It might not be surprising that the oceans and its dwellers have great symbolic significance in many parts of the world. Throughout ancient times fish were used in art as decoration, as symbolic offerings to the gods in religion, and they appear in several folk and fairy tales, as well as in mythology. So here are a few examples to arouse your interest in this quite intriguing topic.
The salmons are present in several mythologies. They are important creatures in Celtic mythology and poetry and are often associated with wisdom and venerability. They can also be found also in Irish mythology as a creature called The Salmon of Knowledge. It has an important role in the tale of The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, where the salmon grants knowledge to whoever eats it. In Welsh mythology it has an essential part in the Arthurian tale ‘Culhwch and Olwen’ as Salmon of Llyn Llyw, the oldest animal in Britain. In Norse mythology it was a transformation form once for Loki, the trickster god. Furthermore, salmons are greatly important both spiritually and culturally to Native American mythology and often used as a symbol of determination, renewal and prosperity.
Then there is the esox (pike) which appears in Russian mythology as one of the several assumed forms of the evil water spirit called vodyanoy. It's a male water spirit that has the appearance of an old man with a frog-like face, webbed paws and a fishtail. It has a greenish beard, black fish scales and burning red eyes. It is said that, when angered, the vodyanoy breaks dams, washes down water mills, and drowns people and animals. This creature is also present in Czech (Vodník) and German (nix) fairy tales. However, there is a Russian fairytale about an old wise pike that can grant wishes to whoever catches it if the catcher releases it.
In Japanese mythology Namazu is a giant catfish that lives under the islands of Japan and is guarded and restrained by the god Kashima. It is said that when Kashima lets his guard fall, the trashes of Namazu causes earthquakes.
Sharks can be found in a variety of mythologies, myths and legends, for example Hawaiian, Greek and Maori. In Fijian mythology, there is shark-god called Dakuwaqa that was greatly respected by fishermen. It was believed that he protected them from the dangers and evil denizens of the sea. Once he was going to conquer Kadavu island, when a goddess challenged him in the form of an octopus. After a great battle, the goddess was able to defeat Daquwaka by pulling out his teeth with her eight arms and forced the shark-god to promise to never attack Kadavu again. After this, Dakuwaqa became the protector of Kadavu.
And, of course, when we talk about oceans and mythology, we can never forget to mention the fascinating aquatic creatures: the mermaids. They appear in folklore in different parts of the world, for instance Asia, Europe and Africa. In appearance, they usually have the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks, and drownings. In other folk traditions, they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.
And this is just a glimpse into this magnificent world of stories and tales. There is so much more for one to discover in this topic. We hope you find it as fascinating as we do, and we have successfully piqued your interest!
https://www.sharksider.com/shark-mythology/ , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodyanoy , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salmon , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namazu , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mermaid , http://www.native-languages.org/legends-salmon.htm
(Cover photo: Pixabay - Thomas Wolter)