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Tattoo designs - S >> Swans

Swan tattoo designsSwan Tattoos - Symbol of serenity and grace, the snow-white swan is also the symbol of love and war. Regal and powerful, the largest of all waterfowl is the most favoured bird of gods and saints, kings, knights and maidens. Wherever the swan's presence has graced open lakes, rivers and marshes, it has given rise to myth and lore. It has even found itself a place amongst the heavenly constellations, as Cygnus the Swan, or the Northern Cross. It's bright appearance in summer and autumn skies has made it a friend to mariners through the ages. A powerful symbol of both the masculine and feminine, the swan is one of the most anthropomorphized creatures in folklore and legend.

In Greek legend, the swan drew the chariot of Apollo across the heavens, while in Celtic myth a pair of swans steered the Sun Chariot. As Apollo's sacred bird, the swan appeared on coins around 400 BC. Bronze Age jewelry in the shape of a swan has been excavated from burial chambers dating back to 1500 BC. For Northern Europeans of that era, the swan was a solar symbol, its long neck representing the rays of the sun.


In heraldry, the swan is the symbol of music, despite it being a silent bird. It represents poetry and harmony, and a knight who professed a love of music incorporated the swan into his shield's charge or design. In England it remains the emblem of the River Thames and is protected by Royal Charter. For Caesar, the swan became his emblem of war after his victory over Mark Anthony.

Native Americans regard the swan as the symbol of grace, serenity, innocence, trust and submission. It was also a sky symbol, able to call up the four winds at the behest of the Great Spirit. In Christian myth, the pristine beauty and grace of the swan was compared to the Virgin Mary and the grace poured down upon her by the Holy Ghost. A darker interpretation suggests that beneath all those white feathers lurks ugly black feet -- a symbol of hypocrisy.

The swan was a vehicle of transformation favoured by various deities to accomplish a divine plan or to intervene in human affairs. The Indian deity, Vishnu, shape-shifted into a swan after a devotee implored the god to save his cattle from predators. The cowherd's prayers were answered when the great bird swooped down from the sky and drove off the predator - a turtle! A very big turtle, according to folklore.

Leonard DaVinci is said to have been inspired by the Greek legend of Leda and the Swan.

The myth tells of Zeus conspiring to cozy up with the lovely Leda, wife of the king of Sparta. He transformed himself into a swan and faked a mid-air collision with an eagle, so as to fall from the sky into the lap of the beautiful Leda, who then comforted the wounded swan. Gods will have their way, and Leda was seduced and ravaged by
Zeus. Leda later gave birth to Helen of Troy, and to the Trojan wars that came in her wake.

Swan Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!Get inspired by some really great images and photos in our Swan Inspiration Gallery

See also: Bird Tattoo Index, Love Tattoo Index

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Tattoo designs - S >> Swans

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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