… the famous Christian “fish” symbol found its source in pagan religious symbolism. The following claims are taken from an atheistic site (the link is now defunct), but I have seen them repeated in other places, including a Satanist discussion board. The claims, which usually find their root in Barbara Walker’s Women’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects (a fountain of misinformation if there ever was one, but we’ll save that for later) are that the fish predated Christianity as a religious symbol, and that Christians merely copied it. Among the alleged sources:
- ” Ichthys was the offspring son of the ancient Sea goddess Atargatis, and was known in various mythic systems as Tirgata, Aphrodite, Pelagia or Delphine.”
- “The fish also a central element in other stories, including the Goddess of Ephesus (who has a fish amulet covering her genital region), as well as the tale of the fish that swallowed the penis of Osiris, and was also considered a symbol of the vulva of Isis.”
- “…the fish also has been identified in certain cultures with reincarnation and the life force.”
- “…before Christianity, the fish symbol was known as ‘the Great Mother’…link[ed] to fertility, birth, feminine sexuality and the natural force of women…”
The article concludes that the church “appropriated the metaphors of earlier pagan religions, grafting them into its own account of the creation and beyond…” Egyptian oxyrhynchus fish soul carrier with Hathor’s hums and … or diamond- shaped vulva, another prevalent Great Goddess symbol (Gimbutas 258ff.). Phallic symbolism apparently derives from the shape of the fish, ...
Thomas Inman writes about how worship of the fish goddess Freya became conflated with a Catholic holy day:
“Recognizing that prohibiting Freya’s honor altogether was impossible, the church co-pted and diabolized her symbols. Thus, for example, they taught that Friday, Freya’s sacred day, was really a catholic holy day on which fish, one of her sacred animals, was to be eaten.” -Carolyn McVicar Edwards, The Storyteller’s Goddess, “Freya, Mother of All_ Scandinavia”
“The fish Goddess, Freya, was worshipped by her followers on her sacred day, Friday. They ate fish and engaging in orgies. In later centuries, the Christian church adsorbed this tradition by requiring the faithful to eat fish on Friday. In ancient Rome Friday is called “dies veneris”, and the Great Goddess who was named Freya was also called Venus by the Romans – and fish were also eaten in her honour every Friday.” – “What do the symbols hide?” Ieva Cepulkauskaite, sociologist
“Eating fish on Friday and the fish symbol representing the deity were all taken over by the Church from pagan sources.” -Ichabod, The Glory Is Departed! Study No. 230 by Richard C. Nickels
“As to the ritual of his worship…we only know from ancient writers that, for religious reasons, most of the Syrian peoples had special days for eating fish, a practice that one is naturally inclined to connect with the worship of a fish-god.” – The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, Encyclopedia Press, Inc
Retrieved from online article: Ever wonder why symbolism is bad?
“The fish symbol “was so revered throughout the Roman empire that Christian authorities insisted on taking it over, with extensive revision of myths to deny its earlier female-genital meanings…Sometimes the Christ child was portrayed inside the vesica, which was superimposed on Mary’s belly and obviously represented her womb, just as in the ancient symbolism of the Goddess.” Another author writes: “The fish headdress of the priests of Ea [a Sumero-Semitic God] later became the miter of the Christian bishops.”
The symbol itself, the eating of fish on Friday and the association of the symbol with deity were all taken over by the early Church from Pagan sources. Only the sexual component was deleted.”
According to tradition, ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs. Some sources indicate that the earliest literary references came from the recommendation of Clement of Alexandria to his readers (Paedagogus, III, xi) to engrave their seals with the dove or fish. However, it can be inferred from Roman monumental sources such as the Capella Greca and the Sacrament Chapels of the catacomb of St. Callistus that the fish symbol was known to Christians much earlier. Tertullian, in his treatise On Baptism, makes a pun on the word, writing that “we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ Jesus Christ, are born in water.” Still another explanation could be the reference to The Sign of Jonah. Just like he was in the belly of a big fish, so Christ was crucified, entombed for three days, and then rose from the dead.” –(Source: “Ichthys“, Wikipedia)
The use of the fish in pagan art as a purely decorative sign is ancient and constant. Besides the Eucharistic frescoes of the catacombs a considerable number of objects containing the fish-symbol are preserved in various European museums, one of the most interesting, because of the grouping of the fish with several other symbols, being a carved gem in the Kircherian Museum in Rome. Fish may have been used as symbols before Christianity, possibly representing several goddesses; it has been associated with Aphrodite, Atargatis, Dagon, Ephesus, Isis, Delphine and Pelagia.
In non-Christian religious symbolism, the pointed oval or vesica piscis shape can represent the female genitalia.
