Spreading our wings as we glide across the mythical landscape, distant wonders seem to drop into view. Ancient cultures from around the world address similar symbolic attributes, a ‘language’ that speaks across both time and space. One of the oldest of these (according to Robert Graves) goes back to that of the ‘Cosmic Egg‘ in which we all live. Pan-Ku of Chinese fame was said to have been born of the Egg. Vishnu was said to sleep on the back of a great serpent, contained within the Cosmic Egg. Odin was said to have split the Cosmic Egg in half with his sword, the upper half becoming the sky above, and the lower half the Earth itself. Indeed, our planetariums still resemble the upper half of the dome-shaped egg. The Pelasgian Creation Myth speaks of Eurynome laying the Universal Egg, out of which tumbled “All Things that exist…“, while the Dogon Creation Myth spoke of
This ‘world view’ of the Egg is what we see when we look up into the dome of the sky, and it was a sky shared by everyone. To be ‘Born of the Egg’ was to be born of this time period. According to Greek myth, Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan, impregnating her, and she ‘gave birth’ to the Egg, from out of which emerged the Dioscuri, Castor and Polydeuces, better known for their Latin names, Castor and Pollux, the Twins. The cap which they wear is said to be the remains of the shell of the Egg from which they were born.
Zeus (the sky) in the form of a Swan (Cygnus) came down to ‘visit’ Leda, and so sired the legendary offspring during the time mythologically (through the oral tradition) selected. Much later in the chronological record, Zeus in the form of a Bull (the sky in the form of a Bull, as the Vernal Equinox moved through the constellation Taurus), sires the Minoan culture.
From their work ‘Island of the Setting Sun, In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers’ (by Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore), we find a ‘new’ proposition that it was the chief stars of Cygnus the Swan as they reached down and ‘kissed’ the northern horizon due to precession, and then slowly began to back away from the horizon, regaining its otherwise circumpolar status.
In the tale of the ‘Pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne‘ from the Ossianic Cycle‘, Newgrange is woven into the Web, forming an ‘Heaven and Earth’ connection, or a material and spiritual connection. Newgrange forms a legendary portion of that bridge, and it surrounded by Swans. From their book:
“Perhaps the most famous of swan myths, apart that is from the tragic tale of the Children of Lir, is the romantic tale of Aonghus, the mythical owner of Newgrange, and Caer, the otherworldly swan maiden…”
“Aonghus was a mythical chieftain of the Tuatha De Danann, which was the principal race of the otherworld- the gods- in ancient Irish mythology. He resided at Bru na Boinne, specifically at the tumulus of Newgrange, and was often referred to as “Aongjus an Bhrogha” or “Oengus of the Bru“. His father was the Daghdha, the “good god”, a principal deity of the Tuatha De Danann, and his mother was Boann, the moon/milky Way/river goddess. The story recalls how Aonghus dreamed of a woman and fell madly in love with her. He eventually found her in the shape of a swam and they flew together to Newgrange, where they remained together, presumably happily ever after.”
In another tale, from a text called Aislinge Oenguso (“The Vision of Aonghus”) we read about a dramatic and romantic swan story. It tells how Aonghus fell madly in love with a maiden who visited him while he slept. She appeared to him in his dreams for a year, and all this time he could not touch her because she would disappear. The story describes how he becomes sick with love…
“Aonghus enlisted the help of his father, the Daghdha, who in turn sought out Bodhbh, who was the Tuatha De Danann king of Munster. Bodhbh revealed that the maiden was Caer Iobharmheith, and brought Aonghus to meet her at Loch Beal Dragan (Lake of the Dragon’s Mouth) in Tipperary. Bodhbh explaine how Caer was from Sidh Uamhain, an “otherworld residence” in Connacht.”
“Caer’s father revealed to the Deghdha that his daughter went in the forms of a bird and a girl on alternate years. He told the Daghdha that Caer would be found in the form of a swan, accompanied by 150 swans, all linked together by a silver chain…”
“When Aonghus went to Caer, he was transformed into a swan. They embraced each other, flew three times around the lake and then “flew together to Brugh na Boinne and put the dwellers of that place to sleep with their beautiful singing. Caer remained with Aonghus in the Brugh after that.”
Two clues link us back to the dualistic theme of Gemini, to the twins born of the Time of the Egg. First, the beautiful daughter alternates, back and forth (one and two), between bird and girl. Secondly, this myth brings in the element of the Dragon’s mouth (‘…would be found in the form of a swan at the Lake of the Dragon’s Mouth the following Samhain (November)), one of the two ‘New Year’ celebrations of the Celts.
For those of you who have been following, Center and Circle.