* Prices may differ from that shown
I am not sure that swans can be thought of as pets, but since dooyoo has placed them in that category, I thought I might share what little knowledge I have of those most beautiful and regal of birds gracing our lakes.
A swan is a swan, is a swan, or so I thought until I started reading about them and uncovering lots of interesting facts and myths.
My interest was ignited many years ago when learning of a pair of swans nesting in the moat surrounding The Bishop's Palace, at Wells in Somerset. Any swans living in these waters, will very quickly learn that when they ring the bell hung under a window above the moat, someone from inside will throw them food.
Swans are the largest bird of the duck and geese family to which they are closely related - would you believe. This is all to do with the scientific classifications of birds, where geese and ducks are sub families, but let's not get too entangled in Latin jargon.
The male swan, which is generally larger than the female, is called a cob; the female is a pen, and their little 'ugly-duckling' 'offspring' are cygnets.
Swans prefer to feed and breed in countries of temperate climates. There are seven distinct species, some of which are wholly migratory, in that they migrate with the seasons, to and from countries with temperatures more suited to their breeding and feeding habits.
Then there are the partial migrants; these tend to migrate from Eastern European countries; seeking more permanent breeding grounds in climates such as our own.
~~~~~SPECIES OF SWAN~~~~
BEWICK'S swans: Migrate from Arctic Russia to Western Europe and Eastern Asia in the winter, then, as the temperatures rise, back they go to Russia - with love?
WHOOPER swans: Breed in Iceland during their summer, then migrate to Europe and Asia in the winter.
TUNDRA swans: Are a small breed of swan which will winter in the USA and migrate northwards to breed in the North American Tundra.
TRUMPETER swan: This breed is similar to the Whooper swan, but slightly larger and is found in North America.
BLACK-NECKED swan: As the name suggests, they have white body feathers, but black necks. These are found in South America.
BLACK SWAN: These are completely black, with the exception of white flight feathers on their wing tips and are native to Australia.
MUTE swan: Is native to the USA and several European countries, including Britain and Ireland. These swans are classed as being partial migrants.
~~~~~GENERAL EATING AND BREEDING HABITS~~~~
These beautiful birds are mainly herbivorous and will feed in the water and on land. Both pen and cob collectively build a large nest (about three feet in diameter) out of twigs and reeds, on the ground and very close to the water.
The pen lays a clutch of four to seven eggs, all of which, both cob and pen share the task of incubation - though not necessarily in equal measure.
It is widely thought that swans form monogamous pairs, often lasting their lifetime. However, there are occasions when there is a parting of company, particularly if they fail to breed successfully. It has been known for swans to pair as many as four times in their lifetime. (Not just a human trait then!)
Mute swans are the species most commonly found on our waterways, although we do see Bewick's and Black swans in this country. However, I shall concentrate on our graceful friends the mute swan.
Mute swans, are so called because they make very little noise in comparison to other species of swans. They do however, have a few distinctive sounds - hissing being most commonly heard when defending their nests and cygnets.
They have a life span of between ten and twenty years and can weigh as much as 15kg (almost 2.5 stone) They have a wing span of about 240cms and can fly up to speeds of 55mph, but need fairly long, watery run-ways to reach take off speeds. When landing, their webbed feet act as water skis.
The bills are orange or pinkish in colour, with black on the lower tip of the top bill and a black, chevron-shaped, featherless area between the eyes and the bill. This featherless black skin forms a hump over the bill - a feature also shared by the Black and Black-necked swans. Young cygnets lack the hump but develop one later.
The feathers are pure white; their eggs are white with a greenish tinge and hatch after 35 days. The cygnets usually remain on the nest for two days before taking to the water, accompanied by the pen, who defends them vigorously against any predators, human or otherwise, trying to get too close. Often the cygnets will climb onto the pen's back and nestle between her wings for warmth and protection.
Long ago, swans were kept and bred for food, but are now protected by the Crown . Eat one if you dare!! - though I think beheading went out long ago too!
However, they are still under constant threat from other sources. Fishermen pose a terrible threat to swans. This is because swans need to eat grit to aid digestion and often pick up and ingest lead, discarded by fishermen. Lead breaks down in their stomachs causing muscular and neurological damage. Swans affected in this way are easily recognised by their kinked necks, their muscles being too weak to support them. If a swan collides with a power line, the reason can be attributed to the neurological effects of lead poisoning.