Barbara Walker, in her book “Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects“, suggests that Ichthys was the son of the sea goddess Atargatis and that his symbol was a representation of sexuality and fertility. The fish has also been used to symbolize Pisces, the Zodiac sign. The Sun was in Pisces, the fish, on the Vernal Equinox shortly before the founding of Christianity and, depending on the line of demarcation, may remain so for approximately 600 more years, though this is a topic of debate: see the Astrological age as well as Pisces and the Star Bands Chart
Fish sacrifices and burials with fish-like sculptures noted of burials at Lepenski Vir, Yugoslavia probably indicated the belief that humans were “children of the river”. Alternatively, Near Eastern motif Gimbutas, fish meant wisdom and Enki water deity associations. Fish also offered up in the Ancient Near East… believed to populate the Subterranean Ocean and the River Tigris and Euphrates River, most species of catfish in the latter environment. Fish connected to rebirth — Anubis in tomb paintings depicted carrying out mummification upon fish instead of human corpses, linking the dead with Osiris, whose body was devoured by fish and come to life when Isis put the body parts back to together again, except for … fish uterus link in Minoan art where fish along with Great Goddess symbols including spirals adorn sarcophagi. Artemis of Ephesus had a fish amulet covering over her genitals. This shape is associated with vesica pesci, another version of the fish sign as well as a symbol of the vulva. Artemis was linked to fishing nets and fishermen sacrificed to her. Fish votives have been found in the sanctuaries of Artemis and Poseidon while offerings to Zeus, Hera, Demeter took the form of engraved fish on lamps. Artemis Eurynome appears as a fish-tailed woman. (Tresider) Buddha and Orpheus (and of course Jesus Christ) were all known as “fishers of men” … Golden fish “matsya” is a symbol for Buddhism and also serves as a vehicle for the Hindu deities Varuna, Ganga and others. Sacred fish are reared in pools reminding devotees of Vishnu=the golden fish that guided Manu’s ark to safety during the deluge, and Vishnu is worshiped in fish form. Fish symbol of felicity and fertility for the Hindus as well as for the Chinese. Fish in Dutch vernacular was a symbol for folly and wanton revelry in Northern Renaissance art. p. 176 in Assyrian and Babylonian art
Mayans depicted fish in their art and according to their belief system: fish swim in the waters surrounding the Earth. The Earth rests on a watery membrane, with four pillars separating the dead from the living. Because of dark, moist and mysterious entrances to the Underworld, caves like fish symbolized fertility. Because of such associations, fish were buried with the dead. …Sex symbolism of the peschiera in the sphere of the moon appears from the common phallic symbolism of the fish, which was on account of its phallic symbolism, was accepted in medieval symbolism as a symbol for Christ. by considering five Greek letters for fish. The peschiera as a female symbol is where the fish swims. ..Paralleling Venus in the uterine world of Paradise, is the Proserpine, mother goddess of the uterine region of Hell. Nine is the number associated with the mother, on account of the nine months of gestation. Universal female symbolism of the rose used as a symbol of the vulva because the yellow in the middle of the rose is the pollination spot, while the key is a phallic symbol. The act of sight by which Dante penetrates the female symbol of the rose is phallic …
An extract from the “Origin of the “Christian” Fish Symbol” Source: albatrus.org. Retrieved 2008-05-09 sums up the Near Eastern context and influences that were the backdrop to the developing religion of Christianity:
“Before Christianity adopted the fish symbol, it was known by pagans as “the Great Mother”, and “womb”. Its link to fertility, birth, and the natural force of women was acknowledged also by the Celts, as well as pagan cultures throughout northern Europe.
The Romans called the goddess of sexual fertility by the name of Venus. And thus it is from the name of the goddess Venus that our modern words “venereal” and “venereal disease” have come. Friday was regarded as her sacred day, because it was believed that the planet Venus ruled the first hour of Friday and thus it was called dies Veneris. And to make the significance complete, the fish was also regarded as being sacred to her. The accompanying illustration, as seen in “Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism”, shows the goddess Venus with her symbol, the fish. The similarities between the two, would indicate that Venus and Freya were originally one and the same goddess and that original being the mother-goddess of Babylon.
The same association of the mother goddess with the fish-fertility symbol is evidenced among the symbols of the goddess in other forms also. The fish was regarded as sacred to Ashtoreth, the name under which the Israelites worshipped the pagan goddess. And in ancient Egypt, Isis is represented with a fish on her head, as seen in the accompanying illustration.
A Philistine deity. It is commonly admitted that the name Dagon is a diminutive form, hence a term of endearment, derived from the Semitic root dag, and means, accordingly, “little fish”. The name, therefore, indicates a fish-shaped god. This the Bible also suggests when speaking of the Dagon worshipped in the temple of Azotus (1Sa 5:4) and his trunk. Coins of various Philistine or Phænician cities, on most of which Dagon is represented as a composite figure, human as to the upper part of the body, fish-like as to the lower. From this it may well be inferred that Dagon was a fish-god. e had face and hands and a portion of his body resembled that of a fish, in accordance with the most probable interpretation of “the stump of Dagon” (verse 4). Dagon is sometimes associated with a female half-fish deity, Derceto or Atargatis, often identified with Astarte.”
The Cryptography of Dante – Page 260 notes the “…regenerative power suggested by fish symbols — hence used as a Christian symbol. Sexual symbolism- the phallic character of the sun at the moment when it passes through the foce – as vulva, in its union with the divine mother the sky and in its rebirth. The foce is the spot through which the sun rises at the vernal equinox , the season assigned to Creation and the Annunciation.”
More on sexual symbolism from the Arcane Archive:
<firstname.lastname@example.org>By now you will have gotten a set of extracts from chpter 6 of Jennings' book "Phallic Remains," with lengthy descriptions of neolithic vulvar stones (a.k.a. holed, yoni, goddess stones) as "phallic objects," plus a ref to his book "Fishes, Flowers, and Fire and Phallic Symbols." And you will also have seen Jennings quoting the earlier author Richard Brash on vulvar stones as "phallic." > on p. 180, he [Jennings] says, "Figs. 28, 29, are symbols of Venus > (Aphrodite), the deity of the Syrians and Phoenicians. They are > phallic emblems. and > He does say the Venus sign is a "phallic emblem." He previously > referred to the Venus symbol as a symbol of male-female union, > differentiating between the female part (the upright oval) and the > male (the cross). I think you fail to see that Jennings is distinguishing the "phallic" astrological symbol for the planet Venus (circle plus cross) from "phallic" figs, which as phallic emblems represent the womb and are symbols of a female goddess of the Middle East (whom he inacurately calls Venus or Aphrodite). The fig does NOT look like the symbol for the planet Venus.
We can link the above reasoning to explain the mythological and cultural ethos behind the megalithic tombs and dolmens with their astronomical alignments, as well as the iconic religious symbolism of the yoni (which means vulva, the divine passage, Earth Womb as well as sacred temple). All over Eurasia and East Asia, the Underworld is regarded as the subterranean Earth Womb, with the Jizo (Japanese)-Jijang (Korean)-Dichang (Chinese)-Ksitigharba (Indian) bodhisattvas all literally called Earth Womb bodhisattvas.
