Salmon Medicine – Wisdom and Determination


Artist-Mervin Windsor ©Garfinkel Publications

It’s salmon season here in the Pacific Northwest so it seems an appropriate time to talk about Salmon Medicine.

Salmon are an extremely important animal to both the lifestyle and the spirituality of many Native American cultures, especially the tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast and the Columbia River. This powerful creature is considered a source of strength and power for many of these costal tribes. Like the buffalo, the salmon willingly give themselves up as food for the People in many of the Northwest Native American myths, and therefore hold a special position of honor and respect. Here in the Rogue Valley, Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim officiates the Sacred Salmon Homecoming Ceremony each year, honoring the return of the salmon to our local rivers and streams.

In the tradition of my Druid ancestors, the salmon is perhaps the most sacred of all animals and is known as the Oldest Animal. The salmon, known to represent wisdom and inspiration, live in a sacred well in the Otherworld known as the Well of Segais. This well is shaded by nine magical hazel-trees that bear crimson nuts that fall into the well when they are ripe. Whoever eats these nuts immediately is gifted with the knowledge of everything that is/was in the world. Brilliantly colored sacred salmon swim in the well and eat the crimson nuts so that they too, have the wisdom of everything that is/was. For that reason, they were known as the Salmon of Knowledge.

SalmonThroughout Celtic lore, there are many stories of those who ate of the sacred salmon to obtain this vast knowledge. Late summer is the time the salmon have laid their eggs and have completed their life cycle. It is now time for us to consume them and obtain the knowledge Salmon holds for us.

Comparing the salmon’s journey to our own life journey can help us understand why the salmon was regarded as the wisest of animals. In our life’s journey, we frequently come across bumps in the road. Some we can walk around, other times we fall into our internal “pot holes”. Following Salmon’s example life can become a whole lot easier!

It may seem that Salmon’s up-river journey home to spawn appears a struggle, similar to our own journey. However, the truth is very different. Difficulties are present, but when heading upstream Salmon does NOT fight the current, but goes with the current flowing beneath the surface. Doesn’t that sound easier?

Salmon usually return to their place of birth every five to seven years. For those with Salmon as their totem, life changes may occur in this same cycle and at the end of each cycle, new beginnings rise to the surface. Swimming upstream and overcoming obstacles is part of what Salmon teaches us.

Because Salmons’ origins are so important to them we are reminded to honor our own heritage, our own history, by going back in our consciousness to our beginnings — to our childhood or even back to our origins in Spirit to find our Truth.

Salmon medicine brings the awareness that we have the strength to:

  • Overcome obstacles
  • Move steadily forward on our spiritual journey
  • Find meaning and purpose in our life
  • Connect with natural rhythms of life
  • Swim upstream through emotional waters to gain insight and wisdom
  • Go with the flow, following the under currents
  • Explore our past and gain understanding from of our history
  • Develop awareness of the currents and energies beneath the surface
  • Go deeper to find the energies that support our movement
  • Persevere and achieve our goals
  • Return “home” to regenerate – whether our physical home or our spiritual place of rest

We invite you to visit with Salmon over the next few weeks and ask what wisdom or knowledge it has to offer you and to show you how to find the undercurrent to follow life’s flow. Learn how NOT to swim upstream!

Pleasant journeys.

Until next time –

Mitakuye Oyasin (A Lakota prayer reminding us we are all related),

2 thoughts on “Salmon Medicine – Wisdom and Determination

  1. Lynne Stafford

    Found ur Salmon descript. U reminded me that Grmo Aggie married us, perfectly magical timing! Tks

  2. Shamanic Connection

    Adding a P.S. to this post … I was reading a fellow practitioner’s blog and he just posted about Salmon Medicine as well. So here’s an interesting tidbit I hadn’t run across …

    From Shamanic Drumming’s Blog @
    “Just as the sound of the drum can be used to call the spirit of the salmon into a ritual, the drum can also be used to draw salmon upriver to spawn in restored spawning grounds. Salmon are drawn to the beat of the drum because it sounds like the slap of the female salmon’s tail as she scrapes out a gravel nest.”

    Another amazing way to use our drums.

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