The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, and Action

The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, and Action

by Starhawk, Hillary Valentine

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The long-awaited continuation of the bestselling classic The Spiral Dance


The long-awaited continuation of the bestselling classic The Spiral Dance

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Starhawk (The Spiral Dance; Truth or Dare, etc.), founder of a new spirituality effort called the Reclaiming Movement, teams up with co-religionist Hilary Valentine for this training and instruction book in magical methods. Their spirituality embraces several popular modern categories, including Wicca, paganism and the goddess movement. The term reclaiming refers to the goddess movement's Eden story, which posits a prehistorical time when matriarchal societies lived in harmony with one another and nature through worship of a female earth goddess, a pristine state that was ended by the rise of patriarchal religions focused on a male sky god. The authors are reclaiming the goddess traditions they believe existed in that ancient paradise, and their book offers others the chance to join in. To suit the needs of their presentation, they have adapted an ancient fairy tale about brothers turned into swans, whose sister wove magic shirts to turn them back into men. The book combines storytelling, instructions for performing magic rituals and advice on how to use these rituals as a form of therapy. The authors adapt popular psychology for an occult audience by translating psycho-jargon into witchcraft terminology. Readers who embrace goddess theology may well find this work instructive, though its advanced magical training will be a bit daunting for beginners. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Starhawk, the beloved and controversial author of The Spiral Dance, has here co-written a kind of successor to that book that picks up the themes of the fairy tale cited in the title as a metaphor for initiation into the deeper mysteries of Starhawk's brand of witchcraft, including magical training, inner development, and interaction with the outside world. Engagingly written and presented with dozens of exercises for each aspect of the seeker's journey, it concludes with a pleasing final meditation on the meaning of the fairy tale with which the book began. This volume should be wildly and deservedly popular with neo-pagan readers and other seekers. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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The Twelve Wild Swans

Once upon a time, far, far away across the sea, there lived a queen who had twelve strong young sons, but no daughter. One winter's day, as she sat at her window sewing, she looked out to see a raven, pecking at the bloody snow where the butcher had killed a calf. "Oh, " she yearned, "if only I could have a little daughter with skin as white as that snow, lips as red as the blood, and hair as black as the raven. I would even exchange my twelve sons for such a daughter. " In that moment, an Old Woman appeared, bent over on a stick, dressed all in black. "That is an ill wish," said the Old Woman. "And to punish you, it shall be granted." And she disappeared as quickly as she had come.

Sure enough, the queen conceived a child. Although her twelve sons were placed in a locked room under the strongest guard, at the moment of the baby girl's birth, they turned into swans and flew out of the open window, never to be seen again. The king and queen named the little girl Rose, and Rose grew up alone in the castle. She was never told of the existence of her brothers or of how they had come to be lost. But as she grew, the child felt lonely, and she was aware of the shadow of some mystery or secret. She became more and more curious. She took to asking all sorts of questions of the most unlikely people, and so it was that one day as Rose approached womanhood, she finally heard the whole story from her old nurse, who had known her brothers well and still grieved for them.

As soon as Rose heard the nurse's story, she knew what she must do. "No matter what the cost," she vowed, "I'll find my brothers and break the spell that binds them." Shebade farewell to her parents and walked out of the castle gate with only the clothes she was wearing and a loaf of bread.

She found herself in the wildwood, and she was lost at once. Her soft princess hands and her delicate princess clothes were soon scratched, torn, and dirty, but Rose continued on her way until she found a little stream. Here she stopped to rest for a bit, to drink and wash and eat some of her bread. As she rested, an Old Woman suddenly appeared. "May I have a bit of your bread, child? I'm so hungry . . . "

Although she had little to offer, Rose shared her meal with the Old Woman, and as they talked and ate, Rose poured out her story. "My dear girl," said the Old Woman, "if you follow this river to its end, it will take you to the ocean. Swans live there, by the side of the sea. Perhaps there you will find your brothers. "

Rose followed the Old Woman's advice, and when she arrived at the seaside, she found a little hut with twelve narrow beds inside. Sure that she was soon to be reunited with her brothers, Rose waited by the hut. The sun began to set, and in its last rosy light, twelve great swans swooped out of the sky. As their feet touched the earth, the sun set, and before Rose's astonished eyes the swans turned into handsome young men. "I am your sister!" cried Rose.

Her brothers stared at her, horrified. "What have we done!" they cried. "We have vowed to kill the first young girl we meet, because our misfortune came to us through a girl!" Rose shrank back from them, but in this moment the Old Woman appeared again . She faced the frightened, angry brothers: "Break that wicked vow, which you never should have made. Can't you see? This is your own dear sister. Only through her can you be restored." And she disappeared as quickly as she had come.

All through that night, Rose and her brothers talked and planned. The next day was Midsummer Day, the longest day of the year. Only at this time could the swan brothers travel across the sea to the magical land of the powerful fairy called the Fata Morgana. The long daylight hours allowed them enough time in swan form to cross the trackless ocean safely. Otherwise they would turn to men as the sun set and plunge helplessly into the gray and heaving sea. Now they planned to bring Rose with them. During the short night, the thirteen wove a strong basket of willow in which Rose could ride while the swan brothers carried her on a journey Beyond.

As dawn broke, the brothers changed shape, and all of them grasped the basket with their bills, lifting Rose into the sky. They flew and flew, until it seemed their strength must fail, but as twilight came on they spied a huge rock jutting out of the surf, and here they landed just as they began to shape-shift. With Rose in the middle, the brothers huddled on the rock through the short night as the surf broke and crashed around them. When dawn came, they rose again into the sky. They beat with their great powerful wings ever closer to the land of the Fata Morgana.

As another long day came to an end, they saw the coastline of a strange new land open below them. As they began to dip down toward the earth, Rose spied a glittering fairy castle in the clouds. "What is that beautiful palace?" she cried. "That is the castle of the Fata Morgana, " answered her brothers, "where no mortal may come. "

In the green hills of the coast lay a cave, where the swan brothers lived when they were in this land. Here they landed, glad to be safe on the green earth again. As the sun set, they assumed their human shapes and went into the cave to rest from their journey on beds of soft and fragrant boughs. As Rose slept, she dreamed, and in her dream she entered the fairy castle.

Meet the Author

Starhawk is the author of nine books, including her bestselling The Spiral Dance, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, and Webs of Power, winner of the 2003 Nautilus Award for social change. She has an international reputation, and her works have been translated into many different languages. Starhawk is also a columnist for and ZNet. A veteran of progressive movements who is deeply committed to bringing the techniques and creative power of spirituality to political activism, she travels internationally, teaching magic, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism. Starhawk lives part-time in San Francisco, in a collective house with her partner and friends, and part-time in a little hut in the woods in western Sonoma County, where she practices permaculture in her extensive gardens and writes.
Hilary Valentine has been practicing and teaching Reclaiming Tradition magic since 1985. She lives in northern California.

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