The Earth Womb subterranean world of the dead or hell is strongly associated throughout Eurasia with a female Mother and mountain goddess — from the Thracian goddesses (of Europe) to the Goddess Umai/Ymai(Mongolia). For details on the mountain-cave goddess cults, see Discovering the universality of Baba yaga and Yama-uba, the old mountain crone
On the other side of the world, there is also a counterpart in the Hellenistic world in the Greek-Cretan Dictaean cave cults (2000-700 B.C.) – where the cave-god of Crete, whom the Hellenes identified with their Zeus, was supposed to awake from his underworld sleep each year. In other words, the Earth Mother gave birth to him in the mountain sanctuary (see Myths of Crete and Pre-Hellenic Europe). From the region, we are mindful of the existence of the Bacchus phallic cult and the Phoenician Mother Dercetis and Atergatis which allegedly comes from the Dagon god Adir dagon who is represented by a Fish. According to Banier, the Greek myths were borrowings out of Egypt and Phoenicia (The Greeks may have the largest body of mythology of mermaids/mermen-sea nymphs-nereids-nayads- oceanids-creatures often associated with sea grottoes or water sources) Archaeologically speaking evidence of phallic representation is also found in the Cucuteni Culture 3000 BC) Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, a.k.a. Trypillian culture(from Ukrainian) or Tripolye culture (from Russian), is a Neolithic–Eneolithic archaeological culture which flourished between ca. 5500 BC and 2750 BC, from the Carpathian Mountains to the Dniester and Dnieper regions in modern-day Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine(see below). At its peak the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture built the largest settlements in Neolithic Europe.
The Yoni is often paired with the phallic icon of the lingam, a symbol of divine energy. The Hindu scripture Shiva Purana describes the worship of the lingam as originating in the loss and recovery of Shiva’s phallus, though it also describes the origin of the lingam as the beginning-less and endless pillar (Stambha). The Linga Purana also supports the latter interpretation as a cosmic pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. Shiva is pictured as Lingodbhava, emerging from the Lingam – the cosmic fire pillar.
In the cosmic pillar-pairings, we have a body of related myths found in Orpheus-Eurydice vs. Izanagi-Izanami and Innana-Dumuzi mythical pairings as well as the Miao cosmic pillar courtship dance.
Back to the fish-phallic iconographic connection, see Lady of the Beasts: The Goddess and Her Sacred Animals:
“feminine deities who came up from the sea as fish were the earliest culture bringers, preceding the male gods who took male form. The yoni as the East Indians call the mons veneris is symbolized by the lozenge, diamond, glyph or rhomb. Among the pagans, eating of fish on a certain day represented the deification of the yoni. … the Italian word for fish is pesce, slang for penis; and the lozenge, or rhomb, is still the visual symbol for vagina. The word rhomb comes from spinning; the Greek word means to “roll about”” “Reindeer with fish between their legs, and lozenges engraved on a tine, Lorthet, France” were the first known appearance of the lozenge. “Gylphs and fish, symbols of fertility… reveal the Pal hunter’s desire for fecundity among the reindeers”
Author Balaji Mundkur, however, suggests in The Cult of the Serpent: An Interdisciplinary Survey of Its Manifestations ..(pp. 180 and 206) that there has been an over-interpretation of phallic and vulva symbols.
Many links between the Goddess and fish may be found in various parts of the ancient world:
- In China, Great Mother Kwan-yin often portrayed in the shape of a fish. Some versions depict the Nuwa creatrix with a fish-like (alternatively snake’s) tail
- In India, the Goddess Kali was called the “fish-eyed one”
- In Egypt, Isis was called the Great Fish of the Abyss
- In Greece the Greek word “delphos” meant both fish and womb. The word is derived from the location of the ancient Oracle at Delphi who worshipped the original fish goddess, Themis. The later fish Goddess, Aphrodite Salacia, was worshipped by her followers on her sacred day, Friday. They ate fish and engaging in orgies. From her name comes the English word “salacious” which means lustful or obscene. Also from her name comes the name of our fourth month, April. In later centuries, the Christian church adsorbed this tradition by requiring the faithful to eat fish on Friday – a tradition that was only recently abandoned.
- Cybele, the Phrygian Great Goddess of Asia Minor is the oldest known goddess, predating Sumerian and Egyptian ones by at least 5,000 years. The mitre on the head of the goddess Cybele is striking similarity to the ‘fish head’ of the God Dagon. Of Luwian origin, from Kubaba. Cybele embodies the fertile earth, a goddess of caverns and mountains with her Priestesses led the people in orgiastic ceremonies with wild music, drumming and dancing and drink, and ecstatic male followers who ritually castrated themselves
- In ancient Rome Friday is called “dies veneris” or Day of Venus, the Pagan Goddess of Love.
- Throughout the Mediterranean, mystery religions used fish, wine and bread for their sacramental meal.
- In Scandinavia, the Great Goddess was named Freya; fish were eaten in her honor. The 6th day of the week was named “Friday” after her.
- In the Middle East, the Great Goddess of Ephesus was portrayed as a woman with a fish amulet over her genitals.
Some of the minorities in South-Western China such as the Miao people, hail Nüwa as their goddess (with festivals, such as the ‘Water-Splashing Festival,’ considered to be a tribute to her sacrifices). In the earliest Chinese dictionary, Shuowen Jiezi (說文解字), by Xu Shen (58 – 147 C.E.), Nüwa is said to have been both the sister and the wife of Fuxi. However, paintings depict them joined as half people, with snake-like, or some versions show fish-like tails, dating as far back as the Warring States period (fifth century B.C.E. to 220 B.C.E.). A stone tablet from the Han dynasty, dated 160 C.E., depicts Fu Hsi with Nüwa, who was both his wife and his sister. Well-preserved paintings turn up in Xinjiang (see The Xinjiang Fuxi-Nuwa), attributed to the Uighur people, suggesting that Nuwa (and Fuxi) may have had a westerly provenance. Most myths present Nüwa as female in a procreative role, creating and reproducing people after a great calamity. Nuwa is also associated with a deluge myth, in which the water god Gong Gong smashed his head against Mount Buzhou (不周山), a pillar holding up the sky, collapsing it and causing great floods and suffering among the people.
