Water is an endless mystery; representing that which is present, but cannot be seen.
Water is also taken to be a womb symbol. Therefore, is it associated to birth, fertility, and overall woman-ness, deriving from several ancient flood myths and the "from water springs life" concept.
Even though there are several fish in water and each contain different symbolic meaning, there are some prime symbolic meanings the fish in general holds, such as: fertility, femininity, eternity, creativity, happiness, good luck, knowledge/wisdom, and transformation
Depending on the culture and era, diverse peoples have had various views on the symbolic meanings for fish.
Pagans were one of the first to use the fish symbol. It was viewed that the fish was a feminine symbol of fertility and an attribute of the Goddess. Water to them represents the flow of the Divine Mother principal, so all water creatures are part of fertility and the power of the Goddess. The pagan fish symbol was a simplified image of a woman's womb or vagina. The overlapping two thin crescent moons signify a woman's monthly cycle.
The Babylonians also included fish in their mythology. The mermaid and fertility goddess of the seas, Atargatis - in Aramaic ‘Atar‘atah - , some say was born from a giant egg that was pushed by fish out of the river Euphrates. This Syrian deity was commonly known to the ancient Greeks as Aphrodite Derceto or Derketo. Atargatis' main sanctuary was at Hierapolis (modern Manbij). As the baalat (“mistress”) of Her city and people, she was responsible for their protection and well-being, but primarily was known as the goddess of fertility. Doves and fish were sacred by Atargatis; doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess and fish as a symbol of the fertility and life of the waters. The Babylonians had several gods and goddesses who took the shape of a fish, dolphin, or other sea creature. Most of these gods and goddesses were connected to sexuality. They believed, like many other cultures, that the oval outline of a fish was similar to the shape of a womb.
"Not far from Her temple was a sacred lake, filled with many varieties of fish, Her sacred animal. These fish were well-kept, sometimes even ornamented with jewels (Lucian says he saw one particular fish that had a jewel in its fin on several occasions): they knew their names and would come when called, and would snuggle up to people to be pet. In the middle of the lake was an altar that people would swim to to make offerings. According to other writers, It was taboo to eat or touch these fish, except on special occasions and by the priesthood, who considered it theaphagy, the ritual eating of the Goddess as a sacrament."
Much like the priesthood of Roman Goddess Cybele, Hers was one rumored to perform acts of self mutilation and self-castration. Also, the worship of Atargatis was practiced with song, dance, and music of flutes and rattles. Her worshippers would work themselves to a frenzy during the festivities, similar to Cybele's.
"In Syria and in Urhâi [Edessa] the men used to castrate themselves in honor of Ataratha. But when King Abgar became a believer, he commanded that anyone who emasculated himself should have a hand cut off. And from that day to the present no one in Urhâi emasculates himself anymore."
Enki was part of the Sumerian tri-Gods and was commonly represented as a half-fish, half-goat creature. He was also the one that devised that men should live as slaves to the gods. As the Dagon priests sprinkled holy water in ceremony, so did the priests of Enki.
Enki was prominent from the third millennium down to Hellenistic times.
The common translation of his name is "Lord of the Earth," but the translation is still in debate.
"In Babylon there was "Oannes" a fish god who imparted great knowledge to the people. He taught them how to build cities. He also taught them math and geometric laws, and was credited with giving them all the knowledge that they would ever receive. At night, he would go back into the sea to spend the night, because he was amphibious. He had the head of a man; covered by the head of a fish, and had the legs and feet of a man and the torso of a man, but was covered by the scales and tail of a fish. ". -Berossus; from ancient fragments
(Isaac Preston Cory)
The Egyptian astrological hieroglyph below, the vesica piscus (Latin: 'air bladder of a fish'), is a symbol for virginity and purity. It was written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs that the fish was the vulva of Isis, who, after taking form of a fish, swallowed Osiris' penis.
