Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gilded Swans



We have just released our new box, the “Gilded Swan”.  It has been so much fun to create and just in time for holiday giving or receiving!  It glints with gold that seems to shimmer in the light.  Filled with fun toys for any stitcher  to enjoy.  There is a beaded scissors fob which ends in a golden swan charm and attached to a beautiful pair of scissors. A swan waxer,  a tiny tri-fold with a thread counter bejeweled with another swan and holding a needle ready to start your stitching, a pin keep with beautiful jewel-topped pins and a 3” quick start/thread palette doing double work complete this set.  Just the right size, this 4” box can go anywhere you take your needlework.


So it has us thinking about the swans we enjoy on many of the samplers we see in historic needlework.  Why were they placed on the sampler and what was it a symbol of for the women who choose to stitch them?

The Swan has many meanings through history, not only in needlework but in various forms of artwork and folklore.


The Simply Samplers site has many motifs explained as well as lots of other wonderful information.


Swan: the bird of love and is associated with Venus and Cupid; also because it believed to sing sweetly when dying, it represents a good death; in Germanic mythology , being an attribute of Wotan, it is a creature of the sun, a bringer of light and life. It is the typical symbol of purity and of chance. Rare in the old samplers, it became more popular in the nineteenth century.

I think it is amazing when we think of some of the meanings regarding love and romance, that when you look and find the two swans together they create a heart.




Symbolic swan meaning continues the theme of transformation in the tale of the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson. Mislabeled from birth, the little duckling lives his life with the heroic heart of a swan. Indeed, after growing strong under the nurturing of kind humans, the duckling is set free, and sees its image for the first time in a reflective pool of water to discover he had “transformed” into a lovely swan.




Who doesn’t love this little fairy tale? It reminds us of our inherent glory, power and beauty (as the duckling was always a graceful swan). At the same time, the tale encourages us to have faith and have a persistent heart while pursuing the gifts that are our birthright.

Dreams hold many symbolic references.  White swans in dreams are symbolic of cleansing and purifying ourselves and our lives. Black swans indicate deep mysteries within us that are longing to be set free to express themselves creatively. Dreaming of a swan may signify self-transformation, intuition, sensitivity, the soul.

For many cultures the white swan is a symbol of light, both as a feminine symbol of the moon and a masculine symbol of the sun. In Greek mythology, the swan has been linked to Apollo, to Zeus who took the shape of a swan to seduce Leda, to Aphrodite and Artemis who were sometimes shown accompanied by swans.
 Leda and Zeus (as a Swan), ''El Prado'' Museum, Madrid. Photo by Alejandro B├írcenas

Many cultures have stories incorporating the swan as a symbol of transformation and many of the people transformed in the stories are women.

In India stories tell that  it was the swan that lay the Cosmic Egg on the waters, from which Brahma sprang. The In Hindu tradition, swans represent the perfect union, and the spirit of Brahma.The Hindu goddess Saraswati who is the goddess of learning, music and wisdom has a swan as Her companion animal. The word in Sanskrit for swan is "hansa" or "hamsa" so the Divine is also called Parmahansa or Parmahamsa.



Folklore is filled with tales of people and sometimes the gods changing into swans.
 The swan is a totem of beauty and grace. As in the story of the Ugly Duckling, it connotes inner beauty as well. If Swan is your totem animal, you are emotionally sensitive, and empathic towards the feelings of others, and you draw people to you. The pure white swan is a solar symbol, whereas the Australian Black Swan is a nocturnal symbol. The swan, with its long neck, acts as a bridge between the worlds, making it an oracular bird. Being a cool weather bird, its direction is North. Swans are excellent totems for children, those connected to the Fairy Realm, poets, bards, mystics, and dreamers.

 In the Medicine Cards, pulling the Swan card tells you to “accept your ability to know what lies ahead, pay attention to your hunches, gut knowledge, and female intuitive side.” Reversed, the Swan card means you are not grounded, not paying attention to your intuition, or the Unseen. The authors suggest that you “notice your surroundings, and touch the Earth; be still and focus on one reality or the other - the Dreamtime or the mundane world; stop the clutter in your mind and listen; or focus on a physical activity that will ground you.”


