The white swan has for a long time been the symbol of purity, beauty, and elegance. There have been multiple portrayals of the attached qualities to the bird, showcasing deeper meaning through metaphors in both art and literature. At the head of the swan’s symbolism is its ability to enchant and draw in those around it, often leaving people in awe of its beauty. It is no coincidence then, that one of the most renowned works of ballet is Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and is it only one mention in a long list of creative culture dedicated to using the swans symbolism in different ways to portray a wide variety of emotions and metaphors. Although the basis for its symbolism remains tied to light and love, it also has its ties to tragedy, loss and metamorphosis, with the swan often being a muse for tragic poetry, literature and art.
Table of Contents
- Different Symbolisation of the White Swan
- Swan Symbolism in Dreams
- Swan Symbolism in Different Cultures
- The Black Swan Symbolism
- Swans as Symbolical Spirit Animals
Different Symbolisation of the White Swan
Many cultures throughout the world have symbolism attached to nature’s creatures. Usually, these beliefs have deeper roots; some attached to religion, others attached to folklore. Animals share a close bond with us, and many times their sudden presence, whether in dreams or reality, has been used to provide comfort in times of uncertainty – even to warn or guide us in what’s to come ahead.
1. Swan Symbolising Intuition & Change
The swan is connected to the elements of the water and its elegant way of floating through it. Because of this, they are often closely related to the idea of intuition and change, always going with the flow of the water and finding tranquility in its energy.
2. Swan Symbolising Love & Protection
Swans are highly monogamous animals that mate for life. Due to this, they have become synonymous with loyalty and love. Many cultures believe that an interaction or a sudden appearance of a swan in one’s life symbolizes the meeting of a soulmate or the reassurance that your relationship is strong and filled with loyalty and trust.
Mother swans are also known to be incredibly protective of their cygnets, and this fierce protection is sometimes translated into the symbolism of a swan.
3. Swan as a Symbol of Transformation
The white swan and its representation of transformation is another symbol of the creature that has been referenced in many of our literary works.
The swan is born looking nothing like its final form. Through its growth, it changes into something unrecognizable. This transformation is often associated with the story of The Ugly Duckling, and has become one of the more popular symbols for the swan’s journey and how it relates to the transformations many of us undergo throughout our own lives.
Swan Symbolism in Dreams
Dream interpretation can be tricky, as many cultures have their own set of rules regarding certain appearances and what they could possibly mean.
Generally, the swan’s symbolism encompasses a wide variety of traits, premonitions and qualities. To dream of a swan symbolizes grace, wealth, prestige, dignity and beauty. It could represent a surprising turn of events in your personal life or a blessing in disguise – something that has presented itself as an obstacle could soon reveal itself to be something that happens in your favor.
1. Dreaming of a Lone Swan
To see a swan floating across the water could be seen as guidance to continue to act with grace and dignity through the challenges that you face, or reassurance that your choice of taking the high road in a situation has not gone unnoticed, and that the swan’s appearance is a sign that a reward is waiting for you due to your perseverance.
2. Dreaming of Two Swans
Swans are known to mate for life. And so, having a dream of interaction with two swans could be a premonition of your own love life, and what’s to come. Spotting two swans together is a symbol of true love, an unfolding romance, or a good omen of a long-lasting and happy relationship with your partner. It is also a representation of the trust and loyalty that is shared between two people in love.
3. Dreaming of a Flock of Swans
A flock of swans symbolizes a gathering of many loved ones. Although there could be many reasons for such a gathering, this is mainly a positive dream that suggests there will be cause for celebration with the people you care about.
4. Dreaming of Being Attacked by a Swan
Even though swans are seen as tranquil and elegant creatures, they are also protective of themselves. If you are being chased or attacked by a swan in a dream, it could symbolize jealousy from someone in your life, or that a decision you’re making is leaving someone unhappy due to a lack of understanding for your reasoning surrounding this decision.
Swan Symbolism in Different Cultures
1. Swan Symbolism in Native American Culture
Many Native tribes have strong symbolism connected to birds, and swans are not excluded.
