Monday, January 28

Brigid & Sacred Swans

A painted drum head owned by Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, a Pagan organization based in Wisconsin. 

Brigid is a goddess whose reach seems endless at times.  She governs over warriors, mothers, and crones.  She inspires blacksmiths and crafters and weavers and stoneworkers.  She is a goddess of wishes, a goddess of fire, and a goddess of inner wisdom.  Wolves, ravens, and snakes are precious animals to this ancient matron, as are swans.


Swan Stories


[img souce: Amazon]
There is a story, retold in many forms, of a maiden and her brothers who cast out into the harsh world.  The men are cursed to roam this world as swans until the girl can accomplish a task given to her from various sources.  This story has been retold, altered, and shifted from Celtic lands to Shamanic tribes to Russian fairytales to African mythology to the story books of the Grimm Brothers (who on occasion changed the birds to ravens) and Hans Christian Anderson.  There often features an evil step-mother or queen who banishes the children from their home and curses the brothers to take the form of swans.  The girl must either sew shirts or create flax mail or uphold some form of vow (6 years of silence or to eat only what a pigeon eats) before her brothers would be released from their curse and the world returned to normal for the young girl. 

[img source: photobucket]
In Norse mythology, the Valkyries were said to be able to turn themselves into swans with the help of a feathered cloak or coat.  This falls right in line with the idea of swans as bridges to the Otherworld.

In Greek mythology swans are sacred to the god Apollo and associated with the bringing of light to the world.

Swans are almost universally a symbol for grace, beauty, and inner light.  This can be seen even in children's tales like "The Ugly Duckling".

In Celtic mythology, swans are harbingers of spring and icons of the Goddess Brigid as both represent light returning to the world.






Cygnus


[img source: Philologos]
The constellation Cygnus is better known as the swan constellation.  It is mainly comprised of the stars found within the Northern Cross pattern (Deneb, Gienah, Sadr, Delta Cygni, Alberio) but gets its swan shape from dozens of other stars and clusters in that region.

The constellation is named for the significance of the swan in Greek mythology, although which story it is specifically linked to is vague.  In order to seduce Leda, a beautiful Spartan queen, Zues transformed himself into a swan.  Leda gave birth to four children after this, including Helen of Troy and Gemini.  Orpheus, after his death, was said to be transformed into a swan and placed in the sky beside his golden lyre (a harp).

Celebrating the Swan


This Imbolc, you can honor Brigid with your children by honoring her sacred animals.  To honor the swan, you could choose to read aloud one of the above swan myths or opt for the more child-friendly "Ugly Duckling".

I personally prefer Anderson's Ugly Duckling story for children as the tale of inner beauty triumphing over outwards appearances is a clear and meaningful lesson for children these days.  Also, as of this week, there is a free version downloadable for the Kindle from Ripple Digital Publishing.  This should be useable for the Kindle App available for computers as well.  Or, make use of your local library to find dozens of versions of this story available for free.



[img source: Swan Party]
A swan shaped cake would be loads of fun and simple to make by trimming a few inches off the top and assembling them into the neck and head of a swan.  Touch it up with icing for the eyes and beak.  Finish by dusting with flaked coconut or edible shimmer/glitter.

Similarly, you could ice cupcakes with blue frosting for "water" and cut out a swan shape from an index card.  Use this as a stencil for  dusting the tops of your cupcakes with powdered sugar or coconut, leaving a white swan shape.

[img source: Barbara Bakes]
 If you're feeling up to some high-skilled baking, these swan-shaped cream puffs may interest you.  Check out a beautifully detailed blog post about these on Barbara Bakes.

[img source: Spoonful]

Pine cones, pipe cleaners, feathers, and a hot glue gun are all it really takes to make these adorable little swan altar decorations.   Find instructions at Spoonful!


[img source: Swan Party]
If you live in an area where it's warm outside in early February, you could try to have a swan/goose shaped pinata filled with caramels and other creamy treats (dairy is a traditional Imbolc indulgence).

[img source: Education.com]
If you're in an area where gardening is already an option, give this swan milk jug planter a try!  Instructions can be found at Education.com.

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