MYTHICAL BEINGS

 


Salmon of Wisdom
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The Salmon of Wisdom

In Irish legend salmon are imbued with great age and are associated with the land of Ireland. One of the four oldest creatures of Irish lore is the Salmon of Assroe. In the stories of Finn McCool there is a particular tale that occurs at the source of the Boyne River. It says that the source of the Boyne is a peaceful pool surounded by Hazel trees. An ancient salmon lived there, and fed on hazel nuts as they fell into the pool. Nearby lived an old poet, who desired greatly to catch that salmon and have a fine feast of him, because a prophecy told that whosoever ate that ancient, wise salmon would gain all knowledge.

Finn, as a youth, came to apprentice with the poet. When the poet finally caught the salmon, he instructed Finn to cook it for him. But when he was cooking the salmon, he burned his thumb on the fish's flank. He sucked on his thumb to ease the pain, and thus tasted of the fish before his master did. Ever after, whenever Finn needed special knowledge, he would suck on his thumb, and whatever knowledge was needed in the current situation would come to him.

Like many of the magical beasts of Irish lore, the fish was renewed to be eaten again and again. This metaphor for the gathering of wisdom speaks of going to the quiet places within ourselves (the quiet pool), patiently eating the tidbits of knowledge (the hazel nuts), patiently seeking understanding (the salmon), and distilling it to the wisdom we need and the inspiration to create (poetry).


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