~~~~~LEGENDS AND MYTHS~~~~
Because of their monogamous behaviour, swans are widely regarded as symbols of love and fidelity.
In Greek mythology, there is a story that tells of Helen of Troy, who was supposedly conceived in a union between Leda, Queen of Sparta and Zeus, who was disguised as a swan.
There are a couple of Irish swan-related legends. One, in the story 'The Wooing of Etain.' where Etain, the king of the supernatural kingdom, transforms himself and all the beautifull women of Ireland, into swans to escape the king of Ireland and his armies. (I guess the 'plain-Janes' were left to their fate)
Another Irish legend tells of a stepmother to the children of Lir, who transformed them into swans for 900 years. ( I wonder if they have turned back into human form yet.)
The swan is depicted on the Irish commemorative Euro coin.
It is said that the mute swan, upon death, sings the most beautiful song, hence the saying 'Swan-song.'
Swans also feature in Norse and Finnish mythology, but most interestingly, even though they are no longer found in India, are highly revered in Hinduism. They are thought to hold saintly characteristics, in that they are of this world, but unaffected by it - just as their feathers touch the water, but do not become wet.
Gurus and Yogis, who have attained spiritual greatness and capabilities, are sometimes called Paramahamsa, which means 'Great Swan,' because swans are attributed with the same powerful abilities, such as being able to travel between spiritual worlds and also able to drink milk mixed with water, from a saucer, and leave just the water behind.
I must finish with a cute true story about the pair of mute swans residing on the moat at Wells.
A few years ago, Wells lost its famous pair of swans. The Queen, in her Jubilee year, gave the city a pair of mute swans. These flew away. Another pair were gifted to the city and settled to breed and the pair seemed a happy match set for life. Then, what I can only describe as a Casanova-cob flew in and paired with the pen, raised their cygnets and flew off again, on his own. The remaining cob 'Faithful' is now sulking no longer swimming with his floozey- mate. Have they divorced, I wonder. He hasn't flown away, so maybe there is hope yet. Or will Casanova be back?
So far, we don't think Casanova returned, perhaps he found his soul mate elsewhere.
2012. No cygnets this year either.
Across the sparkling mirror's face,
Countless wandering sails bent in formation,
Glowing with Innocence,
Reed columns part
and across the gleaming dance floor
this soulful Singer keeps an elegant pace.
"Listen with your soul to the music of Life,
and Awaken the Bard within your heart
to a World of unfolding Grace.
Wisdom is a double-edged blade,
but the still waters of divine Intuition run deep.
Love, Honor, Beauty are true Muses
with the power to banish all strife.
I will teach you how to become
the Light within all Darkness;
The awakening lyre note struck by Divinity,
The trumpeting call of leadership and spiritual finesse,
to look into tomorrow with clear eyes,
to serenely embody and reflect a saintly sum.
Mystic Dreamer, Seelie Fairy Child,
Caparisoned in gems unseen,
Ivory steed to the Goddess of Music;
I will teach you powerful songs of Love,
Beauty and Healing.
The last song is always the sweetest.
Surrender, and I will guide you through
the Dreamtime skies and wilds."
"Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live." ~ Jackie Windspear
"Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased. It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations. It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth we have spoken it. " ~Whitney Griswold
"Nothing he had ever seen before in all his life had made him feel quite the way he felt, on that wild little pond, in the presence of those two enormous swans." ~ The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White
There are six or seven species of Swans in the world, depending on whether you still include the Coroscoba Swan. Personally, I do not understand the intricacies involved in biological taxonomy, and I prefer to include rather than exclude, but to each their own. Cygnus (Swans) are large waterfowl, one of the largest flighted birds, and the biggest member in the Family Anatidae, which includes both geese and ducks.
Swans are more closely related to geese, but a study of the whole Family, as well as potential balancing energies, is always beneficial. For our purposes, I will be focusing primarily on the Mute Swan. The Trumpeter Swan is perhaps more common in Northern America, but it is always the Mute Swan I think of first when envisioning this Creature Teacher. The Mute Swan may in fact be the widest spread of all the Teachers found in Cygnus, as they are frequently introduced to areas around the world for their decorative beauty drifting around ornamental ponds and lakes.
Adults are referred to as Cobs (males) and Pens (females). They can reach sizes about 4 or 5 feet tall, 30-50 lbs in weight, with a wingspan up to 8 feet long! Covered in white plumage, they differ in appearance from the Trumpeter in that their bills are orange instead of black, but there is black marking the tip, bill edges, and the feathered base area around the Mute's orange bill. The black knob at the base of the cobs' bill will swell noticeably during the mating season. Otherwise, cobs and pens are nearly identical in appearance, really only differing in the males slightly larger size.