In Celtic lore, pulling the swan card can mean poetic inspiration from the Otherworld. It can also mean an enduring love is entering into your life.

Key words for symbolism of Swans:
Love, Grace. Union, Purity, Beauty, Dreams. Balance, Elegance, Partnership, Transformation



This is a new one, I haven’t heard this acronym before.
What does SWAN stand for? Society of Women Addicted to Needlework


This information below is where I found a lot of information and there is more if you wish to pull anything else from it….otherwise, you can just use the links to the web-sites for reference.


Swan: the bird of love and is associated with Venus and Cupid; also because it believed to sing sweetly when dying, it represents a good death; in Germanic mythology , being an attribute of Wotan, it is a creature of the sun, a bringer of light and life. It is the typical symbol of purity and of chance. Rare in the old samplers, it became more popular in the nineteenth century.

Swan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Bird of love; also represents a good death



Swan Meaning and Swan Symbolism

Our first symbolic clues from the swan can be taken from observing them in nature. They are waterfowl, closely connected with water, even nesting near the water.

Water is symbolic of: Fluidity, Intuition, Dreaming, Emotions, Creativity.

In this respect, we can intuit the swan’s appearance in our lives as an arrow pointing to our dreamier depths and feelings. Furthermore, we get the sense of balance from swan meaning as it lives harmoniously amongst three of the four Aristotelian elements. Grounding herself on earth, lofting to great heights in the air, and winding through waters with magnificent elegance.



The swan may also bear messages of love and relationships. They pair for years, sometimes male-female unions are sustained for a lifetime. When the swan glides upon the waters of our awareness, it might be a symbol of love, and a reminder of the blessings found in our relationships.

The concept of partnership is further expressed on a divine level in Hinduism, wherein the swan graces vibrant traditions as the Hamsa bird. In the Saundarya Lahari (translated: “Waves of Beauty,” it’s a text filled with beautiful mantras from the Hindu perspective) two swans (Ham and Sa) pair together, swimming around in the divine mind “living on honey from the blooming lotus of knowledge.” Isn’t that a lovely concept?

In the Celtic mind, swans and geese were observed in the context of movement. Specifically, the keenly observant Celts noted their transitory nature and the swan’s pattern of migration. Consequently, the sign of the swan urged Celtic intuition to consider changes of mood (water) and heart (love).

Swan meaning is also linked to Celtic deities with solar associations, like Belanus and Lugh. As solar animals, the swan represents the rising glory of a new day as well as the farewell of an old day with the setting sun. Fittingly, the Celtic goddess Bridgid is also associated with the swan as her grace is expressed with equal elegance in the form of writing (poetry) and song.

Celtic myth also indicates when inhabitants of the Otherworld required passage to the physical land of life you and I experience every day, they would take the shape of the swan. Furthermore lore states they would travel out of the Otherworld in pairs, thus reinforcing the theme of union, bonds and partnership.

In Celtic art, gold and silver chains are often depicted around the swan's neck. I’ve read where this is symbolic of supernatural appearance of divine energy or the descent of gods to earth. I like to think the chains are symbolic of a harmony between cosmic forces; gold representing the sun, and silver symbolic of the moon. Perhaps the Celts recognized the essence of gods within the guise of the swan, and honored that power in the bird.

We see further themes of transformation and deific embodiment in Greek myth wherein Zeus (Jupiter in the Roman pantheon) transformed himself into a swan in an effort to slake his uncontrollable passion for Leda.

Symbolic swan meaning continues the theme of transformation in the tale of the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson. Mislabeled from birth, the little duckling lives his life with the heroic heart of a swan. Indeed, after growing strong under the nurturing of kind humans, the duckling is set free, and sees its image for the first time in a reflective pool of water to discover he had “transformed” into a lovely swan.

Who doesn’t love this little fairy tale? It reminds us of our inherent glory, power and beauty (as the duckling was always a graceful swan). At the same time, the tale encourages us to have faith and have a persistent heart while pursuing the gifts that are our birthright.

