The Children of Lir: The Swan and Paganism Essay

The Children of Lir: The Swan and Paganism Essay

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When one is reading a novel, poem, or myth it is hard not to look for similar themes or patterns within the texts of the material; This is especially true when one is focused on something from the same country, and this remains true in the literature, myth, and legends that focus on swans in Ireland. The swan has been imbedded in the folklore of Ireland for centuries, one of the most notable legends of Ireland, “The Children of Lir,” has inspired poets throughout the centuries. One can look at the wonderful poet, Eavan Boland’s poem, “Elegy for a Youth Changed to a Swan,” and see the great effect this legend had upon Ireland and it’s people. In these stories the swan is a supernatural element, a transformation, with a sort of dark magic or dark theme surrounding it. The swan represents a supernatural element, a tie to magic and Kings, it is shrouded in Celtic mythology and history, and tangled in the tales of the druids; the swan represents the once polytheistic worship of the ancestors of Ireland and how the presence of their pagan past is represented in a dark light, that can only be saved by the cleansing force of Christianity.
The thinking that swans have a close relation to the Celt’s religion is not unheard of. Though the stories and poems speaking of it’s significance in a far more subtle way, the religion quite obviously favored the bird and thought it to hold some sort of supernatural power, as illuminated in the article, “Celtic Symbolism in Celtic Religion,” by Anne Ross,
“The transformation of superhuman beings into swans, and the wearing of chains, or linking together by chains of the metamorphosed beings, are thought-provoking. They are not paralleled elsewhere in the Irish tradition. 4 The Gallo-Roman and British...


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...swan and paganism, both being held in a negative light. The swan becomes a sort of eternal damnation, or exile for the innocent children of Lir, as they were exposed to the wicked ways Aoife, the druid of the tale. In consequence, magic and the belief system of the celt offers no help, not even to the God of the Sea, Lir himself. The only way the children of Lir can be saved is by the healing force of christianity. To conclude, the form of the swan in the is a clearly negative symbol of paganism and those who practiced it, by which can only be saved by the acceptance of christianity into the country and the people.


Works Cited


5. Kendall, Paul. "Mythology and Folklore of the Rowan." Caledonia Wild! Spring (2000): n. pag. Abstract. Trees for Life Magazine (n.d.): n. pag. Print.

6. Murray, M. A. "Divination by Witches Familiar." Man 18 (1918): 81-84. JSTOR. Web.

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