Looking at the meaning symbolized by their coloring, the overall white plumage could easily represent making a conscious choice to live in a good way, and committing to a personal code of ethics. White often symbolizes purity and grace, and in color therapy is considered the perfect color for healing. This is the color of Divine light and protection, awakened spirit, perfect balance and harmony... all important to this Teacher.
Their black legs remind us to walk with Wisdom through this life, and to support ourselves always with a healthy elemental connection. Wisdom will help us to navigate the intuitive and emotional waters we move through. Banishing negativity and bad habits are the first steps on a Swan's road to a harmonious life. The black markings prominent around the golden orange bill is a reminder to think before you speak, don't just react, and then speak with only the best intentions.
What we give voice to becomes a possibility in our lives. Orange is another strong healing color, and it's placement here acts a reminder to express new possibilities, inspirations, and creativity; speaking freely with authority and artistry. In color therapy, orange is used to promote happiness and joy. Swan teaches us that we should be silent unless we too can promote these worthy aspects.
5-12 eggs are possible, although 5-7 pale gray to pale blue-green eggs is the normal clutch, laid sometime between April and May. Cygnets begin with dark bills and one of two color morphs; fluffy brown-gray (aka Royal) or white (Polish) juvenile feathers. Adults of the white morph may have pinkish-gray legs instead of the traditional black. They hatch with their eyes open, covered in down, and are capable of leaving the nest to learn swimming and feeding within 24 hours.
Mute swans feed upon submerged aquatic plants, waste grains, grasses, various insects, worms, snails and small aquatic creatures like fish, amphibians, and crustaceans. All of which make excellent potential balancing energies along with; raccoon, weasel/mink, snapping turtle, great horned owl, wolf, coyote, snake, alligator/crocodile, eagle, bull/bison, and bear.
Adult swans face very few serious predators, other than humanity and our messy side effects. Eggs and young are vunerable, however, and swan's can be quite fierce in defense of their nests, eggs, young and mate. Cobs have been known to drown other challenging males, and pens have been known to break bones in driving off perceived threats to their young or mate.
Swan people are likely to have a similarly loyal outlook on the topics of home, children and mate. Swan people should temper such fierce devotion with balanced clarity and wisdom. Swan people often experience early independence and awareness, as reflected in this Teacher's need to become alert and competent quickly in order to survive. Swan people are often highly sensitive and intuitive, and if properly nutured while young can become extraordinary leaders that inspire all around them.
Learning early to navigate emotions, and remaining well grounded throughout spiritual lessons, emotional upheavels, or social pressures is beneficial. It is also important to allow young Swans to express themselves creativily, preferably through more than one artistic outlet. In the stages of their development and in their flight, Swan teaches us to take our time, proceed with awareness, and allow ourselves plenty of time for thought as we move to achieve our goals. Slow, silent and steady is a wonderful pace as we move through life on our spiritual evolution.
Nightmares, the extremes of confidence and mood swings are often signs of unbalanced Swan energy; arrogance, hubris and vanity on one side, and low self-esteem, depression/melancholy, self-doubt and apathy on the other. From what I have seen, Swan people often experience abuse of some sort in their lives, whether giving, receiving, or witnessing. Learning to maintain healthy boundaries, and how to properly navigate without becoming overwhelmed by their own highly sensitive and intuitive selves also seem to be key lessons for Swan people.
Cygnets fledge (achieve flight-worthy plumage) within about 60 days but do not assume an adult independence until after their first year, about the time that adults are ready to begin breeding again. They obtain their adult plumage and markings gradually over their first year, although they do not fully mature and form a breeding bond until they are 3 years old. Cobs will gather nesting materials and the Pen will construct on her chosen site.
She begins with a small mound, ending with a grass and reed nest 5-6 feet across, lining the central shallow depression with bits of down and other softer material. Pens perform most of the incubation duties, although the cob will step in for a spell so she can take a break from time to time. Both cobs and pens raise and protect the young, who can occasionally be seen catching a ride on a parental back or under a wing.
