Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Salmon Of Knowledge

There once lived a young man by the name of Demne, who was the son of Cumhail Mac Art. His father was slain while Demne was still in his mothers womb. Fearing for the boy's life his mother sent him away to be trained by a Druid on the isle of Skye. If you did not know, I'll share it with you now, the name Druid, translates to "Oak Wise", if one was to believe the old scholars of Greece and Rome. They were said to be great philosophers striving to understand the elements of nature, curious seekers of truth. They often gathered in groves and taught lessons or shared tales in the shade of Oak trees, and maybe that is where they get their name. Knowing that no one would harm a druid, his mother felt he was safe from the same fate as his father. But that wouldn't make for a good story, now would it?

So it was that Demne stayed on the Isle of Skye until he had come of age, and much lore did he learn in those years. Not only could he name the trees in all the woods, or know which herbs help what affliction - he also was a fine poet and harper. But he was not content with the the simple life of a Druid, especially one on the isle of Skye, so he decided to seek adventure.

Demne had heard that there was a sacred well, which was the primary source of inspiration to be found in Ireland. From where all inspiration flowed... If there was anything he would need, to suit him best on any adventure, it was unfettered access to the knowledge the well could bestow on someone. So he set himself on the task of finding it. He followed the river Boyne, which was named after Boann, of the Tuatha De Dannan, the people of Danu. The Tuatha De Dannan, a legendary race of people that were said to have arrived on Ireland with the mists. They came from four great cities that had perished due to some natural disaster or another. They were a regal people and holders of a great amount of knowledge. Boann was married to the harper of the great Dagda himself, so the bards relate.

[Extend this to include husbands name, and a brief about their children]

But it is not the story of the Tuatha De Dannan, but a story of a young man's adventures, I am relating for you this day. So as our hero followed the Boyne further and further upstream and into the mountains and glades of wild Ireland, the river became smaller and smaller until it resembled a stream. Finally he came to a well from which the stream poured. Nine old and purpled hazel trees encircled the well and it is said that there is a certain time when one of the trees will drop a hazelnut that, if caught by a salmon before it reaches the water, and said salmon is caught by a Druid before the fish gets back into the water, eating that salmon will bestow great wisdom and inspiration. Demne was not familiar with that tale, though his nose was familiar with the smell of fish over a fire.

Demne followed his nose a short distance away, passed by a couple of Oak trees, where he came to clearing at the center of which a fire was blazing and over the fire was a salmon cooking on a spit. There was no one to be seen, and the woods were quiet, as they often are when a stranger approaches. Demne cried out, "Hello?". He heard no answer. He cried out again, a little louder "Hello, is there anyone here?", still no answer. He cried out a third time in his booming voice, "Hello, is anyone going to eat this here fish?". Demne was hungry, the fish smelled good and maybe the one that left it would not mind him tasting a wee bit...

So he reached down to taste a small piece of the salmon and in doing so he burned his thumb on the hot flesh. Immediately he stuck his thumb in his mouth to cool it. Just then he heard a soft voice, "Hello, I see someone warming themselves by my fire". Demne turned around to see a wise old Druid come into the clearing. They exchanged the warmest of courtesies as they did in the old days. The Druid asked Fionn if he tasted the fish. Demne, being an honorable man confessed he had. So the Druid, with a sigh, handed the fish over to the young man and said "I suppose this is for you then". Demne accepted the Druid's hospitality and while Demne was enjoying his meal, the wise man told Demne the story of the Salmon of Knowledge, and that the proper conditions to produce such a fish only happens but once every seven years. Demne, embarrassed by his hasty hunger he apologized for any inconvenience. The old Druid, smiling, explained that his patience will persevere for the next Salmon of Knowledge.

[The Druid renames him Fionn, for the glow of inspiration.]

Now, since Fionn's first taste of the fish was when he burnt his thumb upon it, whenever he found himself faced with a perplexing problem all he had to do was put his thumb in his mouth and think for a while. Soon the answer would come to him. This is how Fionn came onto the great knowledge he is said to have possessed. It served him well. Later he went on to be a King and the leader of an incredible band of exceptionally skilled men, known as the fianna. I'll save that story for another time.

Becase of that knowledge Fionn became so famous in his day, that it was said if ever a day went by that his name was not mentioned, at least once - the world would come to an end. So it is good fortune for the world that I picked his story to tell and so goes the story of Fionn Mac Cumhail and the Salmon of Knowledge.

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