The earliest literary reference to Nuwa, in Liezi (列子) by Lie Yukou (列圄寇, 475 – 221 B.C.E.), describes Nüwa repairing the heavens after a great flood, and states that Nüwa molded the first people out of clay. The name “Nuwa” first appears in “Elegies of Chu” (楚辞, or Chuci), chapter 3: “Asking Heaven” by Qu Yuan (屈原, 340 – 278 B.C.E.), in another account of Nuwa molding figures from the yellow earth, and giving them life and the ability to bear children. Demons then fought and broke the pillars of the Heavens, and Nüwa worked unceasingly to repair the damage, melting down the five-colored stones to mend the Heavens. The ancestral male deity, Fu Xi, only assumed primary importance at a later stage of the myth’s development.
Another well-known legend in China has it that if the Golden Carp swims against the currents and leaps over the waterfall it will turn into a Celestial Dragon, one of the most honored, and respected Dragons in Eastern culture. Another legend says that the Golden Carp who fights the currents to leap over the waterfall will be granted eternal life. In East Asia, the Golden Carp is also a symbol of wealth, prosperity and success, as well as courage and persistence, and is a popular motif used to adorn textiles, plates and murals and sculptures(see Carp Leaping over Dragon’s Gate) and even ancient Chinese coins. Fish are often kept in palace ponds or displayed in Temple Gardens, public spaces.
Korean fishy sayings:
“A gate called Deungyong-mun was where a person who passed the civil service exam had the honor of facing the king. The legend of the gate very closely related to a carp: “Every spring, carps were swimming against the strong stream around the place named yongmun, and the one which was successful to go up against it turned into a dragon.” Based on this context, people compared the scholar (who passed the exam and made something of himself against all difficulties) to a carp that was transformed into a dragon. Additionally, when a carp gives birth, it lays thousands of eggs, so people associate it with reproduction.”- Animals | Life in Korea
According to another Korean myth:
“…a poor fisherman once caught a gigantic carp but the carp could speak and begged to be set free. Unknown to the fisherman, the carp was the son of the Dragon King, the ruler of the ocean, and so the fisherman was rewarded with full nets of fish, bringing him prosperity and happiness. Today, the carp represents a powerful symbol of wealth and prosperity in Korea” — The mythunderstood carp
Fish weren’t only symbols of female deities, but there were also some male deities represented by fish iconography (see “Amphhibious Gods“).
The first and most famous was called Oannes or Oe, (who was thought to have come from a ‘great egg’) and one of the amphibious Seven Sages or fish-men who the Babylonians said brought them civilization. Oannes, was regarded as the creator of the Babylonian civilization (Berosso). Oannes is thought to have been the Assyro-Babylonian prototype for the fertility god who evolved into a major northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain (as symbol of fertility) and fish and/or fishing (as symbol of multiplying)…that was worshipped by the early Amorites and by the inhabitants of the cities of Ebla (modern Tell Mardikh, Syria) and Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra, Syria) and into Dagon, the Fish-God for the Philistines. The root word ‘dgn’ and Near Eastern/Greek equivalents mean grain, but the Hebrew word ‘dag’ means fish. Dagon first appears in extant records about 2500 BC in the Mari texts and in personal Amorite names, and is mentioned occasionally in early Sumerian texts but becomes prominent only in later Akkadian inscriptions as a powerful and warlike protector. In an Assyrian poem, Dagan appears as a judge of the dead, alongside of Nergal and Misharu. A late Babylonian text makes him the underworld prison warder of the seven children of the god Emmesharra. According to popular Hebrew and biblical traditions, Dagon, from his navel down, had the form of a fish (whence his name, Dagon), and from his navel up, the form of a man, but according to other views, Dagon was never originally a fish-god, but once he became an important god of those maritime Canaanites, the Phoenicians,
Fishlore in India
In India, there is the great fish deity tale, Manu and the fish, Matsya. Matsya (Sanskrit: मत्स्य …meaning fish in Sanskrit) was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood or Deluge finds mention in Hinduism texts like the Satapatha Brahmana, where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu, and advises him to build a giant boat.
Matsya pulls a boat carrying Manu and others (Open Library source)
According to Hindu mythology:
” Sraddhadeva Manu was born to Saranya and Vaivasvata and was the King of Dravida during the epoch of the Matsya Purana. Sraddhadeva Manu once caught a talking fish who begged him to rescue it. The fish claimed a Great Flood was coming and it would wash away all living things. Manu put the fish in a pot, and then, as it grew larger, into a tank, a lake and then the ocean. While in the ocean, the fish told Manu to build a boat. He did so and when the flood arrived, the fish (actually Matsya) towed the ship by a cable attached to his horn”
Note that according Hindu tradition, Sraddhadeva Manu is King (and progenitor of mankind) of the Dravididesa or Dravidians, who are an indigenous people of great antiquity according to genetics (see New research debunks Aryan invasion theory DNA Daily News & Analysis, Dec 10, 2011), while the Matsya Purana (literally, the ancient chronicle of Matsya) is one of the oldest of the 18 post-Vedic Hindu scriptures called the Puranas. The scripture is a composite work dated to c. 250–500 CE. — the Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts (and therefore pre-Christianity) that were disseminated by a traveling Brahmins scholar who would settles for a few weeks in a temple, and narrate parts of a Purana, telling their stories, usually in Katha sessions. Puranas are thus usually written in the form of stories related by one person to another and usually give prominence to a particular deity, employing an abundance of religious and philosophical concepts.