Trumpeter Swans are slightly larger than, and are more likely to form a life bond with their mate than Mutes. "Divorce" is common enough among Mute swans, who have been known to have as many as four mates. Although, they are typically monogmous for the duration of a breeding season, and a good breeding pair can form a life bond. It's interesting to note that if a male's mate dies and he takes a younger mate, she will join him on his territory, but if he takes an older mate, he will join her on her territory. Swans in general are such excellent parents that the male and female will always molt at separate times so that one or the other is always capable of flight during the raising and protecting of their cygnets.
Swan speaks gently on the importance of forming a committed relationship and united front when raising children. Perhaps the deeper and more important message that extends well beyond parental duties, is that we by honoring all of the committments we accept, we increase our personal integrity and come closer to achieving the goal of becoming a vessel for Divine will. Having a well grounded, safe and nurturing home life helps Swan people deal with all the other stresses in life.
Mute swans are known to be agressively territorial, especially during breeding. Which has made them problematic in areas where they have been introduced, and are dominating native species. Graceful neck curved back in an "S", wings half raised is a threat display that hikers should be aware of as these large waterfowl seldom fear humans.
Dubbed Mute swans because they are more silent than their other family members, their sounds are quieter; consisting of barking, hissing and high-pitched whistles. The sounds of their flight carry further, and it is the Mute swan from which springs the legend of the "swan song". According to this once popular belief, the swan was silent save for the most beatific song sung right before it's death. Music and song are excellent therapy for Swans, but a love of poetry, art, history, genealogy and literature is often exhibited by such people too.
The Northern Cross, also known as Cygnus, The Swan is a constellation closely connected to this feathered Teacher, which links the Swan with the Star Nation and the lessons they hold for us. Many tales surround this constellation that has helped to guide humans around the globe. One fashions this swan as what became of the infamous bard, Orpheus, after his death. Others refer to Jupiter taking this disguise to woo Leda, Queen of Sparta. Ovid claims that Cygnus was a relative or friend of Phaeton, who obsessively searched the rivers for Phaeton's body after his disasterous ride in Apollo's chariot. Cygnus was transformed into a swan by Zeus in an attempt to aid the youth's quest.
"Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason." ~Novalis
Swans are sacred to Apollo and, like the Bull, connected with solar energy. In Celtic lore, it was swans who pulled the Sun's bark across the underworld sea each night, and their feathers were fashioned into cloaks worn only by Bards. Swans feature in the tale of how Cuculain's mother was lured away by Lugh Lamfada, the sun god. Sacred to Saraswati, the consort of Brahma and one face of the Vedic triple goddess aspect, the swan was her steed. Saraswati was a goddess of knowledge, music and art.
The swan is also associated with Brighid, the Celtic goddess of healing, poetry, and crafting. It was often considered to be indicative of inspiration from the Celtic underworld, or faeries, especially of the Seelie court. The swan has also been an emblem of the Greek Muses, and the goddess of love herself, Aphrodite. In Navajo tradition, the Great White Swan can call the Four Winds, and swans will act as a vessel for Creator's will. In Serbia, the Vila take the shapes of swans and serpents. The Valkyries of Norse lore were infamous for taking swan form.
In Celtic legend, Angus Og, son of Dagda, fell in love with Caer, a beautiful swan maiden, and in some tales became a swan to join her. The four children of Lir were transformed into swans by their evil stepmother, Aoife. In fact, there are so many tales of humans or faery transformed or disguised as swans that it was once a terrible crime to kill or harm a swan across Europe, the British Isles, and many other areas where swans have lived. To do so would bring terrible harm down on the individual or their families.
The Swan has a long association with scholarly pursuits, poetry, music, dreams, illusions, natural/Faerie magic, and especially Bardic traditions. The swan is also linked with philosophy because of a dream Socrates had the night before Plato became his student, in which a swan flew into his chest.(Pausanius, Description of Greece 1.30.1). Many famous poets have been called swans, including the Swan of Avon, William Shakespeare. Many of those transformed into swans were identified as something other than ordinary by a gold or silver chain worn about the neck, which was quite likely the inspiration for the chains worn by Bards as a symbol of their office.
Around the world, this Teacher teaches powerful lessons centered around the acceptance of Grace and surrendering our will to Creator that we may become a vessel of Divine intention. Beauty, Love, Truth, Dedication, Nobility, Sacrifice, and Confidence are keywords for this Teacher. In the tale of the Ugly Duckling, the swan teaches us valuable lessons on self-worth, confidence, and perception. Excellence, grace, nobility, purity, receptive intuition, poetic or artistic expression/inspiration, and spiritual evolution are all Swan lessons. When we realize our inner Beauty and let it out, we inspire others to follow our lead, and become the light they crave in others.