(Note how it looks like the Omega symbol)
In Greco-Roman mythology the fish was considered a sacred animal. The fish represented change and transformation. In the myth of Aphrodite and her son, Heros, they transform into fish in order to escape the monster Typhon/Typhoeus (son of Gaia and lord of chaos, who tried to destroy Zeus at the will of Gaia, for the imprisonment of the Titans). The two tied their tails together to insure they would not be parted during their escape (creating the symbol of the Pisces) and hid in the waters of the Nile. A stellar image of Ichthyes ("Twin Fish"), as seen below, remains to keep the influence of Typhon forever at bay. One fish swims North, "toward the cosmic waters of forgetfulness." The other fish swims West, "toward the constellation Aquarius and the waterbear's waves of enlightenment. At the same time, the Ichthyes are tied together, representing the eternal quest that draws the soul toward these dual destinations and the dilemmas of spiritual desire."
Throughout the Mediterranean, mystery religions used fish, wine and bread for their sacramental meal and ancient Rome called Friday "dies veneris" or Day of Venus, the Pagan goddess. Venus is the one in the fable of the mystic egg of the Babylonians about the giant egg falling from heaven into the River Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank where the doves having perched upon it, hatched it. What came out of this egg was Venus-also referred to as the morning star. Venus afterwards was called the Assyrian goddess or Astarte, the queen of heaven.
In all of these stories we find the tradition of Easter born from these mystery legends as Easter was just another name for Astarte. This festival in ancient Babylonianism of Astarte (known as Istar or Easter), was about her son coming back from the dead which is why the Easter celebration has the symbolic egg as well as the Astarte name for the celebration of the borrowed mythical resurrection of the Bright Morning Star" -Jesus (Revelation 22:16).
""The Great Goddess of Asia Minor is the oldest true Goddess known, predating the Goddesses of the Sumerian and Egyptians by at least 5,000 years."
In later centuries, the leopards would be changed to lions - the metamorphosed Atalanta and Hippomenes, though leopards were considered to be female lions by the ancients. Her worship was originally combined with that of the Bull of Heaven which is also prominently displayed at Çatal Hüyük.
The basilica of Saint Peter's, according to some, stands upon the former site of Cybele's main temple in Rome.
In Norse mythology, the god Loki (a fire god, known as a trickster, mischief-maker, and a shape-changer) has a legend surrounding an incident as he attended a feast given by Asgard, in which he happily torments the guests with insults and sneers. To escape the wrath of the other gods and goddesses, who had tolerated him until then, Loki transformed into a salmon. Loki is caught, after Odin sent out an expedition to catch him, and he is placed in a dark cave until he emerged and lead an army of evil to fight with the other gods in a final battle. Loki met his end.
Aegir was married to his sister Ran, and was the father of nine daughters, the waves. Who is said to be the mothers of Heimdall. The names of Aegir’s nine daughters were Himminglaeva, Dufa, Blodughadda, Hefring, Ud, Hrönn, Bölge, Dröfn and Kolga. A few stories claim that Aegir was the brother of Loki and Karl. Aegir was one of the oldest gods, and predates the Aesir, Elves, Dwarfs, Giants and Vanir. His house is under the island of Hlesey “laesoe” or “cat’s throat”, in the coral caves. The island is between Jutland and Zealand in Denmark. He had two servants Eldir and Fimafeng."
The salmon was symbolic to the ancient Celtic people, representing knowledge, wisdom, mystic inspiration, prophecy, and rebirth. Per the legend of Finn, by consuming sacred hazel nuts from the well of knowledge (Segais), the salmon obtained its wisdom. Finn (Fionn mac Cumhaill) obtained the wisdom of prophecy by sucking his thumb, after burning himself while cooking the salmon. The Celts believed that if they ate salmon, or Eod Feasa, they would gain wisdom of the well too.
The Celtic legend of Finn is highly associated with the Norse tale of a hero, Sigurd. Finn's tutor was the owner of the salmon in the Celtic version and Regin is Sigurd's tutor. Also, the salmon in the Celtic legend takes the place of a dragon's heart, as in the Norse tale. The Norse tale most likely arrived in Ireland and Scotland during the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian migration.
