The Twelve Wild Swans
The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing and Action by Starhawk and Hilary Valentine came out in 2001. The Twelve Wild Swans is an introduction to a mature level of Wicca called “reclaiming,” a model of witchcraft that blends magic, personal growth, and activism.
Starhawk is one of the most respected voices in modern Goddess religion and earth-based spirituality. She is the author or coauthor of twelve books, including the classics The Spiral Dance and The Fifth Sacred Thing.
Starhawk and Valentine have adapted an ancient fairy tale in which a foolish queen wishes to exchange her 12 sons for a daughter. An old woman “dressed all in black” overhears the queen and makes the wish come true, granting the queen a daughter but turning her sons into wild swans. Their sister weaves magic shirts to turn them back into men.
The twelve sons represent the twelve houses of the zodiac. The Rose is the 13th and completes the lunar cycle. The situation is not Rose’s fault, but only she can heal it. What is magic but changing consciousness at will. Drugs and meditation can also create these magical states of mind.
Why is Rose important? Because if we learn to live our lives like Rose, we may find that we are able to solve problems that seemed impossible before. She walked away from the old Castle and we can walk away from unhealthy relationships.
Like the Swan brothers we must break our wicked vows of revenge, anger and unhealthy feelings. The Swan brothers desire to kill their sister—who is a woman like the woman who is the cause of their suffering. But she is also their only hope of escape. In this way they meet their shadow selves.
Rose is carried away in a wicker basket to Avalon, the land of Fata Morgana. She is now in the magical realm. Ecstasy can occur when we let the power move us. Dance the balance between risks and boundaries, between containing our power and letting it loose, between holding a strong intention and letting ourselves be carried away.
The weaving is a symbol of creating a mystery, a circle of safety and spell work. It can create ecstasy like group chanting. Rose now has a challenge. She has to weave the shirt out of nettles. The shirts are symbolic of the souls of her brothers. She takes a vow of silence like a priestess. For great works of magic require dedication. For us we need to have great dedication to our creative work and to healing.
We can hold our center and find our power within like Rose. We can focus on ourselves and our worth despite loss, pain and jealousy. We can maintain our work on our self for our personal growth and healing. We may listen to criticism for Criticism can be a gift if we truly listen.
The 12 swans come to Rose’s aid because she was willing to help her, just as the earth and other animals may help us along on our journey. The transformation of the swans back into boys is symbolic of rebirth. We can transform ourselves and be reborn. As we gather power, we must also face our fears though.