In dreams, the swan asks us to spread our wings and take flight into our waking dreams. She also encourages us to strengthen our relationships, as well as make new, long-lasting bonds with people whom we admire.

White swans in dreams are symbolic of cleansing and purifying ourselves and our lives. Black swans indicate deep mysteries within us that are longing to be set free to express themselves creatively – perhaps as Bridgid would have us do, in poetry or music.



I hope you have enjoyed this page on swan meaning and symbolism. Keep swimming with the creative flow by visiting these related pages selected for you by Theophanes:


Can anyone tell me anything of the symbolism of swans in spirituality?

For many cultures the white swan is a symbol of light, both as a feminine symbol of the moon and a masculine symbol of the sun. In Greek mythology, the swan has been linked to Apollo, to Zeus who took the shape of a swan to seduce Leda, to Aphrodite and Artemis who were sometimes shown accompanied by swans.

Many cultures have stories incorporating the swan as a symbol of transformation and many of the people transformed in the stories are women.

In the symbolism of Alchemy, the swan was neither male nor female, but the "marriage of opposites", fire and water. It was associated with Mercury as it was white and winged.

Dreaming of a swan may signify self-transformation, intuition, sensitivity, the soul.

Native American

In Navajo tradition, the Great White Swan can call up the Four Winds. The Great Spirit will use swans to work its will.

Australian

The aborigines saw the Black Swans as the wives of their All Father.

Japan

In Ainu folk tales, the swan was an angelic bird who lived in heaven. When the Ainu fought amongst themselves killing all but one boy, the Swan descended from heaven, transformed into a woman, and reared the boy to manhood. She then married him to preserve the Ainu race.



India

It was the swan that lay the Cosmic Egg on the waters, from which Brahma sprang. The In Hindu tradition, swans represent the perfect union, and the spirit of Brahma.The Hindu goddess Saraswati who is the goddess of learning, music and wisdom has a swan as Her companion animal. The word in Sanskrit for swan is "hansa" or "hamsa" so the Divine is also called Parmahansa or Parmahamsa.

Folklore is filled with tales of people and sometimes the gods changing into swans.


-Zeus changed himself into a swan as a means of seduction. (Greek)

-The children of Lir were changed into swans for 900 years until the spell holding them was broken. (Celtic/ Irish)

-The Valkyries, warrior goddesses who chose the warriors to enter Valhalla after death, had the power to transform into swans. If a man stole their plumage, they were forced to obey him. (Germanic)


-Swans took off their plumage in fairy tales, revealing themselves as maidens (Celtic, Siberian and European)

-In Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Princess Odette is changed into a swan.

Adelaide Giuri as Odette and Mikhail Mordkin as Prince Siegfried with two unidentified children as Little Swans in Alexander Gorsky's staging of the Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake for the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, 1901

-The Eleven Swans by Hans Christian Anderson, the story of Even princes, transformed into swans and their sister who must remaining mute, sew eleven shirts in seven years, to change them back again.


Phew!  Who knew our little Gilded Swan had such symbolism? 

While you're visiting our website, be sure to take a look at the Tokens of Friendship Subscription - this is such a fun thing to do for yourself or a friend - and you can only sign up at this time of year - subscriptions close on January 15th!

And of course, check out our big project for this year - the Imitation and Improvement: The Norfolk Sampler Tradition book!  This lovely volume is at the printer now, but you can have a sneak peek here!  

Every once in awhile, we stumble across a new blog or something of great interest, and today was no exception.  Take a look at Mary Jenkins' blog on Welsh samplers!  They are beautiful!  We signed up as followers immediately! http://welshfolkartsamplers.blogspot.co.uk/








Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tokens of Friendship


Surprise yourself or surprise a friend.  
Maybe ask Santa to give you a year's worth of surprises with our new program 


A Token of Friendship:
A memorial of friendship; something by which the friendship of another person is to be kept in mind; a memento; a souvenir.



In the past many stitched gifts were exchanged as tokens of friendship.  We find needle-books, pin-balls, wallets, pin-keeps, lovely scissor holders and more that were given to commemorate a friendship in some way through history.
Victoria and Albert Museum


In the 19th century we find much symbolism in the tokens of friendship that were exchanged.  The heart and hand were very important to many forms of gifts that were exchanged.  The heart in the hand symbolized the “heart's guidance of the hand's action.”  


