Swans have a wonderful mythology. There’s a lot of very poetic writing about swans as symbols of love that I don’t really agree with (I don’t feel that any animal is just a “symbol of” anything, we are always more complicated than that), but, the swan maiden mythology is something that I feel a strong connection to. I am more sure that I have a swan (therian) nature than that I have a swan maiden nature, but, the mythology of swan maidens is very true and lovely to me.
A swan maiden is most happy when they are allowed to live their life as a swan. People try to capture them and keep them, by taking their cloaks, but they are always secretly hoping for the sky again. When they finally find what was stolen from them, they fly away without regret. Like swans, they don’t really have a strong feeling of human relationships. They do not owe anything to humans. They just see the relationship as a trap and something that keeps them from their free self, and quickly escape. As someone who is aromantic, and prefers to be quietly living my own life, the way I wish to, I very much identify with this.
I think, the swan maiden myth can tell a lot about life as otherkin or therian in general. We are people who know our nature, but society tries to capture us and take away the things that matter. “You’re too old to be reading those silly fantasy books! Pretending to be an animal is foolish! Learn to do things the normal ways!” But, we can’t be happy in that trapped life. As soon as we find that we have a right to these things, we take them and fly away from the traps that people put us in. We take the cloak of shapeshifting, and become the animal self again.
Of course, many people never find the cloak. They don’t realise that they can escape. And, some people who do, have more regrets than the swan maidens. They feel bad for the family they leave behind. They wonder, “is it really okay for me to do this, claim my old self? Perhaps they are right, that a self like this is foolish. Perhaps I should stay here and live with this normal family, who has done so much for me.”
But, you will never really be happy living a life that is not you. And, it is always okay to take back what was stolen from you. Have the heart of a swan maiden, and take the things that belong to you and fly away from those traps. Don’t let people say that, “you lived so long without those things, you don’t need them anyway”. You lived, but, it was a hard life, right? You would be so much happier if you had all the things you loved, right? If you were able to live in your own way, to use this life that was given to you, for you, as your gift from the universe, instead of letting other people tell you how to live your life?
I am glad to be a swan maiden. I am lucky, that I have a swan’s heart, and, I don’t feel regrets in flying away from things that trap me. The swan maiden story inspires me, it says that heroes can be people who stand up for their identities. Heroes can be people who practice self-care. Heroes can be people who know what is wrong with their lives and fix it. Heroes can be people who run away from danger. Heroes can be swan maidens.
About how the gods see me… that is something I have not heard yet. But, I believe the gods would know my true nature, and, the spirit world knows it. I believe that I can live as a swan, and do the work that swans are called to do. Right now, other than showing people beauty and magic, and protecting my family (birds), I’m still on a path to find out, what that is. If there is anything other. Of course, I’m happy if it’s just that, I enjoy that work, but, I also think I should keep asking. So, right now, that’s one thing I’m looking for in my spiritual study: the role of swans as kami in a way, what should someone who identifies as swan do.