The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

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Huathe
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The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 13 Oct 2010, 17:57

Druids,

In my Bardic studies I have been reading on legends concerning the Hazel and the Salmon of Knowledge. In Celtic lore the Hazel tree is the tree of knowledge. Here are some legends concerning it.

Legend tells us if we follow the Boyne River in Ireland back to it's source we will come to a sacred pool surrounded by nine hazel trees. These trees are ancient with gnarled twisted trunks the color of russett, brown and purple. Hazelnuts ripen under the bright green leaves and occaisionally drop into the dark still water. If we sit quietly by this pool and look into it's depths we might get a glimpse of one of it's five ancient inhabitants. The sleek beautiful salmon, swimming and jumping every once in a while to capture a hazelnut as it drops from the tree...

In another story the nine hazel trees and the salmon of knowledge are in the Celtic otherword in the Well of Knowledge. Maybe that could be an explanation of where they are at today?

Here is the myth of Finn McCool and the Salmon of Knowledge.

The young Finn Mac Cumhaill ( Mc Cool ) met the Bard Finnegas, near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finnegas 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 immence knowledge. Eventually he caught it, with great struggle 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 either the juice from the fish or a piece of it's skin.This transferred to him the salmon's wisdom. When Finnegas returned and noticed a difference in the boy he asked if he had eaten any of the fish which he had told him not to. Finn explained to him what had happened. Finnegas told him he could teach him no more since he now had greater knowledge than he. Finn later became the leader of the Fianna, a great class of warriors. Some tales have it that Finn could access the salmon's knowledge simply by sucking on his thumb.

What I can't quite understand is why Finnegas did not search out those magical hazel trees to begin with instead of trying to catch an elusive magical salmon. Any Ideas?

Though I knew much of the story, here are my references to this post.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fionn_mac_Cumhaill
http://druidry.org/
http://www.lookaroundireland.com/salmonofknowledge.htm

Also I did an ENTS post on the Google forum a while back. I was curious to where hazel trees were found wild in the US. I have never seen wild ones here in the Western North Carolina Mountains. Incedentally I love both Hazel Nuts and Salmon. I was also pleased that Ed Frank, the site administrator added a section titled " Druidism " on the ENTS BBS site. That's awesome!

http://www.nativetreesociety.org/myths/ ... lklore.htm

:coll: :atlsalm:
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Cosmic Ash » 13 Oct 2010, 22:56

I think only the salmon had the magical properties, not the hazelnuts, or they only worked on the salmon. I got the impression also that it was one particular individual salmon, though I may be wrong there. Or maybe combination of magical nuts + special salmon = something that can transfer wisdom/knowledge to humans. Talking to a friend who knows more about fish than me, he said that salmon don't eat when they swimback upriver to spawn, and then die. So this fish wasn't taking the nut for food, he just fancied the look of it and swallowed it, as they sometimes do, he tells me. Possibly he couldn't even digest the hard shell, but still received the magic.
Hmm...it is a puzzle :shrug: and as usual I probably haven't helped much, but it is something I have wondered about too :where:

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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 14 Oct 2010, 05:26

Cosmic Ash

I don't think they were the typical hazelnuts or typical salmon. Maybe those trees were from the De Danaans and those Salmon were special too. The nine hazel trees mentioned at the Well of Wisdom in the Celtic Otherworld may indeed be a clue that these trees are truly magical and not those typically found. Wild Salmon typically feed on other fish and small invertebrates. Some species are also planktonic feeders. One that fed on nuts, especially one with a hard shell would be special indeed.

And it is true that Salmon feed little to none on their trip upstream to spawn. They have something else on their minds. But the " Salmon of Knowledge " may have been a permanent resident of the pool it resided in. Basically a " Landlocked Salmon ".
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby DaRC » 14 Oct 2010, 12:43

Hmm welll I thought that there were 5 streams that fed the Well of Segais.
This is where the 9 hazels trees of Wisdom dropped nuts into the pool that the Salmon fed on.

Allegorically we could consider the 5 streams to be the 5 senses, maybe this represent the search for wisdom via experience?

