Amongst the wide range of elegantly crafted silver animal charms, the black swan is perhaps one of the most enigmatic symbols we have in society, often a symbol of uniqueness, sensuality, and complete surprise, to the point that entire theories have used the rarity of black swans as a metaphor.
Whilst black swans are a common symbol in Australian Aboriginal culture, one of the earliest references, and the one that has shaped the representation of black swans ever since is the saying first used in writing by Juvenal.
The saying, used in one of Juvenal’s Satires in 87AD, was “rara avis in terris nigroqe simillima cygno”, which translates to “a rare bird in the lands, and very much a black swan.”
It referred to an event so rare it was to be impossible since it was believed that black swans did not exist and the idea that all swans had white feathers were often used as a universal truth.
The proverb would, roughly 1500 years later, become somewhat ironic when Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer would sail into the Derbal Yerrigan, which would receive the name Swan River, and spot the black swan for the very first time.
They would be taken to Europe and be treated in a similar way to the black cat, which was seen as related to witches, and would provide a small influence to the ballet Swan Lake and the Darran Aronofsky film Black Swan for the same reason.
In more modern times, an entire theory known as the black swan theory and the subject of a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb has emerged which describes surprising, major effects that are often explained and predicted after the fact.
In that sense, the black swan represents the biggest surprises in our lives and the far-reaching ramifications they have.