Saturday, 19 November 2016

Fishes

In my post "Ram and Bull" i asked this question:

"Have you ever wondered why Aries (Ram) and Taurus (Bull) astrological signs are where they are on a solar circle?

Most people would answer this question by: "Because the constellations in the sky at that time look like ram and bull"!

But it turned out that these two astrological signs mark the lambing season of wild European sheep and the calving season of wild European cattle. These were extremely important events which occurred every year at the same time. 

Our henge building Central European ancestors developed lunisolar calendar (at some stage before 5th millennium BC). This calendar has a static starting point (winter solstice) and can be used to mark repetitive events on the climatic yearly solar circle. Once our ancestors had this calendar they were able to mark these important events of the solar year on the solar circle, and "predict" or "know" when these events are going to happen next year. They marked lambing season with the symbol of a sheep and probably called it "lamb" but it came to us as Ram. They then marked the calving seasons and probably called it "calf" but it came to us as Bull. 

After I published my post about Ram and Bull, my friend Tim Walker posted this comment: "Makes sense of course. But then it begs the question: Can we account for all the other zodiac signs in terms of old agricultural/season practices?".

Thank you Tim for asking the right questions. And, you gonna like this, I think I might have found another zodiac sign which was originally used to mark another extremely important seasonal practice. This sign is Pisces (fishes).

Pisces (♓) (fishes) - from February the 19th to March the 20th. 


The official explanation of the zodiac symbol of pisces says that: 

"...the symbol of Pisces shows the two fishes captured by a string, typically by the mouth or the tails. The fish are usually portrayed swimming in opposite directions; this represents the duality within the Piscean nature....Pisces is the Latin word for Fishes. It is one of the earliest zodiac signs on record, with the two fish appearing as far back as c. 2300 BC on an Egyptian coffin lid."

I believe that this is another zodiac sign which marks a very important natural event, which occurs every year at the same time. 

So what do you think, which natural event, which occurs every year at the same time, and which is so important that needed to be marked on the solar circle, would our ancestors mark with a fish? Actually two caught fishes swimming in opposite directions.

Any guesses?

This is Atlantic Salmon.



Atlantic Salmon is a native fish of the North Atlantic and once used to live in all the rivers which empty into the north Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic sea and Barents sea. Basically all the rivers in the area above the red line.



But today in Europe salmon is a rare sight. Over-fishing, pollution, dredging, building of dams, all of this contributed to quite sudden decrease in salmon population and disappearance of this magnificent fish from European rivers. Even in rivers which still have salmon, the numbers are so small that you would be forgiven to ask what is all the fuss about. But in the past, this is what salmon rivers used to look like during the migration of the adult salmon upstream. 




This is a picture of an upstream run of Coho salmon, a type of Pacific salmon which lives in the Alaskan rivers. But once this is what Atlantic salmon runs in European rivers used to look like too. 

Few animals have attracted as much attention through the ages as has the Atlantic salmon. This is because Atlantic salmon has been one of the most important seasonal food sources for the people living along the rivers which empty into the North Atlantic. They were caught in large numbers during their migration upstream into the upper reaches of their spawning rivers and streams. Their meat was a steady source of protein during the salmon season. And later on when people invented the way to cure fish using salting and smoking the surplus of fishes from the last autumn run was preserved and used during the winter. 

Salmon bones were found in the debris from the French caves dated to Paleolithic times. And twenty five thousand years ago Paleolithic man carved a life-size salmon into the ceiling of a cave in southern France near the Vézère River. This is the oldest known artistic representation of a salmon in the world and proof that even in Paleolithic salmon was a well known and important food source.  



Salmon has a very interesting life cycle



It spawns naturally in freshwater. Spawning typically occurs in the headwater and tributary streams of rivers, though it can happen anywhere in a river if the substrate is suitable. Atlantic salmon lay their eggs in October-November and hatch in February-March-April, depending on temperature. When they are 1-3 years old, in March-April-May, salmon leave rivers to migrate along the North Atlantic Drift, and into the rich feeding grounds of the Norwegian Sea and the greater expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean. After spending 1 to 3 years in the sea, mature salmon begin migration back to the same rivers and streams in which they had spawned. This return into the rivers and the swim upstream is called "salmon run". 

