Photo from The Heretic Magazine
Original Article by Andrew Gough
I recently finished reading ‘The Sacred Salmon’ article from Issue 7 of The Heretic. I would firstly like to express how grateful I am that Mr. Gough published this live on his website (http://andrewgough.co.uk/articles_salmon/). Ever since September of 2007, I have been reading Gough’s articles. In the fall of 2007, I started reading heavily into astrology and the symbolism of animals. This was mainly because of a college professor who inspired me to start reading about several different philosophers and “thought leaders” such as Goethe, Victor Hugo, Carl Jung, Nietzsche, and so on. I began to gather and keep track of the birthdays of these thinkers, just mostly for the hell of it, and see if their astrological animals symbolized or matched what they did in life (perhaps the other way around). My professor heavily believed that we are “in the animal’s image” not God’s. In other words, we modeled ourselves after what we saw animals doing in the wild; not just how a wolf hunts, but how it raises its family, for example. I began to see trends in the birthdays, and after recording the zodiac sign of close to 1500 philosophers, occultists, esoterics, etc., I came to realize that most were fish. Roughly one tenth (150) of the philosophers are born under the sign of Pisces. That doesn’t seem like a huge number, but when it is spread out over twelve other signs it’s the highest number on the list. I also started collecting zodiacs from other cultures, including the Sumerian zodiac, the Celtic Lunar Zodiac, and the Native American (specifically Algonquin) zodiac. Each one had something in common: the salmon was the sign for the summer. Where Leo is in our zodiac, the Salmon exists in every other zodiac where the fish was prominent and symbolic. I will never forget this phrase in Fionn legend:
The salmon lives in a fathomless well of wisdom where it swirls up ripples of knowledge from which the righteous may drink.
Long before Gough came out with this article, I was studying the importance of the salmon on my own. I found that the salmon as Leo actually had, ironically, the least amount of names on my list. However it did have some big players:
Madame Blavastky, Carl Jung, Sir Walter Scott, Henry Steel Olcott, Valentin Weigel, Claude Fayette Bragdon, Max Heindel, Marcel Proust, Marcel Duchamp, Napolean, and George Bernard Shaw to name a few.
Now logically this means nothing as astrology doesn’t necessarily decide who you are (though I know some of you will disagree, which is fine). I couldn’t help get caught up in all the coincidences though, especially when you consider the greatness that is Pisces (at least in the wisdom/esoteric part of things):
Copernicus, Albert Einstein, Montaigne, Michelangelo, Constantine, Victor Hugo, Arthur Schopenhauer, Herbert Silberer (alchemist), Jean-Baptiste Alliette, George Herbert Palmer, Jane Ward Leade, Count Jan Potocki, Ovid, Diogenes of Sinope, Camille Flammarion, James Churchward (Island of Mu), Botticelli, Manly Palmer Hall, Albert C. Mackey, Dom Anthony-Joseph Pernety, George Clymer, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Johann Georg Gichtel, William Scott-Elliot, W.H. Auden, Geoffrey Hodson, Maurice Magre, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Cayce, Rudolf Steiner, Peter D. Ouspensky, and Jean Overton Fuller to name a really small amount compared to the actual list.
I remember seeing a show on PBS quite a few years ago about a place on the Pacific Northwest coast. It is home to the legendary “Spirit Bear,” a mutation in the black bear line that causes them to have translucent (white-looking) fur like a polar bear that is caused by a recessive gene leftover from the last big Ice Age. It is also home to a plethora of other wildlife that each year rely on the salmon run to survive. Biologist studying the wildlife and forest there decided to do a genetic test on the pine trees of the park, some of which where 500+ years old. They found that needles collected from the top of the tree showed evidence of salmon molecules in their DNA. Meaning the trees were actually “eating” the salmon that lay dead on the river beds after spawning, absorbing their nutrients into their roots. The salmon drove the entire ecosystem and even caused other animals to adapt around hunting them. The wolves in the area are not like other gray wolves in Canada. Rather than having a “fluffy” bulky coat that we are used to, their fur is more like an otter’s, allowing them to swim extraordinary long amounts of time. Some wolves have mean sighted swimming eight miles out to sea fishing for salmon. The salmon are the keystone species wherever they go, so it’s no wonder the ancients saw them as important. Coincidentally, the wolf is aligned with Pisces in the Algonquin zodiac and is also seen as a sign of wisdom in many cultures.
