Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Winter Solstice Six Swans

21 Dec 04 Winter Solstice Six Swans

Seven Sisters

"One day the great hunter Orion saw the Pleiads (perhaps with their mother, or perhaps just one of them; see Merope above) as they walked through the Boeotian countryside, and fancied them. He pursued them for seven years, until Zeus answered their prayers for delivery and transformed them into birds (doves or pigeons), placing them among the stars. "

The Pleiades Star Cluster

The Six Swans are in the original Grimm collection of Household Tales of 1812. They cited sources as Die sieben Schwane from Feenmarchen published by Braunschweig in 1801. Similar tales include the Seven Ravens which appears also in the Grimm collection. Others are Twelve Brothers, Twelve Wild Ducks and Wild Swans that appears in Andersen's tales. Add to this the Twelve Dancing Princesses which has the ladies descending to a netherworld to wear out their shoes each night.

The stories probably are derived from ancient sources; the most notable is that of Proserpina who was abducted from earth by Hades while she was gathering flowers with her mother, Ceres. Hades, King of the Underworld didn't much appreciate his bachelorhood and had no interest in the wraiths that shadowed his land. Apparently they were so thin that he put his hand through them or could get a proper grip on their waists, and they were probably ticklish in bed. Whatever the reason, he nabbed Prosepina and dragged her under into darkness, leaving her mother disconsolate on earth. For this reason, the year is divided into seasons, as Ceres mourns the months that Proserpina must return to be with her self-imposed husband. Ceres wandered the whole earth in search of ehr, but finally went to Zeus to beg intercession and strrong arm his brother. Zeus, not wishing too many conflicts with his brooding sibling became diplomatic:

Metamorphoses Bk 5 Story of Proserpina and Hades

"The girl shall rise to heaven on one condition—
That is, if no food touched her lips in Hades
For this is the law commanded by the Fates.

He had his say, but Ceres was determined
To claim her daughter, yet the Fates said No.
But Proserpina, guiless, innocent,
Had taken refuge in Death's formal gardens
And, as she strolled there,plucked a dark pomegranate,
Unwrapped its yellow skin, and swallowed seven
Of its blood-purpled seeds."

Ovid, The Metamorphoses Book V, p155
transl by Horace Gregory, Mentor Books 1960

In the Grimm's tale, a forlorn king is lost deep in the woods. On condition of finding his way out, he consents to marry the witch's daughter, but:

"The King had already been married once, and had by his first wife seven children, six boys and one girl, whom he loved more than anything in the world.

Although it is not immediately apparent, the two stories are probably related. The hidden problem might be the shift from a lunar to solar calendar which can be found in Grimm's version of the six swans. There are seven children, one female and six boys. The boys vanish cursed as swans into the wide world. On hearing their mysterious disappearance the sister determines to find and redeem them. The task is arduous. She must remain mute for six years and weave shirts from star flowers. Fate intervenes in the form of a King determined to marry her. Her silence is attributed to witchcraft. When she gives birth, her children are stolen. Condemned to die as a witch by fire, she is still feverishly mute, trying to finish the sleeve of the last shirt of star flowers.As the fire is lit, the swans appear.

How many moons are there in a Lunar calendar and months to a solar year? Hence the youngest brother receives an incomplete shirt and is transformed once more into a human being, but deformed by a wing. Six and half doubled make up the thirteenth moon, while the six swans might represent the months of a solar half year. A beginning astrologist might split the circle into upper and lower halves, explaining that the center top is the zenith while the opposite pole is the nadir. The top is governed by the sun representing success and fullness of life, but at the opposite extreme lay the hardships and darkness a person endures. In one version, the brothers live double lives, during the day they are swans, but transformed back into humans at night, revealing its relationship to astrology and astronomy. As a transformation story, it symbolizes the ability of the soul to transcend the hardships of this world to enter the world-to-come.

Despite the loss of her three children and the accusations of being a witch, the sister remains faithful to her brothers even to the point of suffering a horrible death. She does not allow her emotions to be split amongst her children, husband or brothers. Superficially this looks easy, but how easy is it to remain silent when people speak evil of you? How easy is it to be torn in alliances between a husband and siblings? More than one marriage has been torn to shreds as a result of family bickering and antagonism of a family against a husband or wife. As social creatures, we seek the affection and acceptance of others, making compromises as it is necessary to maintain stable relationships. When the fire is lit, the brothers circle above her. Is it magic? No, not really. She has spent the six years loyally mute and completed the demanding task of the six shirts with the exception of a sleeve. The fire quenched, she begins a new life, filled with the rewards she deserved from her self-imposed labor. Although many like to preach about heaven, just as many forget that to enter that state, they must first die. In fairytales, the transition is quickly made as the characters transcend their hardships on earth and enter Paradise on earth.

The Wild Swans by Judith M Warren
a lovely illustration

Classical Sources

Pluto et Proserpina

transl Dryden, Ovid's Metamorphoses Book V

Orpheus Myth

Kline, A. S., (poetry translation) “Ovid, The Metamorphoses
full downloadable Metamorphoses in .pdf with index and hyperlinked text for quick searching.

University of Virginia Etext: Ovid Metamorphoses

Ovid Metamorphoses
Golding complete text
The Fifteen Books of Ovid's Metamorphoses, 1567
The first translation into English - credited to Arthur Golding

Latin Search Engine


Sur la Lune Index Illustrations

Grimm Six Swans
illustrated with engravings

Grimms Six Swans 1812 edition
trans Ashlimann plain text

Sur la Lune Six Swans

Sur la Lune, The Wild Swans

Sur La Lune, Seven Ravens by Grimm

Wild Swans by Andersen

An Analysis of "The Wild Swans" and "The Eleven Swans"

Andrew Lang, Red Fairy Book--Twelve Brothers and Twelve Dancing Princess

contents of the Yellow Fairy Book

Yellow Fairy Book: Six Swans

Andrew Lang, Yellow Fairy Book –Six Swans
nightingale steadfast tin soldier tinderbox emperor's new clothes
glass mountain and more

Grimms Household Tales transl Edward Taylor 1812
in plain text with notes

Planet PDF Grimm's Fairy Tales
and much more for .pdf

HCA: Fairytales and Stories transl H. P. Paull (1872)
168 stories in fulltext

HCA Center
http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/liv/minibio/skole_e.html schooling


Kay Nielsen Six Swans


NGC 1999: Reflection Nebula in Orion
my fav pic

Moon and Planets Sky
Mars Venus Mood and Pleiades


Seven Sisters
Pleiades- peleiades, `flock of doves', consistent with the sisters' mythological transformation.

"The Pleiad(e)s were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, and half-sisters of the Hyades, whose mother was Æthra (`bright sky'; a different Æthra than the mother of Theseus). They were perhaps also half-sisters of the Hesperides, who were daughters of either Night alone, or Atlas and Hesperis (`evening'), or Ceto and Phorcys"

the male counterparts also exist in mythology as the seven Hyades or rainmakers.

Cygnus Nebulosities

Cygnus loop

Cygnus Loop Shockwave

Other Andersen in Suite Fairytales

20 June 05 The Nightingale Art vs Artifice

18 June 05 HCA The Nightingale

17 April 2005 HCA Tin Soldier

21 Dec 03 Little Match Girl

14th Dec 03 Fir Tree by HCA

7 Dec 03 Snow Queen

1 November The Silence of Longing p2
reposted on 3d November was deleted


1 November The Silence of Longing p1

24 October The Waterline p1

24 October The Waterline Going Deeper p2

24 October 2003 The Waterline: Drowning p3

21 October 2003 The Mermaid

22 June 2003 The Ugly Duckling


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