Totem Talk

Working With The Animal Totems

Spirit of the SWAN: Grace, Beauty, Power of Self, Elegance, Confidence, Loyalty, Commitment. Represents the Soul, and connection to the Other Worlds.

In Celtic mythology, having mastered life on land, air and water, swans are also associated with healing, growth and fertility.



Swan's Wisdom Includes:

*Power of Self
*Ability to see the future
*Teaches the mysteries of song and poetry
*Bridge between the mundane and the extraordinary
*Mating for life -- honoring commitments
*Helps process emotions efficiently
*New Dreams and New Realms
*Swan reminds us that while we are manifesting new dreams and exploring new realms we must maintain balance thus making every day one of beauty and promise.

Swan as a totem is strong medicine. Swans are graceful, strong, and tend to live a very long life. For this reason the swan as a totem represents grace, strength, and longevity. As a species swans mate for life. A swan showing up can indicate the one you are with, or someone you are soon to meet is a soul-mate. The swan teaches that there is beauty in all things. As an archetype, the swan begins life as an "ugly ducking" and yet emerges into a beauty when full grown. This children's story is a tale of soul-growth and also teaches inner beauty. The swan's message may very well be that things are not as they appear outwardly. Look beyond the obvious.

The Swan

Graceful elegant birds the swan seems to glide through the water leaving hardly a ripple behind. Its persuasive beauty reminds us to move gently through the currents of life and not battle them.

Swans are one of the fastest fliers. During migration they fly in V formations at great heights. Their wing beats are slow but steady. This gives them the endurance needed to reach their destination quickly without tiring. Those with this totem have the same abilities and should observe, then apply, the movements of swan when pursuing goals.

The swans large wings embrace the sky collecting and storing knowledge from the heavens. Their white plumage reminds us of the wonder and innocence found in the purity of spirit. Their long slender necks serve as a bridge between the mundane and the extraordinary. Upon this bridge lies the wisdom for spiritual realization.

The swan mates for life. Courtship involves mutual bill dipping or head-to-head posturing. They are committed devoted partners. In personal relationships humans make commitments they cannot keep. By applying swans skills in our life we begin to honor what we have chosen. This in itself is a powerful lesson for those who hold this medicine. Honoring commitments increase ones personal integrity.

While feeding, swans do not dive into the water like other birds. They skim its surface dipping themselves in and out. In man, water is associated with the feminine principal of intuition and emotion. By following the lead of the swan we learn how to view our emotions without getting trapped by them. Our intuition helps us understand our feelings and the swan helps us process them efficiently.

Swans are sociable birds with a long life span. They live about 20 years in the wild and 50 years or more in captivity. The swan is a totem that teaches us grace through movement and longevity through inner knowledge. When we look upon the swan it invokes a feeling of tranquility in us and reminds us to experience the beauty and magic of life.

The Swan

Swan of beauty, swan of grace
A queen among her ancient race
She glides across the mirrored lake
No ripple does the surface break


The swan is a totem of beauty and grace. As in the story of the Ugly Duckling, it connotes inner beauty as well. If Swan is your totem animal, you are emotionally sensitive, and empathic towards the feelings of others, and you draw people to you. The pure white swan is a solar symbol, whereas the Australian Black Swan is a nocturnal symbol. The swan, with its long neck, acts as a bridge between the worlds, making it an oracular bird. Being a cool weather bird, its direction is North. Swans are excellent totems for children, those connected to the Fairy Realm, poets, bards, mystics, and dreamers. (Animal Speak, page 196)


The swan is master of the elements Earth, Air and Water, and is and excellent guide to the therapeutic powers of these elements. Many healers use a swan feather in smudging and healing ceremonies. A swan feather tied to an instrument such as a harp would be a powerful adjunct to music therapy.


In the Medicine Cards, pulling the Swan card tells you to “accept your ability to know what lies ahead, pay attention to your hunches, gut knowledge, and female intuitive side.” (Medicine Cards, page 194) Reversed, the Swan card means you are not grounded, not paying attention to your intuition, or the Unseen. The authors suggest that you “notice your surroundings, and touch the Earth; be still and focus on one reality or the other - the Dreamtime or the mundane world; stop the clutter in your mind and listen; or focus on a physical activity that will ground you.” (Medicine Cards, page 195)

In Celtic lore, pulling the swan card can mean poetic inspiration from the Otherworld. It can also mean an enduring love is entering into your life. Many swan tales have to do with sad partings, separation, and suffering loss with grace. Swan can be a symbol of transformation. Swan often indicates a soul level experience about to commence.

Native American tradition

According to Jamie Sams and David Carson, who collected Native American tales from elders in the Choctaw, Lakota, Seneca, Aztec, Yaqui, Cheyenne, Cherokee, Iroquois, and Mayan traditions, Swans represented “Grace”.

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.”

Celtic Tradition

In Celtic tradition the Swan is associated with deities of healing waters and the sun. They are associated with music, love, purity and the soul. They are shape-shifters, can take human form, and have mastered the elements of water, earth and air. They can always be recognized by the gold or silver chain that hangs around their neck.

