There is an expression "swan song" which means death or dying. This expression comes from the thought (Middle Ages) that swans sung before they died. It is a clue to the Swan level of initiation.
In the writings of Basil Valentinus, the Swan represents the third level of initiation - Raven and Peacock being first and second. In this level Inspiration as the Divine Word, the harmony of the Spheres, sounds forth.
"In the third degree he meets death and must sing the Swan's song. He then dies to everything earthly."
- Notes from Walter Stein's The Ninth Century
The next stage, is often shown as The White Swan. Now the alchemist begins to experience the inner world as being light filled - the initial inner brightness which is often erroneously mistaken for true illumination. This is merely a first conscious encounter with the etheric world, and in comparison with physical sense experience is for many souls so overpowering as to be pictured as bright white light. The alchemical tradition recognised this and symbolised this stage as the White Swan. The swan is a bird which is rarely seen in flight, but rather swimming upon lake or river, gracefully moving on the surface of water- in soul terms, on the soul's surface, its etheric interface with the physical.
-Adam McLean, The Birds in Alchemy
More on the Swan as the Aum, taken from:
The Voice of the Silence by H. P. Blavatsky
I found this interesting, that the parts of the bird were "parts" of the AUM. I wonder if this was pictured in meditation?:
"Kala Hamsa, the "Bird" or Swan. Says the Nada-Bindu Upanishad (Rig Veda) -
"The syllable A is considered to be its (the bird Hamsa's) right wing, U, its left, M, its tail, and the Ardha-matra (half metre) is said to be its head."
"Some Sanskrit mystics locate seven planes of being, the seven spiritual lokas or worlds within the body of Kala Hamsa, the Swan out of Time and Space, convertible into the Swan in Time, when it becomes Brahma instead of Brahma (neuter).
A Yogi who bestrides the Hamsa [Swan] (thus contemplates on Aum) is not affected by Karmic influences or crores of sins."
Esoteric Lessons Part III: Berlin, 12-21-'04
AUM, I acknowledge myself or I am: A.
I acknowledge mankind or man is: U.
I acknowledge the Godhead or God is: M. (Or I acknowledge life: M)
Feel responsible for every thought, feeling and action. Every moment that we experience in this way brings us forward a little. What would I be without other human beings? Helpless. Streets are paved by others. When I get up in the morning people have already worked for me. My karma is connected with that of other men. I may have been an accomplice to a murderer because I didn't improve him in a previous life. One man's gain is someone else's loss. Teachers taught me. People worked for me from the moment I was born. So do good for all mankind.