This story bears an uncanny resemblance to later Grail romances. A worthy, charmed king is in possession of a life-sustaining cauldron. He is then afflicted by an agonizing wound that directly correlates to the desolation of his domain. For a certain amount of time, he presides over an otherworld feast, at which his followers are regaled with food and drink, while oblivious to grief and worldly concerns. Based on these over abundant similarities, it is hard to refute Bran as the likely forebearer of Chretien's Fisher King. Though, Weston does just this. In place of Bran, she submits that the true origins of the Fisher King can be traced back to pagan Mystery Cults, and in particular the Irish story of the Salmon of Wisdom, centered around the exploits of Finn Mac Cumhail.
"As a boy, Finn is said to have entered into the service of an old man, Finn Eger, who had been waiting seven years for the Salmon of Lynn Feic. Shortly after arriving, the youth succeeds in catching the fish where his elder had failed. The old man takes charge of the catch nevertheless. The young Finn is told to watch the fish while it roasts with the specific condition that he not eat any of it. But the boy, being young, hungry and impulsive, disobeys the command. He reaches into the fire to assuage his gnawing hunger, burning his hand in the process. As he put his thumb into his mouth to soothe the pain, he immediately became possessed of all knowledge, thereby becoming the symbolic successor of Finn Eger. In this myth the wonderful fish initially appears as a feature common to Celtic otherworld tales. It is "the magic food," writes Nitze, "whereby a hero is made immortal, and which enables him to be re-born." This theme, literally 'food for thought,' is also evident in the Welsh tale of Gwion, who partakes of the Cauldron of Inspiration, only to be reincarnated as Taliesen the bard. But the most obvious carry-over of this tradition(the concept of a sacred fish as a source of enlightenment(can be seen in the Christian applications of the story."
Fionn mac Cumhaill (earlier Finn or Find mac Cumail or mac Umaill, later Anglicised to Finn McCool) was an Irish mythical hunter-warrior, seen also in the mythologies of Scotland and the Isle of Man. The stories of Fionn and his followers, the Fianna, form the Fenian cycle or Fiannaidheacht, much of it supposedly narrated by Fionn's son, the poet Oisín.
Fionn or Finn is actually a nickname meaning "fair" (in reference to hair colour), "white", or "bright". His childhood name was Deimne, and several legends tell how he gained the nickname when his hair turned prematurely white. The name "Fionn" is related to the Welsh name Gwyn, as in the mythological figure Gwyn ap Nudd, and to the continental Celtic deity Vindos.
The 19th century Irish revolutionary organization known as the Fenian Brotherhood took its name from these legends. The Scottish name Fingal comes from a retelling of these legends in epic form by the eighteenth century poet James Macpherson."
"The young Fionn met the leprechaun-like druid and poet Finn Eces, or Finnegas, near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finneces had spent seven years trying to catch the salmon of knowledge, which lived in a pool on the Boyne: whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the world. Eventually he caught it, and told the boy to cook it for him. While cooking it Fionn burned his thumb, and instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, swallowing a piece of the salmon's skin. This imbued him with the salmon's wisdom. He then knew how to gain revenge against Goll, and in subsequent stories was able to call on the knowledge of the salmon by sucking his thumb.
The salmon's place in this tale displays the esteem in which this particular family of fish is held in many different mythologies. The particular species thought to be referenced in this tale, is the Salmonidae midlandus variant. This species held a special place of esteem in traditional Irish stories due to its strength, its appearance, (significantly more scales than other species, and therefore a more striking range of colours), and its relative scarcity. The story of Fionn and the salmon of knowledge bears a strong resemblance to the Welsh tale of Gwion Bach, indicating a possible common source for both stories."
The fish is also a symbol of transformation and creation to the ancient Eastern Indians, which has been seen on pottery since approximately 2,500 B.C. In ancient Eastern Indian mythology, it was said that Vishnu transformed himself into a fish (Matsya) to save the world from the great flood. Matsya is usually shown with four arms and a fish tail.
According to the Matsya Purana, the king of pre-ancient Dravida and a devotee of Vishnu, Satyavrata (who later was known as Manu) was washing his hands in a river, when a little fish swam into his hands and pleaded with him to save its life. Manu put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew. Then he moved it to a tank, then a a river, and then finally the ocean, but to no avail. The fish then revealed himself to be Vishnu and told Manu that a deluge would occur within seven day, which would destroy all life. Therefore, Satyavrata was instructed to take "all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds, and accompanied by the seven saints” along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals. Lord Matsya is mostly represented as a four-armed figure with the upper torso of a man and the lower of a fish.