Among Druids, the Swan represents the soul, and is associated with the Festival of Samhain. The swan aids us in traveling to the Otherworld. Swans are also sacred to Bards, and their skin and feathers were used to make the tugen, the ceremonial Bardic Cloak.


The swan is one of the most powerful and ancient of totems. This is reflected even in its name. It is one of the oldest names in the English Language, and it has come down un-changed since Anglo-Saxon times. The swan is a stately aquatic bird with a lock graceful neck and beautiful white plumage. It is the largest of all waterfowl. It feeds on soft water plants, and its bill is so sensitive that it serves as a feeler underwater. For those with this totem, the emotions will become more sensitive, and you will find yourself becoming more sensitive to the emotions of others as well. The swan is usually pure white (except for the bills and feet). This makes it a solar symbol. There is a black swan (Australian) and it is more of a nocturnal symbol. It is also considered a symbol of something rare and/or nonexistent. 

The neck of the swan is long and graceful. It is one of the swan's most distinguishing features. The neck is a bridge area between the head (higher realms) and the body (lower worlds). In the swan totem, as you begin to realize your true beauty, you unfold the ability to bridge to new realms and new powers. This ability to awaken to the inner beauty and bridge it to the outer worlds is part of what swan medicine can teach. It can show how to see the inner beauty within yourself or in others, regardless of outer appearances. When we are capable of this, we become a magnet to others. This is reflected in the familiar story by Hans Christian Anderrsen, "The Ugly Duckling." 

The swan is a cold-loving bird. They do not like the heat, and can stand the cold very well, as long as there is food. Those with this totem will find it easier to stand colder climates than warmer. Because of this, the swan also has ties to the direction of North, and its symbolism should be examined as well. The kind of swan and its characteristics will have significance unique to themselves and to you. The largest of all swans is the trumpeter. It is named for its loud, far-carrying call. The whistling swan is our most common. The sound it makes is actually more of a whoop than a whistle. The mute swan, best known in America, is named for the belief that it loses its voice as it reaches maturity. It is not truly voiceless, but it does epitomize the idea of strength through silence. 

Swans are powerful birds. They can break a man's arms with the beat of their wings, and they have strong bites as well. They are also devoted parents and they mate for life, and some live as long as 80 years. They reflect the power and longevity that is possible as we awaken to the beauty and power within ourselves. The swan is the totem of the child, the poet, the mystic, and the dreamer. Swans fill mythology and folklore, usually as traditional symbols of beauty and grace. Swans were sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. They were depicted pulling the chariot of Apollo. Zeus took the shape of a swan to make love to Ledo, a mortal - reflecting the ability of a swan to link different worlds and dimensions. 

The swan fills folklore and fairy tales. Many speak of young maidens who turn into swans by putting on the magic garment of a swan's skin. If the skin were found, the beautiful maiden had to remain human and marry whoever found the skin, or do their bidding. The swan thus has come to be a link the to the Faerie realm of life. Many of these tales involving swans ended tragically, hinting at the primal life-changing power of beauty when released freely. It hints of the control necessary to effectively work with such energy. 

From Greece comes the mystery of the swan song. This belief taught that the swan sang its most beautiful song just before it died. The swan song has come to be synonymous with poetic fancy. The swan can teach the mysteries of song and poetry, for these touch and child and beauty within.



When examining the symbolic meanings of the swan, one must take care to note the differences in color, from youth until a fully-matured adult. The scale ranges from black to grey to white, but the two extremes have the most prominent color symbolism tied to them.

White swans are symbolic of the traditional view of swans and their attributes, such as purity. These swans prompt us to purify ourselves. White swans in dreams are symbolic of cleansing and purifying ourselves and our lives. 

Black swans, on the other hand, speak of different themes. They indicate the more mysterious aspects of our deeper selves – the parts of ourselves that yearn to express things creatively. Holding with the theme of balance, the swan reminds us to tend to both aspects of our being. Black swans indicate deep mysteries within us that are longing to be set free to express themselves creatively - perhaps as Bridgid would have us do, in poetry or music.

The black swan is the harbinger of ‘things’ and/or events that will have monumental ‘culture changing’ potential!  It’s the answer to the notion that ‘something’s got to give’.  Or, that something big is bound to happen.

Significance and symbolism of Hamsa or Swan the Vehicle of Hindu Goddess Saraswati

Hamsa, or Swan, is the vehicle of Hindu Goddess Saraswathi. In Hinduism, Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, learning and art. Interestingly, a Hindu saint who rises above the thoughts of death and birth and constantly meditates on Brahman is referred as Parama Hamsa.

Swan symbolizes knowledge and self realization. 

A famous shloka on Hamsa talks about the symbolism and significance of this majestic bird.

"Oh! Hamsa! Being the auspicious vehicle of Goddess Saraswathi, you carry learning and art upon your shoulders. Give us that discriminating wisdom for which you are famous, such as your proverbial ability to separate the substance of milk from water."

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