Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mythical Salmon

I ran across a rather different headline today: "Wild Salmon and Celtic Mythology Link." Now, if that headline grabs your attention, first, re-evaluate your life, second go to this link:

Well, after I re-evaluated my life, I looked at the article which was about a museum exhibit of paintings about salmon and had this to say about the Celts and their rather smelly aquatic friends: "The paintings feature vivid colours to portray their vitality and importance within Celtic mythology, where they were primarily associated with wisdom and prophesy."

That's it. I figure the writer was not too interested in Celtic mythology and just wanted to get this story posted and, as they say in newspaper lingo, put the story to bed (actually, having never worked in a newspaper, I don't know if they really say that, but I have heard it on movies).

So, what connection is there to salmon and Celtic mythology? Glad you asked:
1. Cu Chulainn, hero extraordinaire, has the famed salmon leap that always him to jump over enemy walls (I like Cu Chulainn, it takes 150 naked women to snap him out of his battle rage).
2. Fintan was a Salmon that fed off the hazelnuts that fall off the tree of life or some other mystical tree if you are reading Celtic mythology pre-Christian Ireland). This fish is also called Brandan and is supposedly the oldest animal in the world.
3. Boann, a water goddess (Celtic deities tend to be A __ goddess rather than THE ___ goddess) went to the Well of Inspiration (thus called because of the divine hazlenuts that fell into it, wherein lived Fintan, now the salmon of wisdom. She somehow knocked over the well and started a new river.
4. Finn MacCool is Celtic hero who caught Fintan from this river. What do you do when you catch the salmon of wisdom? You cook it, of course. This isn't Japanese mythology, after all. While cooking the fish, a bubble popped up. Finn pops the bubble and burns his thumb. When he sucks on his thumb, he gained the wisdom of the fish. Whenever he needs wisdom, he just sucks his thumb.
5. In an early King Arthur tale, Culhwch find a salmon that might possibly be the same Fintan, but this one is called the Salmon of Llyn Llyw. This salmon leads them to find Mabon, a divine child. Some versions have Culhwch riding on the back of the salmon (that's one big fish!).
6. To stop his daughter from marrying Frech, Ailill throws her engagement thumb ring into a river. Later Frech catches a salmon and in the salmon is, you guessed it, the ring.

O.K., it seems that most of the salmon stories might actually be the same fish. If Fintan inspires you so, then you too can show your devotion. That's right, for a mere $31 (plus shipping) you can own your very own tote bag that has Fintan pictured on it. I know you're dying to get one (don't be the only one at your job, on your street, at your school without one!) so here is the link:

Man. After all of this, I could really go for some seafood...

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