Now how do you catch salmon. Well in the past, during the large runs, there were so many fishes swimming slowly upstream and they were so tightly packed, that you could laterally pick salmons up out of the river using your bare hands. Locals in Alaska still do that during the Pacific salmon runs, as you can see in this video and this video. If you were a hunter gatherer, catching a lunch this easily will quickly make start paying attention to salmon and its migration patterns. 

But even though salmon is so easy to catch, if you want to catch a lot of salmon there are other easier way to do it. 

Our ancestors mostly caught salmon using fish traps called fish weirs like this one which were built on rivers and streams used by salmon:



The fish could then be picked out either by hand or by using fishing spears like this one: 



The fishing weirs were also used with basket traps. The fish would be funneled directly into a trap where it would get stuck. 



We know that these types of fish traps have been used in Europe for millenniums. The oldest fish traps found in Europe were found in Ireland and were used for catching salmon 8000 years ago. And they have been used until the beginning of the 20th century

Now every year a lot of preparatory work needs to be done in order to get ready for the arrival of salmon. 

Fish weirs need to be repaired and rebuilt. The winter floods could have dislodged the weir barrier or blocked the entrance into the weir. Fish baskets would also need to be repaired or made anew as the old ones probably fully or partially rotted away. New fish spears would need to be made too. 

And all this has to be done before the salmon run season starts. And when does the Salmon run season start? 

Salmon fishing in the Spring tends to be limited to the lower river unless a series of floods have encouraged them to progress beyond Durham. 

Well that depends on where you are in the Europe. The migrations of both smalts and adult salmon are triggered by the river water temperature and the river water volume. The migration normally starts after the first spring floods. 

In "The Baltic salmon (Salmo salar L.): its history, present situation and future" by Lars Karlsson’ & Östen Karlstrårn we can read that: "Salmon leave the southern Baltic in April-June, and set towards their home rivers in the Gulf of Bothnia (the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea). Once they reach the river mouth they stay there for some time and gradually enter a new migration phase adapted to fresh water. Thereafter, they ascend the river in June-August."

In Finland and Northwestern Russia spring run starts in May or June.

In Sweden spring run starts in May. 

In Denmark spring run starts in April. 

According to "The Rhine: An Eco-Biography, 1815-2000" By Mark Cioc we can read that: "In Rhine river in Germany, which was once the main salmon river in Europe, spring run started as a winter run but peaked in March."

In the "Decline and fall of the salmon fisheries in the Netherlands: is restocking the Rhine a reality" we read that: "In the Netherlands, the most important months for the salmon fishermen on river Rhine were March to August."

According to "Atlantic Salmon: An Illustrated Natural History" By Rod Sutterby, Malcolm Greenhalgh. we can read that: "In river Loire, the river water temperature in the lowlands is too high during the summer so salmon start their run in the winter and finish their upstream swim in the spring, spring run peaking in March."

In "France’s implementation plan in line with NASCO’s recommendations concerning the protection, management and enhancement of the Atlantic salmon and its habitat" we can read that "The season for river salmon fishing generally runs from March to July."

The situation is the same in Pomeranian rivers, like Vistula, according to "The restoration of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in Poland". In "Historical occurrence and extinction of Atlantic salmon in the River Elbe from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries" by Jan Andreska, Lubomír Hanel we can read that: "George Handsch von Limus (1529-1578) wrote in his unfinished writings Historia animalis that in Litoměřice, Bohemia, salmon are mostly caught in the river Elbe, mainly in March, April and May, when their taste is the most delicious...According to the inventory from 1588 for the village of Nelahozeves (in German Mühlhausen an der Moldau) located on the Moldau River near Prague, the largest salmon migrated to this location in March and April. A frequency of migration increased until May...The first migrating salmon were recorded in Prague in 1875, 1893, 1908 in March. These were fish about 1 m long weighing 7.5-15 kg, silver in color with bluish backs and small black stars...". River Elbe (original Slavic Laba) used to be one of the longest salmon rivers in Europe. 

In "Recollections of fly fishing for salmon, trout, and grayling, with notes on their haunts, habits, and history" by Hamilton, Edward, M. D Published 1891, we read that: "Salmon begin ascending all the larger rivers in England, as early as February, but chiefly in March..." and "Thomas Faulkner ("Historical and Topographical Description of Chelsea," 1829), says that salmon fishing on the Thames begins on the 25th of March above London Bridge, and ends the 4th of September...".