Lord Matsya is a representation of the Indian Avatar of Yishnou, coming forth from the fish. It is as well a representation of Jonah, as it does for the Hindoo divinity. Note that in both of these representations, the god has a crown on his head, surmounted with a triple ornament, both of which had evidently the same meaning, i. e., an emblem of the trinity. The Indian Avatar, represented with four arms, evidently means that he is god of the whole world. His four arms extend to the four corners of the world. The circle, which is seen in one hand, is an emblem of the eternal reward. The shell, with its eight convolutions, is intended to show the place in the number of the cycles during which he occupied. The book and sword in hands are to show that he ruled both in the right of the book and of the sword.
The concept of avatar within Hinduism is most often associated with Vishnu, the preserver or sustainer aspect of God within the Hindu Trinity or Trimurti or the one and only supreme God for followers of Vaishnavism. Vishnu's avatars typically descend for a very specific purpose. An oft-quoted passage from the Bhagavad Gita describes the typical role of an avatar of Vishnu—to bring dharma, or righteousness, back to the social and cosmic order:
“Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases I send myself forth. For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil,
and for the establishment of righteousness,
I come into being age after age. (Gita:4.7–8)”
The descents of Vishnu are also integral to His teaching and tradition, whereas the accounts of other deities are not so strictly dependent on their avatar stories. However, it is usual to speak of Vishnu as the source of the avatars, within the Vaishnavism branch of Hinduism Narayana, Vasudeva, and Krishna, which are also seen as names denoting divine aspects which descend as avatars.
*Note the lower case Omega symbol embedded
In ancient African culture, fish were symbolic for fertility and creativity, by embodying a new phase of life. In their creation myth, Mangala, the creator, planted seeds in the cosmic womb, from which two fish erupted and were set forth into the cosmos upon the waters of creation.
The Mandé creation myth is the traditional creation myth of the Mandé peoples of southern Mali. The story begins when Mangala - the creator god - tries making a balaza seed, but failed. He then made two eleusine seeds of different kinds, which the people of Keita call: "the egg of the world in two twin parts, which were to procreate." Mangala then made three more pairs of seeds. Each pair became the four elements, or four directions, as corners in the framework of the world's creation. This he folded into a hibiscus seed. The twin pairs of seeds, which are seen as having the opposite sex, are referred to as the egg, or placenta, of the world. This egg held the archetype of people with an additional two pairs of twins, one male and one female.
Among them was Pemba, who wished to dominate. So, he left the egg early, ripping a piece of his placenta. Pemba fell through space and his torn placenta became the Earth. Due to his leaving the egg prematurely, the Earth, formed from this unwanted piece, was arid and barren and was of no use to Pemba. So, Pemba tried to return to the egg, to rejoin his twin and his place in the rest of the placenta. However, it was not to be found. Mangala had changed the remaining placenta into the sun. In effect, Pemba stole male seeds from Mangala's clavicle and took them to the barren Earth and planted them there. Only one of the seeds could germinate in the dry earth, a male eleusine seed, which grew in the blood of the placenta. Although, because Pemba had stolen the seed and it germinated in Pemba's own placenta, the earth became impure and the eleusine seed turned red.
