Article 12: Celtic paganism part 1: The Salmon of Knowledge, rebirth and the Sacred Hazel

I want to start a series on Celtic paganism off on a simple note. The concepts of morality, philosophy and spirituality are I believe more elaborately concealed within the fragments of the lore of the Celtic people than any other European culture. Due to a Christianization, and thus perversion of the source material in question, the myths, it is at times difficult to decipher what is original, what is added and what is a mix of both. However, I felt a simple but none the less interesting place to start was with the Celtic concept of a “Salmon of Knowledge” which features in a number of Celtic myths and also the concept of the sacred hazel tree and its fruit.

I hope that you the reader will be understanding when I say that in order to grasp the content of the following article, it will be helpful to have a prior base understanding of mythology and indeed the deeper meaning behind mythology before we delve even further in this article. To summarise, European mythology and indigenous religion is all about enlightenment through rebirth and thus an achievement of eternal life through an enduring Hamingja, historical honour, which echoes down the ages and enables the possessor of honour to live on through the blood of their descendants and the soil of their people.

One notion it is important to understand about the European worldview and the way our ancestors viewed the world is that they believed that knowledge and experience could be gained through the observation of natural phenomena. In the case of a salmon, observing the seasonal movements of the fish tell us an interesting tale of life, courtship, struggle, strife, genetic perfection, death and return.

The salmon is one of the most noble fish in the animal kingdom, and has a symbolism that indeed indicates wisdom and is reflective of the European worldview on life, death and loyalty. The salmon is hatched in fresh water, normally in a calm river or stream. They then make their way up into the ocean and return to the exact same spot in which they were born to mate and then die, which is known as the salmon run and represents the cycle of rebirth that a human is also supposed to undertake, but has forgotten for reasons I have explained in other articles.

Salmon, in a manner of sorts, also have their own system of eugenics in which, just as in pre-Christian Europe, only the strongest, around 10% of spawned salmon, survive to adolescence, and even fewer to an age wherein they are mature enough to reproduce when they return from the sea. They are also one of the more homogenous (IE uniform in appearance, lacking any visible variation, speciation and impurity) of animal species. I personally find a beauty in their uniformity which may have not gone unnoticed by the Celtic people. I have included two videos which demonstrate natural selection at work in the salmon’s ecosystem, one which is initiated by their contact with predators, something we can learn from salmon ridiculously, as we have become scared of the prospect of predators and have instead of respecting them decided to remove them from our ecosystem (Wolves and megafauna being a prime example) and secondly a form of natural selection initiated by the salmon itself in the form of a male altercation over territory and mating rights, another trait lost in modern humans. Instead of the strongest or the most intelligent of males being chosen, in humans the most submissive male (IE systemically compliant) male is most commonly selected, at least by those female who have adopted male characteristics due to their own inverted sense of systemic compliance to the perversion of nature.

The noble salmon returns to its native land, at all costs.

Interestingly, salmon will always try to return to the place of their birth, sometimes along a completely different route to the one they left with, which would have been of great curiosity to our ancestors, who also made pilgrimages to the lands of their ancestors in order to recall the memories of their past lives when they were their ancestors. This is an instinct that despite over a millennia of Judeo-Christian conditioning and genocide, which has attempted to teach us that pilgrimage is not necessary and is in actuality irrational, being unnecessary for the purposes of enlightenment or “salvation”, we have never lost and still feel an urge to undergo pilgrimage. Irish American people often revisit the country of their ancestors because it “feels right” to do so, same with Australians, Kiwis and the rest of the European diaspora. Places we never been to but our ancestors have will often feel like home because they present to us a form of residual memory imprinted within the pineal gland in Asgard, the high seat of the soul, which echoes down the ages and waits to be released.

In much the same way, we now know that salmon can find their way back to the place of their birth to spawn the next generation (after one to four years of maturing at sea) due to an exceedingly good sense of smell and the detection of the “smell of home”. So, logically speaking, each generation of salmon will be born in the same place as its ancestors generation after generation after generation, a practice that mirrored that of our ancestors. Through the practice of remembering former lives, it was understood that prior gained honor and experience could be collected in order to create a cumulative spiritual power acquired over countless generations, which would give each person a greater spiritual and mental age and a sense of maturity even when one was physically still a child. This still happens today but to a smaller degree. Have you ever met a child that acted like or even at least wanted to act like an adult or older person or a younger member of the family that reminded you of an older relative, even one that had physically died?