"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion;
respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled
with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep
and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home." ~Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee Nation 1768-1813
A curious note of tragedy lingers around the edges of the Swan, a reminder that while spiritual evolution, the gaining of wisdom and knowledge, and expression through music and art are desirable goals, nothing good comes without a price. Sometimes, gaining wisdom or inspiration must come with a healthy dose of sorrow, loss, pain, or tragedy. Sorrow and confidence, whether too much or too little, are challenges that those called by this Teacher will face along their path. Swans are often great examples of healed healers.
Like the Giraffe, the Swan's long neck represents a graceful bridge between head and heart, which must exist to maintain a properly balanced outlook in life. Swan reminds us too that it is up to us to create a bridge from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Swans have a special gland which allows them to drink salt water or shed excess salt from their systems by excreting the concentrated solution through their nostrils. To me, this is a reminder to be aware of and express our emotions without being ruled by them. A great deal can be healed by simply allowing ourselves to shed tears and giving expression to our trials.
Swan teaches us to open our eyes to the realities of the choices we make, and to commit fully to honoring our commitments and obligations. When we choose to live a good life, to walk through each day looking for ways to promote the best in every situation, we become receptive to the World around us, intuitively aware and connected to everything around us, and we begin to reflect the best of Creator's hopes for us upon the World around us.
In the form of the constellation Cygnus, this Teacher speaks to us of our innate connection to All Our Relations. The dust of stars is bound within us, and a little of us resides within each of them, completing the circle. The Native American concept to "Walk in Beauty" is the motto of this graceful Teacher, which we cannot really do if we are constantly dividing ourselves from other people, the World, and All Our Relations.
"Pay attention to your dreams - God's angels often speak directly to our hearts when we are asleep." ~Quoted in The Angels' Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman
"Hear the voice of the Bard! Who present, past, and future sees; Whose ears have heard the Holy Word that walked among the ancient trees." ~ William Blake
Patron of healers, empaths, clairvoyants, seers, dreamers, mystics, artists, poets, musicians, and singers, the Swan is one of the oldest of the animal spirit guides. One of the four sacred Guardians of Dreamtime, Swan teaches us how to properly surrender to our unfolding destiny. It is often hard for us to accept the more painful lessons as a good thing. Swan reminds us that even in the greatest tragedy, there is purpose. Sometimes, we must "let go and let God" and allow that the worst that happens in our lives happens for a good reason. We should carry the best of every experience forward with us.
The Swan is also associated with Jesus, the constellation Cygnus becoming the Cross of Cavalry with the advent of Christianity. Jesus knew of his impending death, and while it was a difficult struggle, he accepted that this was what must be to serve Creator's purposes even if he did not understand the whys and wherefores of bearing such a terrible ordeal. This is the level of surrender and commitment that Swan teaches.
When we put aside our desires for the needs of others, when we give voice to joy amidst the darkest moments, when we commit fully to our responsibilities with a glad and loving heart, we are accepting Swan lessons. Beware aggression, acts of possessiveness, arrogance, unbalanced emotional responses, and the desire to provoke others through your words or actions. Balanced Swans exemplify all our best possibilities; grace-filled, serenely confident, creative, innocent, intuitive, a living inspiration to others, an empathic citizen of the World who works with the natural magics and energies around us. How does this Teacher appear in your life?
"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 by Jamie Sams and David Carson, pages 192-195)
"Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul." ~ William Hazlitt
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Some sources that contributed to or inspired pieces of my article:
The Children of Lir ~ Irish Legend
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm
The Wild Swans and The Swan's Nest by Hans Christian Andersen
Star Lore By William Tyler Olcott
Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmund Rostand
The Silver Swan by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer
In Joy and In Sorrow by HIM
The Valley of Life by Richard Watson Gilder
Darkangel trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce
Music From Another Room
Bed of Roses
Phantom of the Opera
Dead Poet's Society
http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird_details.aspx?id=53 http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/1025/overview/Mute_Swan.aspx http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mute_Swan/lifehistory http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Cygnus_olor.html http://www.swanstrom.org/swan-lore.html http://animals.howstuffworks.com/birds/swan-info.htm/printable http://www.deeptrancenow.com/colortherapy.htm http://www.holisticonline.com/Color/color_white.htm