In modern times, the swan is a symbol for romance, fidelity, marriage and commitment. Divorce is rare among swans and only occurs if a mate passes away or if there is a nesting failure.
As a species, the swan is committed to creating a family unit that will voyage through the world together. Swans live unusually long lives. They are large birds and despite their fragile appearance, they possess the ability to stand their ground regardless of the environment they find themselves in; be it in the water, on land or in the arms of the Sky Father.
The English word swan is etymologically linked to an Indo-European word that means ‘to sound’ or ‘to sing’. In Hinduism, the swan is a vahana vehicle that is shared by Goddess Saraswati and Lord Brahma. In Sanskrit, the swan is known as hamsa. The mythological hamsa is said to reside atop the snow clad Himalayas. The hamsa represents the Soul’s yearning to reach the highest peaks on earth as well as go beyond it.
The swan is thus a symbol for ambition, commitment and striving for that which appears out of reach… till it arrives on your doorstep.
The Value of Wisdom
To arrive at that peak which is seemingly out of reach requires tremendous wisdom. Courage and valour alone are not enough. It takes enormous sacrifice. We are commanded to surrender the past and the present for a future that is uncertain. By overcoming fear and staying stable in the face of uncertainty, we begin to attain wisdom. It is this wisdom that we are seeking whether we are consciously aware of it or not.
When we finally attain wisdom, we are able to answer the question, “What is my purpose?” Maturity is needed to arrive at a place where we are able to look at who we are and who we are not. It is how we slowly and surely become who we are destined to be.
It is looking at the mirror one day and finally saying, “Is that me? Is that really me?” The ugly ducking has indeed transformed into a beautiful swan. Young swans are nowhere near as beautiful as their mature selves. It is a powerful symbol for blooming late into something far more beautiful and unexpected than what you ever could have imagined.
In Hinduism, swans are a symbol for freedom. They represent the peak of our awareness as well as our achievements. They represent the ascension process of the Soul and its ability to reach for a higher path, even if the individual has suffered tremendous loss and made many sacrifices along the way.
Sacrifice is a strong theme in swan wisdom. The hamsa makes a singular choice that it sticks to for the rest of its life. It has to sacrifice many lower desires to do so. The swan calls on us to commit and to do so wholeheartedly.
As a migratory bird, the swan is a symbol for migration–both on earth as well as of our consciousness. The bird, however, never travels alone; but with the rest of his family. At the same time, the relationship that one has with Oneself is also important on this journey. People who suffer from poor self-image make terrible partners and friends.
In Hinduism, the swan is a symbol for the higher self. The term Parahamsa Great Swan is used to refer to extremely wise people who are self-realised. They know who they are and what they are meant to do during their short sojourn on earth. The swan is a symbol for unity of the self with the Self as well as soul mate partnerships. It speaks of any loving bond that is enduring and that does not break easily–a relationship with a beloved on earth as well as our relationship with the Divine.
Swan wisdom reminds us that we will never have to choose one over the other. But we will only know that when we become very wise.
If we have chosen to be alone out of fear of losing our freedom, Swan wisdom is here to remind us that we are free. In Vedic astrology, swans are associated with the Ashwini Nakshatra–the divine twins. They represent new beginnings, new births and a new purpose. The swan is a family-oriented bird. Swans are highly protective of their nests and will not shy away from viciously attacking anything or anyone they perceive as a threat to their young.
It is a strong symbol for unions that are blessed by the Divine.