According to another source, “The Evidence from Comparative Religion”, “The birth of Vyasa’s mother Satyavati from a fish equally refers to a Southeast-Asian myth, unknown in the IE world “. Both Alan Dundes, author of “The Flood Myth” and Stephen Oppenheimer in his book “Eden in the East” make rather elaborate comparisons of the Bhil – Bhagwan people’s myth of the fish saviour and Flood myth with the Manu version. Alundes also points out the Bhagwan have a female creator deity, while Oppenheimer goes on to establish that the fish-and-flood-and-Seven Sages motifs are components belonging to Austro-Asiatic and Southeast Asian peoples.
Vatea according to “Myths and Songs of the South Pacific” by William Wyatt Gil, is “half man and half fish”, and “the father of gods and men”. Vatea is first born of six, from the primordial mother Vari-ma-te-takere (lit. “The very beginning”), who lived inside an egg. He was considered a divinity allied to great sea monsters or porpoises. His youngest sister Tu-metua was the tutelar goddess of Moorea who dealt with her Great Mother Vari in the very lowest depths of Avaiki, the silent land. Oppenheimer believes that here we find the Eastern mythological counterpart for the amphibious god/sage Oannes, “Half-man, half-fish, his eyes were the Sun and Moon.(p. 349) “.
Fishlore in Japan
In Japan, there is an obscure folklore about the Gyoran Kannon which according to the Gyoran Temple tradition has its origin in a Chinese Tang dynasty tale of the Buddha appearing in the form of a beautiful maiden, selling fish in a bamboo basket, and spreading Buddhism from her basket (the resemblance to Jesus Christ’s multiplying loaves of bread and feeding the masses should not be lost on us here).
However, Japan also has plenty of fishlore of its own that pre-dates Buddhist folklore or influences.
Folktales of giant or monster namazu catfish abound on Honshu Island see Catfish folklore, but the most famous and possibly oldest legend might be that of the giant earthquake-causing namazu catfish that is held down by the Kashima deity venerated by the Kashima jingu dating to the 8th century.
Hokkaido Ainu traditionally made fish skin shoes as one of the 6 traditional crafts. and the Ainu of Sakhalin wore garments made of fish skin.
The Ainu have a tale of Ainu tale of Okina the mighty fish that makes seas rough and turns ships over (see Ainu Folklore: Traditions and Cultures of the Vanishing Ainus of Japan, 1949 by Carl Etter p. 107-108
When creating the Ainu homeland or Ainu Moshir, the creator placed it on the back of a giant fish mistakenly believing it was land. Upon discovering his mistake, he sent two gods to hold the fish steady, but occasionally the fish moves if a god relaxes temporarily or if a demon god intervenes, and an earthquake occurs. Source: Hokkaido: a history of ethnic transition and development on Japan’s northern island by Ann B. Irish p. 36
While the mythic epics relate the activities of deities, the heroic epics are about the culture hero who, with the aid of the deities, fought demons to save the Ainu and became the founder of the Ainu people. Among the Hokkaidō Ainu, the culture hero descended from the world of the deities in the sky and taught the Ainu their way of life, including fishing and hunting and the rituals and rules governing human society. ..the Sakhalin Ainu wore garments made of fish skin and animal hides… —Religion and expressive culture – Ainu
“The salmon is divine, and its symbol is worshipped. Folk-tales are told regarding salmon taking human shape…
Offerings were made to gods of ocean, rivers, and mountains.
The world was supposed to be floating on and surrounded by water, and to be resting on the spine of a gigantic fish which caused earthquakes when it moved…”
The existence of fish totems and female fish goddess idols among the Ainu and of tribes in Kamschatka were noted in From Myths of China and Japan p. 25 by Donald Alexander Mackenzie and were attributed to be diffused practices from the Koro-pok-guru people who were inhabitants who arrived before the Ainu:
“Although the Ainu claimed to have exterminated the Koro-pok-guru, it is possible that they really intermixed with them and derived some of their religious ideas and myths from them, and that, in turn, the Japanese were influenced by both Ainu and Koro-pok-guru ideas and myths. The aniconic pillars and the female goddess with fish termination (the Dragon Mother) figure in Japanese as well as Ainu religion. Both are found in Kamschatka, too. Dr. Rendel Harris, commenting on the pillar and fish-goddess idols of the Kamschatdals,^ recalls ” the various fish forms of Greek and Oriental religions, the Dagon and Derceto of the Philistines, the Cannes of the Assyrians,^ Eurynome of the Greek legends, and the like”.”
“The Ainu believe that the koro-pok-guru (lit. “people below the leaves of the butterbur plant” in the Ainu language) were the people who lived in the Ainu’s land before the Ainu themselves lived there. They were short of stature, agile, and skilled at fishing. They lived in pits with roofs made from butterbur leaves. Long ago, the koro-pok-guru were on good terms with the Ainu, and would send them deer, fish, and other game and exchange goods with them” (Source: Wikipedia)
Who were these people of the fish goddesses, the Koro-pok-guru? They may have thus been of an Island Southeast Asian or Indian origin. The word guru is a word that means “teacher” in both Indian sanskrit and Indonesian/Malay languages. Fish gods are common to both Indian and Indonesian cultures(see Fish gods (they call it “Ikan Dewa”) of Kuningan West Java Indonesia — according to Kuningan folklore beliefs, fish are sacred to the people who live in the village “ManisKidul ‘. In Kuningan area, West Java, the Ikan Dewa (God’s fish), the local large carp fishis believed to be a special fish that bring fortune for anyone who can touch her body.) and other fish myths of Indonesia further down below.
Interestingly, this sacred carp recalls the sacred carp of Sanli-Urfa, Southeastern Anatolia-Turkey, a place called Balikligol, or the Pool of Sacred Fish. These fish are considered sacred (and are carp fish that come from the Euphrates river), and are a huge draw for many Islamic pilgrims. Urfa used to be the the ancient city Edessa, a cult place since Neolithic times. The population in Urfa is mainly Kurdish, with Arabs and Turks, and followers of varied religions, Muslim, Jewish, Armenian, Zaza and Yezids to be found in the region. As the Islamized version of the biblical story of Daniel-tested-by-fire-story behind the sacred carp Pond of Ibrahim(Abraham) goes:
“King Nimrod wants to burn Ibrahim on a pyre, because he didn´t accept the old belief to different gods. In the Holy Koran is written: “They said: Burn him and protect your gods, if you are going to do anything.” (21:68) and “We said: Oh fire, be cold and peace (safe) for Ibrahim.” (21:69)
Since many hundreds of years people in Urfa and muslim pilgrims from others regions and countries believe, that Allah changed the fire into water and the burning firewood into fish (carp), so Ibrahim was saved.”