The legends of the salmon far outweigh its own existence. In the Otter Can legend (http://hotcakencyclopedia.com/ho.OtterComesToMedicineRite.html) the fish, likely a salmon, is the source of light and life (Copied from Hotcak Encyclopedia, retold by Richard L. Dieterle):
Earthmaker created an otter. In the direction of the east he placed a lodge of Light and Life in the middle of the Ocean Sea. Earthmaker concentrated his mind upon it. Otter’s old woman came to know of it: “Earthmaker has thought something, that Hare is going to look for Life on behalf of his uncles and aunts. He will go towards it there.” The first thing that he did, once he was ready to go out, was to go around his fireplace four times. He made it shimmer with Light and Life. Once he had made the light beautiful, he started to go out. He strode out onto the water, taking four steps across it. Then, after he dove into the water there, he came up and laid out the sand that he had brought back with him, and then an island appeared there. And then he strengthened himself with his power and dove back in. He brought something up and laid it out, and it was a fish-chief that he had retrieved and set down. And then he made his lair itself his plate. Then the center of its body became imprinted with light, and on the fourth time he bit into it, the light increased. And that woman took hold of the very white bones and filled it. The plate became imprinted with Light and Life. That’s how it was.
Then they went out walking on the water of the Ocean Sea, and as big as it was, it became like what could fit on a little plate. Then after he had been walking, he came ashore. He placed the stopping point there. Again he got ready, making himself frail from holiness. Then he did this: he dove into the water. When he and his woman got to come out, there could be seen four children between them. So he did this, and then the male turning back in the water, scooped something up. Once he had come out, he laid down a gray fish-chief that he had in his mouth. And after they had made the lair the plates, the male started for it, and smeared the center of his body with Light and Life. And the fourth time that he seized it, he caused the day to be extended. Then he took hold of the woman together with these children. He made the plate very white by marking it distinctly with the light.
Then, as they started out walking, they took four steps as the went towards the Creation Lodge. There he tried his arrow. He shot a very large tree that was there. When he got there, he saw that it was there in the center of the core. He was pleased with it. Then again there he did it. Again he tried to send something forth. There was a very large Female Spirit, and he sent a shot there. When he got there and saw it, there it had gone its center. He was pleased with it. He took it up, and there he tried once more. Then he sent a shot to the protruding corner of a white cloud. There he did it, and it worked in its core. He was pleased with it. Then he did this: he took it up and for the fourth try, he sent it. It was the Creation Lodge. He who Stands in the Center of the Lodge was unopposable. There he sent his shot. When it got there, it did its work upon the core of the fire. He was very pleased with it.
(Still Copied from Hotcak Encyclopedia)
The otter in this story is told in connection with the otter skin pouch which is used to shoot shells into initiates in the Medicine Rite. When the initiate is hit with such a shell, he falls over as if killed, only to arise later reborn (remind you of something?). The Hočąk is ho-hųk, literally, “fish-chief,” which Radin translates as “kingfish.” The term “kingfish” in English denotes several varieties of salt water fishes, and is therefore not likely what ho-hųk means. Since it is unattested elsewhere, we do not know what kind of fish was meant, if any. It may be that it is the chief of fishes. The domain in which he is chief is that of water, which is ni in Hočąk. A homonym for this word means “breath,” and by extension, “life.” Water is also the domain of the Hero Twin known as “Ghost.” And, as among the Christians (for many non-overlapping reasons), souls are often made homologous to fish. Therefore, a fish-chief is at least symbolically a ruler in the domain of souls. Eating such a fish is eating the spiritual power by which control over souls is obtained. When the otter bites into the fish-chief, the consumed fish is translated into Light and Life. This is a “translation,” made by an animal that can transpose himself from the world of water to that of land. The Medicine Rite allows the master of its principles to gain control over his own soul, and to achieve the power to resurrect himself, rather than being an eternal captive in the realm of souls. He becomes, by consumption of its nature, a fish-chief himself.
In another version of the story, the otter comes out of the water twice, each time with a fish of which he bites and out come the Light and Life of the world. Assumingly, the fish represent Pisces, which makes sense when you consider many Native American stories are based off celestial events.
Jasper Blowsnake’s Account of the Medicine Rite, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Freeman #3876, Winnebago II, #6: 166-169 (the original handwritten interlinear text); Freeman #3886, Winnebago III, #6: 357.65-361.86. For a loose English translation, see Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 ) 255-257.
2 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 342, nt. 13.
3 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 342, nt. 21.
Thank you to Andrew Gough for your many articles that have inspired me over the years. Thanks too to Greg and TDG for everything you do for us heretics.
Please forgive my lack of sources. When I upgraded to Windows 7 in 2012 I lost a lot of my research and I am still trying to recover it by what I saved on CDs. Most of it was scribbled on philosophy class notes. When I find them I will update accordingly.