather Site: Swans are the largest, and generally considered
the most beautiful, of the waterfowl...
Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Sanctuary: Swan Facts
Copyright: Cinnamon Moon & River WildFire Moon (Founders.)
All rights reserved.
constructed by Dragonfly