Fish flood myths in Indonesia
In Amarasi, a domain in southwest Timor, the folktales explain the geological coastline as being caused by a huge fish that smashed off parts of the mainland with its tail. (In Maluku the fish is a whale)
In a nearby island, the Alorese attribute the destruction of an island (their original homeland) near their coast by a fish,.
Further east, the islaand of Atauro belonging to East Timor, has many holes and caves in the mountains that are according to oral tradition caused by a giant eel, who was hunted by the forefathers of one of the three peoples living on the island. Atauro used to be a part of a larger landmass of whcih Timor and the nearby island of Kisar, further east, were also a part.
Elsewhere Timor islanders attribute destruction of the coastline to sailfish.
These myths recall the tales of the Japanese catfish or the Ainu giant fish… and possibly an even older provenance from the myths of the Andamanese indigenous aboriginal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands.
Fish myths of the Andaman Islanders:
In a creation myth of the A-Pucikwar tribe containing the myth cycle with Puluga (Biliku) who had created Man called Tomo whom he taught a number of skills as well as woman called Chan Elewadi:
“The creeks so characteristic of Greater Andaman are also said to have been made at that time: Tomo had harpooned a large fish which in its frantic efforts to escape hit the land repeatedly with its snout and caused the indentations that turned into useful creeks.” (Tomo lived to a great old age but his descendants increased in number to such a degree that the original homeland could no longer accommodate them all. After Tomo’s successor — his grandson, Kolwot passed on, “the people became remiss of the commands given to them at the creation so Puluga ceased to visit them and then without further warning sent a devastating flood. Only four people survived this flood: two men, Loralola and Poilola, and two women, Kalola and Rimalola. When they landed they found they had lost their fire and all living things had perished.” — Source: Legends: Floods, Chap 23 “The Andamanese | Myths and Legends” by George Weber
The Andamaneseare Negritos who lived in great isolation in the Andaman Islands, are believed to be descended from the migrations which, about 60,000 years ago, brought modern humans out of Africa to India and Southeast Asia. They share the same Y-DNA haplogroup D-YAP+mutation as the Japanese mainland inhabitants as well especially as the Ainu aboriginals of Japan (along with Tibetans), although having been separated and isolated in different geograpical locations over very long periods of times and into different subclades. mtDNA studies also showed they had basal position in the M haplogroup, and consequently, were probably the descendants of the early Palaeolithic colonizers of Southeast Asia (See “Genetic Affinities of the Andaman Islanders, a Vanishing Human Population” by Kumarasamy Thangaraj, et al.). The latest 2011 study concluded that “Mitochondrial DNA evidence supports northeast Indian origin of the aboriginal Andamanese in the Late Paleolithic” and that the Andaman-specific M31a1 traced its origin to settlement trail from northeast India by modern humans from northeast India via the land-bridge which connected the Andaman archipelago and Myanmar around the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM),
It may be thus surmised that the mythical lore of the large fish that hacks away at coastal configurations shared between Indian tribes and Austro-Asiatic, Austronesian and pre-Austronesian Southeast Asian island tribes — to be of great antiquity, and that the Andamanese ancestors were among the first human migrations to leave Africa about 100,000 years ago, arriving in Asia via the Sinai Peninsula (see “DNA links `Stone Age’ tribe to first humans linked by DNA to“, The Independent 31 Aug 1998; Multiplexed SNP Typing of Ancient DNA Clarifies the Origin of Andaman mtDNA Haplogroups amongst South Asian Tribal Populations).
See First Fish, First People: Salmon Tales of the North Pacific Rim By Judith Roche, Meg McHutchison “That Place Where Ghosts of Salmon Jump” by Sherman Alexie
The Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin have a culture in common with the fish skin tribes of northern China and Russian Siberia. See Fish Skin Tribes: Nanai, Ulchi, Udegey Native Peoples of Russia’s Maritime Province by Edward J. Vajda, and “The Fish Skin Costumes of the Hoche People” about the Fish skin tribe people of Heilongjiang (extracted below):
Ancient Chinese records and other sources state that Heilongjiang was inhabited by people such as the Buyeo, the Mohe, and the Khitan. Located in the northeastern part of the country PRC. “Heilongjiang” literally means Black Dragon River, which is the Chinese name for the Amur. The one-character abbreviation is 黑 (pinyin: Hēi). The Manchu name of the region is Sahaliyan ula (literally, “Black River”), from which the name of Sakhalin is derived, and the Mongolian name accordingly is Qaramörin.
Heilongjiang borders Jilin in the south and Inner Mongolia to the west.
The Hezhen are also known as the Fishskin Tatars, Gold, Hezhe, Nabei, Nanai, Nanaio, Sushen, Wild Nuchen and Yupibu. Related to the Nanai in Russia, they speak an Altaic language and no longer practice the shaman and healing ceremonies the once did. The Chinese called them the “Fish Skin Tribe” because their traditional clothes, hats and shoes were made of fish skin.The Hezhen have traditionally been a hunting and fishing people. Their homeland is occupied by rivers and marshes and is filled with wild animals and fish. They enjoy eating raw fish served with vinegar sauce, salmon, carp and huso sturgeon (a fish that can weigh over 1,200 pounds and reach lengths of 10 feet), also known as yellow croakers.
