Tell me, O Swan, your ancient tale.
From what land do you come,
O Swan? to what shore will you fly?
Where would you take your rest,
O Swan, and what do you seek?
I heard the swans this morning, battling the storm in the dark, flying overhead.
“His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg.”
(Hans Christian Anderson)
The Soul finds Itself..
Enlightened teachers are often called Paramahamsa which means the Supreme Swan.
”To the Paramahamsa (the supreme celestial Swan) on the other hand, the whole of creation is God himself, there is nothing else but God alone. This person is a fully realized soul, completely liberated from all bonds with the world, who knows no obligations, no likes or dislikes. He is without any needs because he is completely immersed in God.”
Hamsa, meaning Swan, when repeated and merged, incoming with outgoing, forms the fundamental mantra of the breath, Sa or So Ham, which means ‘ I am That’. Also Hamsa may be a form of Aham sa, which also means I am He/That ~ Paramahamsa means one who is awakened in all the realms . The Hamsa represents the Atman or soul.
The Apsaras of Hindu and Buddhist myths often take the form of swans, and are reminiscent of swan maiden tales from all over the world. These women are ethereal, not quite of the world, though sometimes they do take human husbands temporarily, until the need for freedom asserts itself and they fly away; or perhaps a man has stolen and hidden their swan feather cape, so that they cannot leave.
”The Buriats of Siberia (for example) have a tale of a hunter who forced a swan-maiden to become his wife. She bore him several children and after many years enquired about her swan garment. Being certain she would stay the hunter gave it to her, whereupon she flew up through the smoke hole…she called out ”Ye are earthly beings and remain on earth; I am from heaven and fly back to my home.”
Naturally we would associate the swan with grace, dignity, solitariness, purity. It is said to symbolise Perfect Union and escape from Samsara. Swans symbolise Divine Wisdom in the darkness. The swan was sacred to Apollo, Venus, Aphrodite, Zeus; the swan in Alchemy represents how spiritual purity (the whitening) can be sieved from the darkening of the ordinary life ; the swan, as a hermaphroditic figure, here represents the alchemical marriage, the union of opposites.
Brahma is sometimes called Kalahansa, the swan of time, who waited alone in the void before laying the Golden Egg (Hiranyagarbha). His consort is Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, whose vehicle is the Swan. From these two were said to have emerged all beings. Note that in Egyptian stories Geb, husband/brother of Nut, is called the Great Cackler, the swan-goose, who laid the egg from which the sun emerged. Some claim that the swan is used as a vehicle to remind us of the constellation Cygnus, which they say was the point from which creation emerged. Link to reading on that at end (1)
Swans can walk, swim and fly, at home in all elements. The swan swims in water and yet the feathers remain dry, and this is used in Advaita Vedanta to symbolise the sadhak living in the world and yet not of the world. The swan is also said to be able to separate milk from water, symbolising separating truth from illusion.
Some have even suggested that our iconography regarding angels stems from older shamanic visions of half human, half swan beings.
”The swan is one of the metaphors most used by Indian mystics. The swan lives beyond the Himalayas, in the Lake Mansarovar. The Lake Mansarovar is the purest lake in the world – very rarely does a human being reach there – uncontaminated, unpolluted, surrounded by the Himalayan beauty, virgin peaks.
The swan is born there, lives there, but when it becomes too cold the swan has to come to this [Indian] side of the Himalayas, to the plains. And sometimes it happens: a swan forgets the way to go back. A swan simply forgets that he has a home somewhere, starts living by the side of dirty rivers, dirty ponds, muddy places.
Hence, the swan becomes a tremendously potent metaphor for man. Man comes from God but he has forgotten from where he comes, who he is. Man comes from God, from the holiest of holies, and goes on living by the side of dirty rivers, muddy pools of water.Of course, he cannot be contented here, but he knows no other place to go. He is lost. This seems to be the only world.
The Eastern mystics use the metaphor of the swan for man.”
(Osho (Rajneesh), ‘The Fish in the Sea is not Thirsty’)
”Look at them swans,” my neighbour said to me, and he pointed to the lake beside us.
”One morning when you were away,” I said, ”A whole flock of them rose from the lake and the hooting they made was unbelievable.”
”I listen to them all the time,” he said. ”I reckon they are chatting with each other.”
I smiled and nodded.
”I reckon they are arguing amongst themselves about whether to land on your lake or mine.”
We were almost at the entrance to the lane-way to his house.
”Have a good day,” he said, as he trotted happily in past his gate and then he called out to me, ”Wouldn’t you love to know the language of the swans?”
”The Swan Will Fly Away All Alone,
Spectacle of the World Will Be a Mere Fair.
As the Leaf Falls from the Tree
Is Difficult to Find
Who Knows Where it Will Fall
Once it is Struck with a Gust Of Wind.
When Life Span is Complete
Then Listening to Orders, Following Others, Will Be Over .”
This is Note(1) from above for anyone interested…It is one man’s idea about the Cygnus constellation
Cygnus was identified as a celestial bird on the Euphrates as early as c. 2000 BC. Although most obviously a swan in Europe, Cygnus had, like Lyra, once been seen as a vulture, making it an obvious destination for those human souls being accompanied into the afterlife by a psychopromp (Greek for ‘soul carrier’) in the guise of the celestial vulture. In pre-Islamic Arabic tradition, Cygnus was the Eagle of the Arabs, a mythical bird known also as the roc, or rukh. This was venerated by the Yezidi, the angel-worshipping descendants of the Sabians of Harran, as a form of Khuda (Kurdish for ‘God’), associated with the Mysteries of the North.
The Yezidi depicted Khuda as a bird called anfar, which was seen perched on top of a pole used in private services and called a sanjak. Since the anfar is identified as a dove, it can be equated with the pigeon bird idols venerated prior to the age of Mohammed at Mecca, originally a Sabian shrine. These idols have been identified variously with Allah and/or al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, three pre-Islamic goddesses associated with the swan, or crane. Their avian associations link them directly with Cygnus, which as the celestial swan came under the influence of Near Eastern love goddesses, who in Classical tradition were identified as Aphrodite and Venus.
In Christian tradition, Cygnus was seen as the Cross of Calvary as early as the sixth century, and arguably as far back as Roman times, where the crucifixion scene was associated more with the pagan god Orpheus, whom Jesus was portrayed as in a number of early Christian statues and murals found in Rome. In Classical tradition the swan of Cygnus was originally said to have been Orpheus, god of the underworld.
Cygnus was occasionally shown in Christian planispheres as Christ on the Cross, his wounds perhaps corresponding to its principal stars. Moreover, the dove as a Christian symbol of the Holy Spirit (Greek pnuema), derives from the Hebrew concept of the Spirit or Breath of God (ruach), and stems from the same cosmological root as the Yezidi concept of the anfar, the form of Khuda (God) as a bird that brought the universe into manifestation. In the first chapter of Genesis the Spirit of God (ruach) hovers over the primordial waters moments before God’s Creation of the universe. The dove or pigeon was equated with Cygnus in Arabic tradition.
Was just hitting the ground in spots there about Swan symbolism. May add more.