In many old native societies, swans held a sacred position amongst the other animals, their feathers often being used for ceremonies or to decorate people in important positions, such as shamans. The items decorated with swan feathers were often believed to have healing, protective and magical qualities. Swans also symbolize harmony and the ability to endure with grace and purity in your heart. Some tribes even associate the beautiful birds with the sky, as a symbol of bringing along the winds of change.
2. Swan Symbolism in Roman and Greek Culture
In Ancient Rome, swans were closely connected to Apollo, the god of prophecy, poetry and music. As a result of this, the swan has been included in multiple works of literature and poetry throughout time. In Ancient Greece, the swans were associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. This in turn, has also strengthened the swan symbolism of love and togetherness.
3. Swan Symbolism in Southeast Asian & Indian Culture
Many countries in Southeast Asia, such as Japan and China tell ancient tales of swans being creatures of the mystical world, who have a pure soul and love to play tricks. They also symbolize protection: when a swan appears, you can expect to encounter the light-hearted energy of a child.
In the beliefs of Hinduism, the egg of a swan is believed to be the origin of the gods. And thus, swans symbolize great respect, intelligence and peace. The God Vishnu, who is in Hinduism, believed to be the protector of the universe can often be seen portrayed riding a swan.
4. Swans symbolism in the English Folklore and Contemporary
Swans have been deemed as royal animals in Britain for centuries, and are considered sacred to the highest degree. This is reflected in the laws that have been made regarding swans in this region, in which you are not allowed to kill, hunt or touch swans without permission. For many years, the royal family was the only ones who were entitled to have ownership over the animal. There, the swan symbolizes regality due to their stature, beauty and grace. They are seen as animals fit only to be in the presence of the highest classes of society.
The Black Swan Symbolism
The black swan is a much rarer breed of the swan and is not spotted regularly. Maybe this is the reason for its controversial symbolism. The black swan, in many cultures, represents the exact opposite of the white swan.
Where the white swan represents beauty, grace and love, the black swan represents catastrophic change, danger and sometimes even evil.
1. Black Swan as a Symbol of Rarity & Surprise
Considering the black swan is a rare breed, it’s closely tied to the same symbolism of the traits we often give to “the black sheep”. The black swan symbolizes rare events in society or our personal life, popping up when they are least expected and going against the crowd. The element of surprise can be traced back to ancient times when most people believed there were no black swans in existence, and thus spotting one in the wild usually come with many surprises.
2. Black Swan as an Individuality Symbol
Whereas the white swan is a symbol of love, partnership and devotion, the black swan stands proudly as the symbol of individuality and power.
It is seen as more persistent and courageous than its twin, and not afraid to go against the flow of the water. Black swans often symbolize the people that refuse to conform to society’s rules and traditions.
3. Black Swan as the Symbol of Metamorphosis
Metamorphosis is most commonly credited to the black swan. Although the black swan is sometimes seen as a symbol of mystery and ill intention, due to its rarity; it is strongly connected to big changes and transformations, as well as the ability to let go of the old and explore the new.
Swans as Symbolical Spirit Animals
What is a Spirit Animal?
The true meaning of a spirit animal refers to certain spiritual traditions and/or cultures. A spirit animal is often seen as a guide that is meant to lead or protect a person on their spiritual journey into becoming the most fulfilled version of themselves. Usually a spirit animal shares or embodies traits with the person it is tied to.
The Swan as the Symbol of the Spirit Animal
The swan is believed to have the ability to offer you protection from others, but also from yourself as the swan symbolizes change and transformation. The swan seeks to teach you acceptance, courage, and how to remain fluid through times of change and surprise.
It is often seen as a creature that has the ability to travel through realms, possesses great wisdom and intuition, and has come to teach you the power of persevering with tranquility and grace through all challenging stages of life. The swan also channels the power of community, and helps in guiding you towards the right people. It speaks to the parts of you that look for true love and companionship, and reminds you that you are the better version of yourself when you are surrounded by loyalty, love and trust, regardless of what form it may take in terms of partnership, family or friendship.