Ancient Swan Shamanism

From Andrew Collins at Ancient Origins. “The idea that the human soul might take the form of a swan to journey from this world to the next could be one of the oldest fundamental beliefs of human kind, or so suggests a new discovery from the 420,000-year-old cave site of Qesem near Tel Aviv in … Read more

The Lament of the Swan

The Lament of the Swan Planctus Cygni Anon, French, 9th century Clangam, filii Ploratione una Alitis cygni, Qui transfretavit aequora. O quam amare Lamentabatur, aridaSe dereliquisse Florigera Et petisse alta Maria; Ajens: ‘Infelix sum Avicula, Heu mihi, quid agam Misera?Pennis soluta Inniti Lucida non potero Hic in stilla. Undis quatior, Procellis Hinc inde nunc allidor … Read more

Celtic Lore

In Ireland, it was believed that swans pulled the bark of the sun across the underworld sea each night. Swans also bore the souls of Celtic chieftains to the afterlife. Swans had magic powers that could make mortals sleep. Swan skins and feathers were used to make the cloaks of Celtic poets. In County Mayo, … Read more

Occult Lore

In the symbolism of alchemy a swan was the emblem of mercury, being of the same color. It was thought to express the union of opposites (fire and water), and therefore an archetype of hermaphroditism. The Kabbalah associates swans with the Hebrew letter ר (resh), the 20th letter of Hebrew alphabet. Resh has a numerical … Read more

Slavic Lore

In a Sclavonian legend, a youth was reposing in a forest. The wind sighed through the trees, filling him with a tender melancholy which could find no expression in words. Presently there fluttered through the branches a snowy swan, which alighted on his breast. The youth clasped the beautiful bird to his heart, and resisted … Read more

Hindu Lore

In India swans appear both as the hamsa and as apsaras. Brahma’s consort Saraswati, goddess of wisdom, learning, and music, is also depicted riding on a swan (hamsa), as is Varuna, god of the sky and rain. The Hamsa In Hindu lore, the hamsa (a pair of divine birds) can be either swans or geese. The two … Read more

Swan Etymology

The word swan has descended unchanged from the Old Saxon word swan or suan. The Old English and Middle English forms were also swan. The Old Saxon form derived from the proto-Germanic *swanaz. The Old High German forms were swan, swan(a) and swon, the Old Norse form was svanr, and the Middle Dutch form was … Read more


One of the medieval courts in England was called a swanimote. It was held to try offenses against vert and venison, that is, against the vegetation and game of the forest. The court also heard grievances against officers of the forest. In England, a forest was an area set aside as a hunting monopoly. It … Read more

Greco-Roman Lore

Leda and the Swan, by Kotsonis The swan was a recurring motif in Greek and Roman mythology, generally as a bird associated with the sun. Each Greek tribe had its own favorite myths, and additional stories were being constantly imported into religion from foreign sources. The swan was the bird of the Muses. It was … Read more

Germanic Lore

Germanic swan myths, preserved in fairy tales, are similar to those of the Norse and Celtic. In many stories women who take the shape of swans can be prevented from doing so if their plumage is taken. In other household tales a wicked step-mother throws white skirts over her step-children, and they are at once … Read more