In Scotland the spring run starts in mid February to mid March depending on the river. In "Status of exploitation of Atlantic salmon in Scotland" by Williamson R.B. we can read that: "Before 1950’s the catch of spring fish in February-April was sometimes more than 50% of the whole annual catch."

In Wales the spring run also starts mid February to mid March, depending on the river. 

In Ireland, a very small number of Spring Salmon start returning to rivers in January, but the proper salmon run doesn't start until February. The Fresh salmon, (Spring salmon, also known as Springers) will arrive into most of the rivers by mid February and start swimming upstream towards their spawning grounds. At the same time a lot of Spent salmon (Last Seasons Spawning Salmon, also known as Kelts), are making their way down stream and back into the sea and their feeding grounds. The main Fresh salmon season starts mid-March. From the middle of March the number of Springers entering the river and swimming up stream increases, while there is still a large number of Kelts going downstream. Saint Patricks Day “March 17th” is a traditional starting day of the proper Springer angling season. 

This is very interesting. It seems that the proper beginning of the salmon fishing season across all major European Atlantic salmon rivers used to begin somewhere between the middle of February and the middle of March. This is almost identical to the Pisces period which falls between February the 19th and March the 20th. 

So if you wanted to be ready for this amazingly important event, you had to know when it will arrive next time, so that you can repair the fishing and curing equipment and get ready. How would you do it? You would mark the event on your circular lunisolar calendar with an appropriate self explanatory symbol. And what symbol would be appropriate?

Every year salmon undertakes two huge migrations along the same river in two opposite directions. 

Smalt salmons migrate from rivers into the sea swimming downstream.



Adult salmons migrate from the sea into rivers swimming upstream.



And right during the period of Pisces, we have both Fresh Springer salmons entering the river and swimming up stream and the last years Spent Kelts salmons leaving the river swimming downstream.

Does this remind you of something?




Salmon the fish that swims in two opposite directions along the same river and that we start catching during the period of...Pisces.

Sooooo

Is it in any way possible that people would mark the beginning of the spring run of the Atlantic salmon, the fish which swims along the same river in two opposite direction, with two fishes swimming in two opposite directions? What do you think. 

O yea, the constellation. 

Here is the Pices constellation:


This is a typical salmon trap from central Europe:


Do you see any similarity?

And finally. Does anyone realize how important this is, from the point of view of the determining the origin of the Zodiac? The official line is that 

"The division of the ecliptic into the zodiacal signs originates in Babylonian ("Chaldean") astronomy during the first half of the 1st millennium BC. "

Yet here we have three consecutive zodiac signs, Pisces, Aries and Taurus marking three extremely important cyclical natural events which occur in Central and North Western Europe: 

Pisces - Fishes - the beginning of the spring run of the European Atlantic salmon
Aries -  Ram - The beginning of the wild European sheep lambing period
Taurus - Bull - The beginning of the wild European cattle calving period

These zodiac signs could only have been invented in Europe where they have self explanatory meaning. The meaning which was completely lost when zodiac was brought out of Europe to the places where natural cycle is very much or completely different. 

So was zodiac invented in Europe? And more importantly when was it invented? And what about the other zodiac signs?

10 comments:

  1. Most scholars attribute the zodiac to the ancient Middle East, Sumerians and the like, so this is very interesting and very plausible. Hopefully, the identification of the references of the other signs will be forthcoming.

    The Chinese have a different set of zodiacal signs, I wonder if we can assign agricultural etc meaning to them too.

    PS. Thanks for a new posts. I was beginning to fear you had quit.

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  2. I certainly do like it - excellent detective work. I especially like it as I had a short job studying salmon migration in the summer of '78 or '79.

    As for the origins of the zodiac, I am convinced that the 12 labours of herculese are a very ancient oral tradition used to transmit seasonal knowledge. We just need to understand the messages.

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  3. BUT - I think there is a problem with your logic. The constellations are named when the sun is "IN" that constellation. So, for example, Pisces is "behind the sun" in March. We don't see it high in the night sky until later in the year - November/December.
    Also - what about the precession of the equinoxes. Every 2500 years or so, the slow wobble of the earth means that the zodiac constellations shift by one (right I think).