The other male twin, Faro, who had assumed the form of twin fish, was sacrificed to atone for Pemba and was to purify the earth. Faro was cut into sixty pieces, which fell to the earth and became trees. Mangala then restored Faro to life, giving him now the form of a human, and sent him down to Earth in an ark made from his own placenta. With him came four pairs of male and four pairs of female twins who became the original ancestors of mankind, all whom were made from Faro's placenta. The ark also held all the animals and plants created on Earth, which also carried the male and female life force. Sourakata followed with the first sacred drum made of the sacrificed Faro's skull, which he played to bring rain to Earth. When the rain did not come, the ancestral smith came to earth and with his hammer, he struck a rock and then the rain came. (Note relations to Roman/Greek mythology here)
Faro created all the world that mankind has come to know from the descendants of Mangala's original egg seeds. He caused the land to flood, to wash away the impure seed of his brother, Pemba, and from this flood, only the good were saved and sheltered by Faro's ark. (Note the relation to the worldly belief of the Great Flood)
The fish is a symbol of abundance and faith in Christianity, as seen in the Biblical story of the fishes and loaves. Several Biblical references also refer Christ and his disciples as being "fishers of men." Man is represented as the transformational fish and the ocean is a symbol of the abyss of sin in which man finds in himself. Titus Flavius Clemens (St. Clement of Alexandria) suggested that the Christians identify themselves with a seal engraved with either a dove or a fish, in the second century. The fish symbol was used by Christians even prior to this time. The symbol may have been a protest against the Pagan emperors of the time, who named themselves Theous Yios (God's son). During the reign of Domitian, this name also appeared on Alexandrian minted coins. It was also mentioned in the Bible several times. The letters of the Greek word for fish, ΙΧΘΥΣ (pronounced Ichthys) was noted by Clemens (Greek theologian) as making a little acrostic:
"It is generally well-accepted that the fish is a symbol of Christ. In one prayer ('Iesous CHristos Theou HUios Soter, or Jesus Christ, Son of God the Saviour(the first letters of each word spell out the Greek word for fish. Christ Himself is known as the fisher, and the fishnet is the symbol of the Christian sermon. Accordingly, the name of the Fisher King is connected with the words of the Saviour: "I shall make ye fishers of men" (Matth. IV.19, Mark I.17, Luke V.10), which would make anyone who converts many a rich fisher. Moreover, since fishing is directly equated with proselytizing in later Christianized versions (Q), it makes sense that these sources would disregard the physical act of fishing altogether. The Rich Fisher is wealthy in the spiritual sense, having received the blessing of the Lord. He has no further need for secular affluence. In these cases, Cavendish observes, "the purpose of the quest is no longer succession to a throne, unless it is a heavenly one. Healing the crippled king and breaking the spell on the land are only incidental to [the more central theme of spiritual enlightenment]." Case in point, the plight and exodus of Joseph of Arimathaea."
I - Iota, Iesous, Jesus
X - Chi, Christos, Christ
Θ - Theta, Theou, God
Υ - Upsilon, Yios*, Son
Σ - Sigma, Soter, Saviour
*pronounced <i>Iios</i>, with an emphasis on the 'o')
Chi (X) made the shape of the Cross, as seen by Constantine in the sky, and was the initial monogram of 'Christ.' The Chi sign and the Sign of the Cross are embedded within the tail of a fish.
The Age of Pisces also began at the time of Jesus's birth. There is astrological evidence in the story of Jesus' birth, even the fact that he was in a stable, surrounded by zodiac-like circle of animals.
Another similar symbol to the fish is the lowercase Greek character for Alpha (α). Jesus called himself "the Alpha and the Omega"2 (beginning and the end).
architect and author, found that on a
certain occasion every year the Chinese
Emperor, as Pontifex Maximus of his nation,
wears a mitre which is the very counterpart
of the Papal mitre."
-(Hager, on Chinese Hieroglyphics,
B. xxxv, in the British Museum)
The fish is a symbol for fidelity and unity in China, specifically the koi, as they frequently swim together in pairs. Often fish charms or figurines are given as gifts at weddings to symbolize the newly-weds fidelity and perfect union. The fish, due to its ability to reproduce in speed and volume, also symbolizes fertility and abundance.
Part of the Buddhist belief is that fish represent happiness, well-being, and freedom. Symbolizing living in a state of fearlessness, the fish lives without danger of drowning in the waters of sufferings and is able to swim freely and spontaneously.
1. The Doorway to Symbolism
2. The Meaning of Fish
3. Norse Mythology
4. Tattoo Designs - Symbols - Fish
5. Dagon, Cybele, & Catholicism
6. Dagon Photograph (1)
7. Dagon Photograph (2)
8. The "Dagon" Mitre Photograph
9. Celtic Symbols
10. IXOYE - Christian Fish
11. Christian Fish - Basic
14. Piscean Journey