Swan Meaning and Symbolism
Our first symbolic clues from the swan can be taken from observing them in nature. They are waterfowl, closely connected with water, even nesting near the water.
Water is symbolic of: Fluidity, Intuition, Dreaming, Emotions, Creativity.
In this respect, we can intuit the swan’s appearance in our lives as an arrow pointing to our dreamier depths and feelings. Furthermore, we get the sense of balance from swan meaning as it lives harmoniously amongst three of the four Aristotelian elements. Grounding herself on earth, lofting to great heights in the air, and winding through waters with magnificent elegance.
A quick keyword list of swan meaning:
The swan may also bear messages of love and relationships. They pair for years, sometimes male-female unions are sustained for a lifetime. When the swan glides upon the waters of our awareness, it might be a symbol of love, and a reminder of the blessings found in our relationships.
The concept of partnership is further expressed on a divine level in Hinduism, wherein the swan graces vibrant traditions as the Hamsa bird. In the Saundarya Lahari (translated: “Waves of Beauty,” it’s a text filled with beautiful mantras from the Hindu perspective) two swans (Ham and Sa) pair together, swimming around in the divine mind “living on honey from the blooming lotus of knowledge.” Isn’t that a lovely concept?
In the Celtic mind, swans and geese were observed in the context of movement. Specifically, the keenly observant Celts noted their transitory nature and the swan’s pattern of migration. Consequently, the sign of the swan urged Celtic intuition to consider changes of mood (water) and heart (love).
Swan meaning is also linked to Celtic deities with solar associations, like Belanus and Lugh. As solar animals, the swan represents the rising glory of a new day as well as the farewell of an old day with the setting sun. Fittingly, the Celtic goddess Bridgid is also associated with the swan as her grace is expressed with equal elegance in the form of writing (poetry) and song.
Celtic myth also indicates when inhabitants of the Otherworld required passage to the physical land of life you and I experience every day, they would take the shape of the swan. Furthermore lore states they would travel out of the Otherworld in pairs, thus reinforcing the theme of union, bonds and partnership.
In Celtic art, gold and silver chains are often depicted around the swan's neck. I’ve read where this is symbolic of supernatural appearance of divine energy or the descent of gods to earth. I like to think the chains are symbolic of a harmony between cosmic forces; gold representing the sun, and silver symbolic of the moon. Perhaps the Celts recognized the essence of gods within the guise of the swan, and honored that power in the bird.
We see further themes of transformation and deific embodiment in Greek myth wherein Zeus (Jupiter in the Roman pantheon) transformed himself into a swan in an effort to slake his uncontrollable passion for Leda.
Symbolic swan meaning continues the theme of transformation in the tale of the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson. Mislabeled from birth, the little duckling lives his life with the heroic heart of a swan. Indeed, after growing strong under the nurturing of kind humans, the duckling is set free, and sees its image for the first time in a reflective pool of water to discover he had “transformed” into a lovely swan.
Who doesn’t love this little fairy tale? It reminds us of our inherent glory, power and beauty (as the duckling was always a graceful swan). At the same time, the tale encourages us to have faith and have a persistent heart while pursuing the gifts that are our birthright.
In dreams, the swan asks us to spread our wings and take flight into our waking dreams. She also encourages us to strengthen our relationships, as well as make new, long-lasting bonds with people whom we admire.
White swans in dreams are symbolic of cleansing and purifying ourselves and our lives. Black swans indicate deep mysteries within us that are longing to be set free to express themselves creatively – perhaps as Bridgid would have us do, in poetry or music.
I hope you have enjoyed this page on swan meaning and symbolism. Keep swimming with the creative flow!