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    1. This is the point. I don't think that constellations have anything to do with the original meaning of the signs. They were added to the whole story much much later...And they do move. And constellation of Pisces did move: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisces_(astrology)

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  4. some links for the astronomical aspects of the constellation issue:
    http://earthsky.org/constellations/pisces-heres-your-constellation#when
    http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~frosales/html/zodiac/

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  5. I though that cancer would be easy to check out. But the thing is crabs are now caught from boats off shore (even if near to shore) with baskets. The early HG would have been foragers on the shore and maybe shallow divers with baskets or spears. The life cycle of the crab is such that the bigger it gets the further and deeper it goes. Only tiny babies stay on the tidal zone and those only close to the lowest point so only spring tides would reveal many of them.

    BUt I thought there must be a time of abundance otherwise it would have no significance for early people. The point of HG is to move to abundance as it occurs. (Time and Place = Calendars and Maps). I started with the edible crab. (Brown crab) Fishermen catch it now all year and numbers are up in early summer (as water heats up). But its not the right way, they are evenly spread out over the sea floor. No good. So thinking, like you do so well, when will they voluntarily march up the seabed as fully grown adults? Mating time of course.

    Then I found a website. Read it...you, we are getting there. Genius. My comments in [Square Brackets]

    http://www.glaucus.org.uk/spider.htm

    Exert below
    --
    "SPIDER CRAB BEHAVIOUR
    by Peter Glanvill (1992)



    The Spider Crab, Maja squinado, is, without doubt, one of the most distinctive of the British Crustacea. [FROM THE GOOD FISH GUIDE: There's lots of brown meat inside the top shell, it's tasty but the texture isn't to everyone's taste. The claws, however, have lots of sweet white meat]

    The crab's size and orange spiky shell render it easily identifiable. The sexes can be separated by the huge size of the male's claws which reach a span of 1-5 metres or more.

    When in my late teens I was canoeing off the Erme estuary, I noticed large mounds of Spider Crabs near the rocks of Battisborough Island. The mounds consisted of up to a dozen individuals, mainly female. Crabs could be caught by snorkelling down and picking them up. Even though our initial interest was culinary, we noticed that the crabs had obviously feed feeding on the mussel spat carpeting the rocks at that time. [THIS MEANS VERY HIGH IN OMEGA 3] Local people informed us that the crabs were gaffed [DIVE AND SPEAR- The Cornish Celts are still doing it!] at low spring tide for later eating.


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  6. Over the last few years I have kept a note in my diving log when I have encountered the phenomenon and for those who are interested in seeing it for themselves.

    Lyme Bay

    The observations were made on the stretch of coast between Burton Bradstock and Seatown. Shingle beaches slope into about 7 metres of water which does not deepen significantly for several hundred metres. The seabed consists mainly of sand with mud patches and low reefs of slabby blue has rock

    Crabs can be seen from early July [CANCER=JUNE21-JULY 21] on but their numbers may reflect the sea temperature. In early July 1987 there were many crawling over the Seatown reef. A few days later at Burton Bradstock many others were seen particular on the mud patches at the seaward side of the reef. These were mainly females. Male crabs were noted to be fighting and one was seen after seemingly fending off another male, to pick up a female. Another male was noticed carrying a female on its back using its hind claws.

    It is worth noting that the reef was covered in a carpet of tiny juvenile mussels.

    In mid July 1990, many moulting male spider crabs [EASY TO CATCH] were noticed off Seatown beach mainly near the shore at the junction of sand and reef.

    August 1997.
    An extremely large breeding mound of 50,000 Spiny Spider Crab, Maja squinado, was discovered off Burton Bradstock off the Dorset coast. [SO THEY GROUP IN MASSIVE AMOUNTS JUST OFF THE COAST IN JULY]

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    Other signs are going to be harder to investigate, but as a pointer Aquarius Jan 20-Feb 18, well if you listen to US scientist Gerald Pollack https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTngSAG28J4 and his third phase of water ideas, he says snow melt water is particularly healthy.

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    1. Are you writing a book or a blog or do you have a social media page? I'm extremely interested in finding indigenous origins in European folklore that connect to life ways and natural cycles like this

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  7. This is amazing. Thank you very much for this. I will investigate it further and will let you know how it goes.

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  8. The european fish are different in shape and size. They have big teeth I have been using lures for catching these kind of fishes. I would like to visit this blog once again thanks for sharing.
    Regards,
    Kevin - Seadoo Melbourne

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