Caroline Blackburn : "These are no ordinary snapshots, freezing a mere passing moment in time, but elaborate supernatural tableaux that take months to create." - Jane Warren (The Express)




 

THE SWAN MAIDEN

Like the Selkie of Scotland, the swan maiden is another creature of transformation. At times she appears in the guise of a swan, at others she casts aside her feathers to become a beautiful woman. As with many of these figures the swan maiden is found in various forms across Europe, the most famous being the story of Odette used for the ballet Swan Lake. In Britain there is a happier version where Aonghus fell in love with Caer Ibormeith. She evntually agrees to marry him on condition that he becomes a swan too. In a very modern tale of role reversal he accepts her terms and they live happily ever after.
The swan is of course a symbol of purity, its perfect whiteness being its most outstanding feature. In the past female purity was of great importance, before DNA testing could prove paternity. Nowadays purity is still important, though where are demands for it are have changed. In these days of pollution and contaminated food, those with the means spend more and more on consumables that are clean. The biggest market for this has got to be bottled water. I'm surprised there isn't a swan brand. As a consequence the maiden is sitting by a pool of water. At her feet and in the rocks she is sitting on are two labels from bottles of water, which are at the same time the sybol of purity and the actuality of litter. She has only just changed from swan to woman, and still has her cloak of feathers, and the hand that holds it back is still webbed.



 

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All images and text Copyright © 2003 Caroline Blackburn.