When children are between the ages of around 3 and 10, they go through a phase of selecting role models and heroes that they will imitate; sometimes this is a family member, sometimes it is a character from a story, or, the Gods forbid, it is a degenerative sensationalist celebrity they have discovered over the Jewish-funded media. These heroes, if you will, fill the void left by pre-Christian religion in which an ancestor was chosen to be this hero. This is a practice still employed in some Slavic nations, where on a child’s “Name day” they will choose a name, usually that of an ancestor, to serve alongside their first name and to be employed during certain circumstances and ceremonies, and also to serve as a form of spiritual protection. The age at which a child has their “name day” can be anywhere between 7 and 13. Ironically, name days are probably the origin of the Jewish Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations, the age at which a Jew supposedly becomes responsible for their own actions, a phenomena I am yet to see occur.

Salmon in the Celtic mythos and in other European folklore:

In Celtic mythology, a lake at the bottom of the “Otherworld”, the land of the Fomorii (Celtic equivalent of the jötunn) that can only now be accessed by portals in nature, is encircled by 9 hazelnut trees. Within the lake are salmon who eat of the hazelnuts that fall from the 9 sacred trees. Whoever eats these salmon gain perfect knowledge and judgement.

The sanctity of the hazel tree in mythology and post-Christian folklore:

I have already written as well as referenced in depth the religious and metaphysical significance of the tree in article 11: Óðinn’s hanging and the symbolism of Yggdrasil. Briefly summarizing, I discussed that the tree can represent the various ways in which the Óð can branch out and manifest itself in the physical realm; ergo, skill branches out, families and connection branch out into “family trees” and networks, and also the tree can represent enduring power that grows over time. Certain particularly conspicuous trees would have been centerpieces to a community and were the central point around which a lot of naming ceremonies and remembrance rituals were performed, as seeing a familiar tree in this present life may have been a trigger for the recollection of experiences around it in previous lives, which is one of the reasons that trees. as well as other distinctive natural phenomena, were extremely revered along with the possessions of one’s ancestors.

It would be fitting to write an entire tome on the long and lustrous history of the hazel tree and its connection to European, and particularly Celtic identity, I will concede to simply mentioning the reasons for why it has been deemed sacred, which in summary is because of just how widely used it was in the pre Christian world and also for its health benefits and utility.

The sanctity in particular of the hazel tree, though, also comes from its high degree of utility in medicine, as a staple food, and as a building material among other things. The concept of sacred hazel trees is likely to be imbued within the history of the use of hazel wood and the fruit of the tree: the hazel nut. In British and Irish folklore, many traditional folk remedies for headaches, joint pain, adder bites and more which may be considered witchcraft incorporate either the wood of a hazel tree or involve the patient consuming hazel nuts. The hazel was one of three most revered trees to the Celts, a trinity which also included the apple tree for its beauty and the oak for its strength. These trees may have been used also as a kind of shrine known as an Irminsul around which ceremonies were conducted.

In the middle ages, witches, an early group of pagan reconstructionists who attempted to keep alive traditions which had been highly persecuted, used hazel for the purposes of water divining. In water divining, and indeed divining for other purposes, a Y shaped rod was constructed from hazel which was said to move in the direction of the substance that the individual was trying to detect; though their efficacy is very much debatable, their use is symptomatic of the vague remembrance of  centuries gone by in which hazel was used for true religious purposes. Martin Luther listed divining rods as a violation of the Jewish commandment against witchcraft. If turning water into wine, having a child as a virgin and manifesting food out of thin air isn’t classified as witchcraft, I don’t know what is.

In the medieval era, creating a crucifix out of hazel was also considered to be a way of curing the ails of an adder bite in England, which serves to indicate a vague though incorrect recollection of the true medicinal values of hazel which were known in pre-Christian times. Back when hazel was a staple food source, its consumption was renowned for producing fertility and at weddings in Britain up until a few hundred years ago an old relative would gift the bride with a basket of hazel nuts on her wedding day to bless her with the gift of many babies. The modern science supports the “magical” properties of hazelnut, as well as all nuts, in aiding in fertility. Nuts of all kinds contain essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and 6, which promote regular ovulation and healthy growth of the unborn child.

For this very reason, hazelnuts were carried in pockets, put on window ledges and also worn as jewelry as a talisman of their pro-fertility properties.

As I also previously mentioned, hazel wood is an ideal building material for ornaments (which would often times be religious in the pre-Christian age, before the silly idea that constructing images of one’s role models is evil), protective structures like fences and borders (as remember, the native soil is of spiritual value), and druidic equipment such as wands and staffs, which warrant an article all of their own. A strong mead can also be made from hazelnut and was considered to bestow divine wisdom and poetic inspiration, in much the same vain as the figurative mead Óðroerer in Norse mythology which was so highly sought after by Óðinn, the giants and the dwarves, made from the blood of the wisest of the Gods, Kvasir, who was born of the spit of all of the Gods put together.

A beautiful hazel tree grove. Nature is the true antidepressant; get off your pills, this is the only haze you need! 