The Nani people (self name нани, Nani means ‘natives’; self name Hezhen means ‘people of the Orient’; Russian: нанайцы,nanaitsy; Chinese: 赫哲族, Hèzhézú; formerly also known as Golds and Samagir) are a Tungusic people of the Far East, who have traditionally lived along Heilongjiang (Amur), Songhuajiang (Sunggari) and Ussuri rivers on the Middle Amur Basin. The ancestors of the Nanais were the Jurchens of northernmost Manchuria.The Nanai/Hezhe language belongs to the Manchu-Tungusic branch of the Altai languages.As described by early visitors (e.g., Jesuit cartographers on the Ussury River in 1709), the economy of the people living there (who would be classified as Nanai, or possible Udege people, today) was based on fishing. The people would live in villages along the banks of the Ussuri, and would spend their entire summers fishing, eating fresh fish in the summer (particularly appreciating the sturgeon), and drying more fish for eating in winter. Fish would be used as fodder for those few domestic animals they had (which made the flesh of a locally raised pig almost inedible by visitors with European tastes).The traditional clothing was made out of fish skins. These skins were left to dry. Once dry, they were struck repeatedly with a mallet to leave them completely smooth. Finally they were sewn together. The fish chosen to be used were those weighing more than 50 kilograms. In the past centuries, this distinct practice earned the Nanai the name “Fish-skin Tartars” (Chinese: 鱼皮鞑子, Yupi Dazi). This name has also been applied, more generically, to other aboriginal groups of he lower Sungari and lower Amur basins.
The Hoche nationality is an ethnic minority group with a long history in China’s northeastern regions. It is mainly distributed in Raohe and Fuyuan Counties in Heilongjiang Province. The Hoche people living on riverbanks still make a living by fishing, with people of all ages and both sexes being expert fish catchers. They catch and eat fish, build houses, boats and clothes with fish skin. Thus, the Hoche people were historically known as a “fish skin tribe”. They hold a Street Fair is grandest show of the year for the Bais. Held from the 15th day to the 21st day of the third lunar month every year at the foot of the Mount Diancang Shan, west to the ancient city of Dali, the Bais are holding the festival mainly pray for a good harvest.
The fish skin culture is unique to areas at 45 (or above) degrees northern latitude. Numerous nationalities may have had the fish skin culture historically, but the culture has only been kept alive among the Hoche people of Jiejinkou Township in Tongjiang City of Heilongjiang Province. Traditional fish skin techniques include a whole set of complicated processing procedures, which were skillfully mastered by Hoche women in the past. Before the 1950s, Hoche people were all fond of wearing fish skin clothes, mainly including leggings, boots, gloves, leg wrappings and women’s long dresses. the Hoche people learnt that different types of fish skin are suitable for different clothes through repeated trials over the years. For instance, the skins of bigheaded fish and pikes are best suited for fish skin threads and pants; the skins of salmon, fine-scale fish, Hucho taimen and carps are perfect for boots and gloves; the big skin of Huaitou fish is a good choice for leggings, pockets, leg wrappings and shoe uppers etc. Clothes made of huso dauricus skin are endurable, waterproof and erosion resistant, so they are suitable to wear in summer. Clothes made of all other fish skins are worn in winter, when it’s a non-fishing season.”- Source: Cultural-china.com/en/115Traditions7926.html
The Hocagara people called the Fish Clan, according to their creation myths, have a Creation Council at which the progenitors of the Hočąk clans first met at Red Banks to form the nation. In one version the Fish Clan is mentioned as being at the Creation Council. The Çegiha Siouan tribe, the Quapah, were said to have had a Fish Clan. The name of the nation, Hočągara, means both “Great Voice,” and “Great Fish.,” since the first compound, ho, can mean either “voice,” or “fish.” It was an early tradition that the “great fish
Fish Clan Myth (by by John Fisher):
“Four brothers and four sisters came on earth and each belong to different divisions of the family [clan]. They came out of the water. They became people.” 
Variation by Alexander Longtail:
There is another waiką that strongly suggests itself as the origin story for the Fish Clan. This is The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, which is told in brief here. The Chief of Fishes once came to earth to live as a man. He had two sons, who eventually came to live apart from one another. The younger brother, who lived in a lodge like the Hočągara build, killed a bear and was about to eat it when something seem to hiss at him. He could not find the source, so he went to the upper and lower worlds asking who might have done it, but no one said that they had. He traveled over the surface of the earth and asked some people if they had done it, but they rudely ignored him, so he shot an arrow at them. When he returned home, his elder brother arrived to warn him of an impending attack. Instead of fleeing, they fought, but were out manned. Finally, they did flee to their father’s place, and he in turn took them to an island. There he rested satisfied, and in time returned to the waters in his natural form as a fish. [“…the old man said that he had enough of that mode of life. He had come from the underground world, being the Ruler of the Fishes. He would start home. In a very little while he changed into a fish and off he went. Thus did he abandon his two sons. This is the end.” Source: The man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds]
The Story of the Were-Fish (man-fish);
The Fish Spirits: “what happened when their spirit chief came to live among humans. The spirit chief of the fishes once assumed mortal form and ironically took up residence on a hill. He fathered two human sons, but when they had reached adulthood, they were forced to flee to him for protection when they were set upon by enemies. He led them to safety on an island, after which he himself returned to the waters as a fish….”
Fish clans and myths of the Ojibwe people (Anishinaabek tribe):
Giigonh – The fish clan, one of the Seven Original Clans, settles arguments between the crane and loon clans. They are the wise people. They solve the problems within the nation. The turtle is the leader of the fish clan. In this clan we have different types of fish such as migrating, territorial, bottom feeders, top eaters, late spanners, early spanners.
Could one of the above nomadic fish clan tribes from the Far East with their distinctive fish skin clothes, and perhaps shamanic fish masks and totems, have been among the Seven Sages to visit Mesopotamia???
