Tag Archives: wisdom

The Salmon of Wisdom

You might wonder, why are salmon wise? Their ability to return to their birthplace to spawn may have given rise to the idea that they had special knowledge. Their travelling between salt and fresh water shows an adaptability most fish don’t have, and their jumping (immortalized in the Celtic warrior’s salmon leap) is impressive, and gives them their English name (from Latin salire, to jump).

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Finn: the judge, the poet, and the king

There are many figures in Irish myth and legend whose names are Finn or Find, or some variation, such as Fintan. Many of these are associated with inspiration and wisdom, and some also tap in the archetypes of the divine child and poet. The name means “fair, bright, white, lustrous, light-hued”, which connects it to Welsh Gwyn and the Gaulish god Vindonnus.

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Vindos: Theoretical God

In Irish finn means “fair, bright, white, lustrous, light-hued” (MacKillop: 226), and the Welsh gwyn is similar in meaning, with overtones of sacredness. Similarly, the Gaulish god, Vindonnus, gets his name from a root meaning either “clear light” (Green: 32) or “white, blessed” (Deo Mercurio). Coming at it from another direction, Daithai O hOgain has linked Finn/Vind with the Germanic find and Latin vid, words connected to sight and discovery (208).

From this it has been a short step to assuming a god, *Vindos, lying behind these various figures. However, like the “theoretical goddess” Rigantona, the names is a linguistic construct, and we have no evidence of a cult of Vindos.

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Starlight

Going abruptly into a starry night
It is ignorance we blink from, dark, unhoused;
There is a gaze of animal delight
Before the human vision. Then, aroused
To nebulous danger, we may look for easy stars,
Orion and the Dipper; but they are not ours,

These learned fields. Dark and ignorant,
Unable to see here what our forebears saw,
We keep some fear of random firmament
Vestigial in us. And we think, Ah,
If I had lived then, when these stories were made up, I
Could have found more likely pictures in haphazard sky.

But this is not so. Indeed, we have proved fools
When it comes to myths and images.
A few Old bestiaries, pantheons and tools
Translated to the heavens years ago—
Scales and hunter, goat and horologe—are all
That save us when, time and again, our systems fall.

And what would we do, given a fresh sky
And our dearth of image? Our fears, our few beliefs
Do not have shapes. They are like that astral way
We have called milky, vague stars and star-reefs
That were shapeless even to the fecund eye of myth—
Surely these are no forms to start a zodiac with.

To keep the sky free of luxurious shapes
Is an occupation for most of us, the mind
Free of luxurious thoughts. If we choose to escape,
What venial constellations will unwind
Around a point of light, and then cannot be found
Another night or by another man or from other ground.

As for me, I would find faces there,
Or perhaps one face I have long taken for guide;
Far-fetched, maybe, like Cygnus, but as fair,
And a constellation anyone could read
Once it was pointed out; an enlightenment of night,
The way the pronoun you will turn dark verses bright.

– William Meredith

(For the image at the top, click here.)

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