We would then need to interpret what the 9 hazel trees represent. Within the Germanic world there were 9 realms or worlds. Within the Celtic world we have the 3 realms of Earth, Sea and Sky plus (arguably) the 3 realms in the Circles of Abred. The 9 trees could come from a 3x3 and so maybe the 9 hazels represent the sum of all knowledge across all the realms?

The Salmon, by eating of the nuts, acquires the sum of all knowledge. Maybe the search for the salmon is the method of inquiry?

In this respect it would be how Fionn accumulates such Druidic knowledge and wisdom - through experience, knowledge and inquiry.

The Salmon is a special, magical being because it starts in a small inland stream and then travels, across the ocean, far to the west (if you live in north-western Europe) and perhaps to the location of the Summer Lands. It then returns older and wiser ready to start the next generation.

Just my tuppence'orth :)
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby DJ Droood » 14 Oct 2010, 12:57

You may be right Darc...but do you ever think that maybe some of these tales are like several different jigsaw puzzles that have all been jumbled into the same box by a child, with many of the pieces missing, and other pieces with the knobby bits chewed off? Then we try to put the puzzles together...some from a tree puzzle, others from a castle puzzle, then this strange piece of a fish puzzle...and try to make it all fit together and make sense?

I will admit that I am not very esoterically-minded, and the deeper meaning of this stuff usually has to be explained to me. (I'm not very good at puzzles either.)
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 14 Oct 2010, 14:35

Good point-of view, Darc. :applause:
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Heddwen » 14 Oct 2010, 15:22

From The Green Man Tree Oracle by John Matthews and Will Worthington, page 61 re:hazel

"For the Celts,the hazel is deeply connected with wisdom, and the fruit of the tree(known as the 'food of the gods') has an important place on the iconography of learning. Irish tradition speaks of the sacred salmon who swim in a pool surrounded by nine hazel trees. When these trees dropped their nuts into the water below, the salmon ate them and then carried them to the sea and back to their spawning run. This endless cycle was seen as a metaphor for the passing of wisdom from age to age and from person to person. Salmon were already regarded as sacred in their own right, and ingesting the fruit of wisdom made them doubly precious. Celtic literature contains many descriptions of heros who, when they ate the flesh of the salmon, thereby imbibed wisdom, and so set them apart from the rest of humanity."

Also, in The Druid Animal Oracle by Philip and Stephanie Carr Gomm, there is an interesting chapter about the salmon,hazel nuts and wisdom in other myths.

"It was said that since the salmon had eaten the magical hazel nuts, whoever ate the salmon would be inspired and that these nuts were the cause of the red spots on its side" suggesting also that whenever we talk of someones head as a "nut" we echo this tradition.

Hope this helps

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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 15 Oct 2010, 05:19

Heddwen,

Mentioning red spots on the side of salmon reminds me of a close relative of the Atlantic Salmon. One native to Europe but widely introduced into North America. That is the Brown Trout. Brown Trout have red spots on the side of their bodies. All true trout are closely related to Salmon and are members of the salmonid group of fishes.

:atlsalm:
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby DaRC » 15 Oct 2010, 14:26

|-) Funnily enough the bit I cut out of my last post was about the Salmon-trout - here in Sussex we don't have Salmon but do have the Salmon-trout which is a Brown trout that spawns and spends it's youth in the freshwater rivers, when it matures it migrates down to the estuary and then spends most of it's time living in the sea. Sometimes they migrate far upstream during the winter floods and then get trapped in pools and the wider stretches of the stream as the floods subside. In this respect they live in both fresh and sea water, but without the long migration of the Salmon.

DJ Drood - I do totally agree which is why I used a whole load of maybe :grin: but there is also the thought that the reason why the Druids were against writing their esoteric knowledge down was to encourage each generation to hunt for wisdom, knowledge and truth. That way it remains alive and reflects the needs of each generation.
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 15 Oct 2010, 15:33

Darc,

All trout have the ability to migrate to the sea. I fish for Brown Trout often, here in the Appalachians of North Carolina. These here are non-migratory.
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby DJ Droood » 15 Oct 2010, 15:49

|-) DJ Drood - I do totally agree which is why I used a whole load of maybe :grin: but there is also the thought that the reason why the Druids were against writing their esoteric knowledge down was to encourage each generation to hunt for wisdom, knowledge and truth. That way it remains alive and reflects the needs of each generation.
Well if that is the case, the druids made me increase my knowledge (maybe not wisdom) by making me google whether or not fish eat nuts, and indeed, carp are listed as a fish that will eat nuts.
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 15 Oct 2010, 19:31