Totem fish mask from the Orokolo Bay area of New Guinea. Painted bark cloth over rattan frame with fringe of dried grass. Height 1.63 m. Credit: Courtesy of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, England (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica)
According to Babylonian tradition, seven apkallu (‘wise men’ or ‘sages’) lived before the flood and who served as priests of Enki and as advisors or sages to the earliest “kings” or rulers of Sumer before the flood. The word Apkallu, “sage”, comes from Sumerian AB.GAL (Ab=water, Gal=Great) a reference to Adapa, the first sage’s association with water. Credited with giving mankind the Me (moral code), the crafts, and the arts, they were seen as fish-like men who emerged from the sweet water Apsu as figures of different forms of the Seven Sages have been made, some common representations are human figurines having the lower torso of a fish, or dressed as a fish, or wearing fishes’ skins …others are winged figures with birds’ faces. It was common to bury such figurines beneath foundations of buildings of religious importance (see Origins of the Fish Head Mitre Hat). Fish-men figurines of apkallu made of sun-dried clay were excavated from the foundations of a priest’s house in Asshur ca. 721-705 BCE (Source: Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary, p. 18. Jeremy Black and Anthony Green)
Assyrian terracotta figurine of an apkallu with a fish hood at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo source
Notable among the Seven Sages is Adapa, a mortal from a godly lineage, a son of Ea (Enki in Sumerian), who missed the chance for immortality because he refused the food of immortality offered to him by Anu (at Ea’s behest). Adapa was credited with bringing the arts of civilization to the city of Eridu (from Dilmun, according to some versions) is often identified as advisor to the mythical first (antediluvian) king of Eridu, Alulim. In addition to his advisory duties, he served as a priest and exorcist, and upon his death took his place among the Seven Sages or Apkallū.
Oannes (Ὡάννης, Hovhannes [Հովհաննես] in Armenian) was the name given by the Babylonian writer Berossus in the 3rd century BCE to a mythical being who taught mankind wisdom. Berossus describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man. He is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences. The name “Oannes” is the Greek form of the Babylonian Uanna (or Uan), a name used for Adapa in texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal.(Source: Adapa (Wikipedia))
It is tempting to posit an ancient Western-Eastern (or vice-versa) Eurasian connection and diffusion of sacred fish motifs, this position appears to be borne out by scientific research conducted on the domestication of carp fish species. mtDNA research studies on the common carp found that an ancient lineage of Japanese koi from Lake Biwa is descended from multiple lineages of common carp from both Western Eurasian and East Asian varieties (see Discovery of an ancient lineage of Cyprinus carpio from Lake Biwa, central Japan, based on mtDNA sequence data, with reference to possible multiple origins of koi). Another older 1995 study concluded that the wild ancestor of the common carp originated in the Black, Caspian and Aral sea drainages (Common carp are native to both Eastern Europe and Western Asia, and are called the “Eurasian” carp), dispersing east into Siberia and China and west as far as the Danube River. The xanthic (red) common carp first appeared in early cultures of Europe, China and Japan. The study also found that humans were clearly responsible for spreading the carp west of the Danube’s piedmont zone was clearly caused by humans, as was its introduction throughout the continents, although domestication in China may have been independent of similar activities in Europe. A 2002 study clarified however, that carp populations are clustered into two highly divergent groups of the European and the East Asian populations, suggesting an ancient separation. Carp fish haplotypes can further be divided according to four distinct groups—the European (two haplotypes), Amur (two haplotypes), Vietnamese (two haplotypes) and Koi (one haplotype), and their distributions strictly corresponding to the geographic origin of those populations. Early dates for carp farming from Japan is evidenced by the archaeological finds at the Asahi site in Aichi Prefecture, a huge moated settlement that existed from the fourth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D., that suggests Yayoi settlers engaged in what would be the earliest known form of carp farming in Japan, a date that is earlier than the 5th century BC date for Chinese carp domestication.
In Europe, about 2000 years ago, wild torpedo shaped, golden-yellow common carp were most abundant in the inland delta of the Danube River. Large schools of them thrived and reproduced on the flood plains of the Danube. The Romans kept fishes in specially built ponds at that time. But its rearing became more popular in medieval times when its culture gradually became the most profitable branch of agriculture in central Europe and many special pond systems were built, including spawning and growing ponds. Only the wild common carp Cyprinus carpio L., acquired c. 2000 years ago by the Romans in south-central Europe and the Chinese goldfish Carassius auratus (L.) selected and released into ‘ponds of mercy’ c. 1000 years ago in China qualify as ‘true domesticates’, but the studies find that both the common carp and goldfish both started to be changed into true domesticated animals only in early medieval times, and in different parts of the world and for different purposes, with unintentional artificial selection having taken place between the 12th and mid-14th century.
Despite the oft repeated claim (Balon 1974) that ‘The latest, Chinese study . . . . . . on pond culture stated that ‘‘thanks to the creative efforts of the Chinese people for many generations, breeding of the carp in this country has proceeded successfully for >2000 years. From China the breeding of this fish spread all over the world. From Asia the rearing of the carp spread to Europe and later to America, Australia, and Africa’’, a 2004 article “About the oldest domesticates among fishes” claims:
“it is time to put this myth to rest” [and that] “no domesticated forms of common carp…were ever reported from China prior to known introductions from Europe (Wohlfarth, 1986). Furthermore, Chinese carp resemble feral carp, in most of the traits in which the races differ than do the European fish (Wohlfarth, 1984). Chinese common carp should be regarded as a semi-domesticated animal, since wild fish are frequently added to breeding stocks. Therefore, the view that common carp were domesticated in China >2000 years ago is a myth. In China the common carp remains an exploited captive or a feral form of the introduced European domesticated strains…”
The paper by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles however, does not appear to be privy to the archaeological evidence of early carp farming in Yayoi Japan, and hence does not take the early dates into account. A more recent 2010 Czech paper “Common carp – Cyprinus Carpio : Biology, Ecology and Genetics” finds differently, however, that “the common carp [Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus (1758)] has been one of the oldest domesticated species of ﬁsh for food and that culture of carp in China dates back to at least the 5th century BC, although domestication began much later…the earliest attempts date back to the Roman Empire and spread of Christianity in Europe, from where its domesticated forms were later introduced to other continents…”