Clasped hands denote “Hands in trust forever.”  



A box is a feminine symbol, a receptacle.  A  butterfly symbolizes the flight of the soul.  Color can also play an important part in the symbolism used as a token of friendship, the red rose shows bashfulness or shame; a white rose stand for sadness and in many societies is the color of mourning, while a yellow rose means let us not forget. 




Besides motifs and colors, locks of hair were exchanged and incorporated into many of these tokens.  Hair does not disintegrate and symbolized abiding love as well as deeply felt loss. Thus, the formation of memorial art and jewelry.
Victoria and Albert Museum

Here is a lovely site showing many beautiful examples of "tokens".

Another type of exchange of tokens took place during the Lewis and Clark expedition and should be understood as results of exchanges made in diplomatic and social contexts rather than as products of collecting in an anthropological sense. When Lewis returned to the east in the last days of 1806, his party included Sheheke (Big White), a chief of the Mandan nation. As their route to Washington would take him through central Virginia, Jefferson wrote Lewis before their arrival in the capital, "Perhaps while in our neighborhood, it may be gratifying to him [Sheheke], & not otherwise to yourself to take a ride to Monticello and see in what manner I have arranged the tokens of friendship I have received from his country particularly as well as from other Indian friends: that I am in fact preparing a kind of Indian hall."

Southeast hall at Monticello


Today as a community of needleworkers, we engage in the exchange of tokens of friendship in many of the ways they were given in the past.  To promote friendship and love with those we encounter through our love of this art.  How many of you in your various guilds have held exchanges of pin cushions or needle books, book marks and such.  Or you meet someone as you explore this art form and just send off a token to be shared after sharing a special time in enjoying this art form at a symposium or seminar?  Today, Becky is hard at work on an envelope that will be sent to another member of the Swan Sampler Guild as we share in a mail art exchange, another kind of token of friendship. 

A past mail art letter from Julie


The first year of our Tokens of Friendship program has been so enjoyable and we have received so many favorable comments that we have decided to offer this once again.  We hope you will enjoy the program we have for you this year as we begin our second year of subscriptions to the “Tokens of Friendship”.



Our year long program will bring a lovely packaged token to your door or the door of a friend that you might want to gift a subscription too.  The token will only be available to those who are subscribed to the “Tokens of Friendship” program. These unique special tokens will not be available for sale on our web site or anywhere else. The designs will be created just for those lucky enough to be in the limited edition subscription program. 

With this age of email and Skype video calls, the only mail one seems to receive is in the form of a bill or advertisement. Possibly another request for you to open just one more credit card!  How nice would it be to four times a year find a lovely wrapped surprise token just for you in the mail?  Julie and I love surprises and we also love creating unique items for the company that we all love to have in our needlework smalls collections. So we have decided to combine the two and create this program just for you, so surprise yourself or surprise a friend. Put us on your wish list for someone to surprise you with.  We can keep the surprise on the sly or send a special gift announcement to the recipient. You decide. 

Tokens will be mailed out in the months of February, May, August and November. $88.00 a year for those in the United States, covers the cost of everything, the special token gift-packaged and delivered four times a year.  For those of you outside North America, the cost will be $135.00 and for our friends in Canada the cost will be $120.00

Sign ups will be taken until the 15th of January for the upcoming year. This is a limited edition program and so don’t hesitate, sign up now so you won’t be disappointed when you see the “Tokens of Friendship” that  arrive to your stitching friends doorsteps.

Please indicate if this is for yourself or a friend, please give us your information and the mailing information for the recipient of the gift subscription.  Please let us know if you wish to keep this gift a secret or would like us to send a gift announcement on your behalf.  If you would like to include a special message on the gift announcement, please include that in the comments section.  We also offer a printed gift certificate if you order early enough and would like to offer this to a special someone for the Holidays. 

We thank you for coming along on the Tokens of Friendship program and look forward to surprising you in the months to come.




"No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves." Amelia Earhart



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