DJ. Carp will eat damn near anything. I caught a 24 pounder last year.
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Serpentia » 29 Nov 2010, 11:29

I will admit that I am not very esoterically-minded, and the deeper meaning of this stuff usually has to be explained to me. (I'm not very good at puzzles either.)
If we include Nico, that makes three of us, DJ... and I find this story the hardest of them all to digest, integrate, and move on with. I can relate to the hazel tree, but they don't relate to the Salmon. And while I love to listen to the stories - particularly when told by Ronald Hutton *sigh* - the deeper meaning of this one still escapes me.

P.S. From my spirit guide from the Bardic course... she says that "bears have no problem digesting salmon" :innocent:

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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby DaRC » 01 Dec 2010, 12:35

Hazelnuts also make good stuffing for Salmon.

I must admit the Celtic tales I do find trickily esoteric - as Droood says it's like they all got jumbled up, looking at the source books where the single translations comes from is not far from the truth.

Hawthorn - well wild carp have their favourites although more domesticated carp (i.e. goldfish) can be fussy - mine used to like peas and brussel sprouts but hated sweetcorn and lettuce 8-)
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Zephyr » 20 Dec 2010, 21:31

With the greatest of respect I believe that the salmon actually represents us, our inner being, our conscience, our true selves. When we allow our spirit to swim upstream against the flow of popular thought and dogmatism, when we open ourselves up to the information of the five senses unhindered by the prejudices and bias we may be raised in, we come to the understanding of the importance of the nine trees. It is then that our spirit may take in their knowledge, and our flesh may then absorb this knowledge and reach a greater understanding of the world around us. Hope this interpretation has some validity. Cheers.

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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 21 Dec 2010, 06:01

Zephyr,

I like your interpretation. :applause:
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Heddwen » 21 Dec 2010, 17:34

Hawthorn Ent, I really like your festive avatar. Where does it originate from?

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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Dathi » 21 Dec 2010, 18:19

Just for interest, the well is still to be found. The Well of Segais (aka Nechtain's or Connla's Well)

Here are several links.

http://ecoecards.co.uk/Ireland/myths/boan.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connla's_Well
http://www.danann.org/library/gael/segais.html

Interesting page on the symbology of the well:
http://www.danann.org/library/gael/segais2.html

And appropriate to this day: Newgrange: empowering the salmon of wisdom http://www.philipcoppens.com/newgrange.html

More on the well, including the Metrical Dindshenchas story of the well http://www.summerlands.com/crossroads/l ... triads.htm

And some music to go with all this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0Cci60Cssk

Enjoy,

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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby Huathe » 22 Dec 2010, 06:24

Hawthorn Ent, I really like your festive avatar. Where does it originate from?
Heddwen,

I picked this one up, and others similar to it, featuring different trees, about seven years ago. It has been so long that I cannot remember where I got them.

In this one, a queen, probably Maeve, sits on her throne in front of a holly tree. A spear is stuck in the ground near her side. It could be the spear of Cuchulainn or maybe that of Lugh. A starry night complete with a full moon lies in the background.

I plan to change my avatar 4 times a year. At the solstices and the equinoxes.

I like your new one too!
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Re: The Hazel Tree and the Salmon of Knowledge

Postby inis » 05 Jan 2011, 09:48

I didn't want to open a new thread for my question(s), so I'll just post it here...

My first question: does anybody have by chance a link or something to the myth about the oldest beings of the world? I read it as a teenager, but can't remember properly (the hero is on a quest and first asks the blackbird of forgotthename, then he is sent to some stag and eagle and another animal I forgot, until he reaches the salmon who is the ultimatively oldest and wisest being on earth).

Next question: do these animals mentioned in the myth live longer than other animals? for example, does a blackbird in average get older than other singing birds (unless the cat gets them :grin: )? And especially the salmon: does he get significantly old? or is it all just a metaphor?

Thanks! :shake:
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