The meaning behind the 9 trees:

A beautiful image by Alan Lee of the scene in
the Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the ring
where Gildor Inglorion meets the Hobbits. The
idea of a kind of “Otherworld” that exists within
forests where all manner of supernatural creatures
reside is a highly Celticizied one that eventually
found its way into the traditional British folklore
which undoubtedly inspired Tolkien’s writing more
profoundly than he was willing to admit. Tolkien
once said of Celtic mythology “I do know Celtic
 things (many in their original languages Irish and Welsh),
and feel for them a certain distaste: largely for their
fundamental unreason.  They have bright colour, but are like a
broken stained glass window reassembled without design.
They are in fact ‘mad’ as your reader says—but I don’t believe I am.”

I believe that the significance of their specifically being 9 trees either may be coincidental or a distant relative of the concept which also spawned that of the 9 realms of the world tree Yggdrasil in Norse mythology, where each realm symbolises an aspect of the conscious or unconscious Óð, or “life force, the word from which the name of the God  also originates. Below is a brief summary of the aspects of Óð which are symbolized by each of the 9 worlds:

  • Svartalfjeim, realm of the dwarves, symbolises avarice, decadence and materialism (not necessarily in a negative sense, by the way),
  • Jotunheim, realm of the giants, symbolizes primal, animalistic power and resilience.
  • Alfheim, realm of the elves, signifies purity, innocence and aesthetic beauty.
  • Asgard, realm of the Aesir family of Gods, symbolizes justice, piety and wisdom.
  • Helheim signifies mortality, sickness and death.
  • Vanaheim, realm of the Vanir Gods, signifies fertility, foresight and excellence in much the same way as Asgard, though the distinction in concept may have been more detectable before scripture was inevitably destroyed and/or forgotten.
  • Muspelheim, realm of fire and land of the fire giants, signifies the positive and productive channelling of fury, strength of construction and creative potential.
  • Nifleheim, realm of the mist, signifies brooding, virility and foresight amongst other things, though the concepts of Muspelheim, Hel and Nifleheim appear to be conflated in the extant texts and may refer to the same realm or aspect of the mind. 


The concept of the salmon of knowledge eating the fruits of the 9 trees of Óð is in some ways reminscent of Óðinn’s learning of the runes which were provided to him by various sources including the dwarves, jotunn, and elves when he “hung from the wind-rocked tree”, a concept I have written a separate article on.

All of these are aspects of the human experience and one may argue that allegorically speaking us human beings ought to, and indeed must eat from the fruits of the many facets of Brahman/the eternal in all of its forms in order to become a complete and fully ascended being.

In Summary:

I believe the mythology is instructing us to be as the salmon: homogenous, loyal and free.

But then again, this is only my personal reconstruction which is ultimately as good as anybody else’s, given that Ireland was one of the earlier parts of Europe to be Christianized and as a result was one of the first cultures to be genocided.

The combination of symbolisms, the holy salmon symbolising the capacity for rebirth and the hazelnut symbolising knowledge, experience and Druidic power, is just one example of the many nuggets left to us by the Celtic people that have existed into the modern day. It is my belief that the symbolism is at a deeper level suggesting that a necessary component of rebirth, and thus eternal life,  is the attainment of the understanding of the process, and an attainment of the fruits of knowledge that ensure that Hamingja, the honour, can reverberate through the ages and is not forgotten. The symbolism instructs us that it is necessary to revisit the places we have been in former lives in order for rebirth to be successful, just like the salmon. There is likely even more depth to the allegory than I personally can deduce, and that’s where you can come in. Branch out from the trunk of the spiritual tree that I have grown for you, and take this as a starting point to learn more and let me know in a comment if you come across any other interesting interpretations so that we can cross-pollinate each others’ tree of knowledge!

I will leave you with some parting verses from one of my favourite Gaelic songs: Óro sé do bheatha bhaile:

Sa Ghaeilge bhunaidh:

Sé do bheatha, a bhean ba léanmhar
do bé ár gcreach tú bheith i ngéibhinn
do dhúiche bhreá i seilbh meirleach
‘s tú díolta leis na Gallaibh.

Óró, sé do bheatha bhaile
óró, sé do bheatha bhaile
óró, sé do bheatha bhaile
anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

Tá Gráinne Mhaol ag teacht thar sáile
óglaigh armtha léi mar gharda,
Gaeil iad féin is ní Francaigh ná Spáinnigh
‘s cuirfidh siad ruaig ar Ghallaibh.

In English:

Hail, oh woman, who was so afflicted,
It was our ruin that you were in chains,
Our fine land in the possession of thieves…
While you were sold to the foreigners!

Oh-ro, welcome home
Oh-ro, welcome home
Oh-ro, welcome home
Now that summer’s coming!

Gráinne Mhaol is coming over the sea,
Armed warriors as her guard,
Only Gaels are they, not French nor Spanish…
and they will rout the foreigners!

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