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object:1.08 - The Historical Significance of the Fish
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author class:Carl Jung



l6 In addition to the "pisciculi Christianorum," the shepherd
and the lamb play, as we know only too well, an almost greater
role in Christian allegory, and Hermes Kriophoros (the "ram-
bearer") became the prototype of the "good shepherd," the
tutelary god of flocks. Another prototype, in his capacity as
shepherd, was Orpheus. 1 This aspect of the Poimen gave rise to
a figure of similar name in the mystery cults, who was popu-
larized in the "Shepherd" of Hermas (2nd century). Like the
"giant fish" mentioned in the Abercius inscription, 2 the shep-
herd probably has connections with Attis, both temporally and
regionally. Reitzenstein even conjectures that the "Shepherd"
of Hermas derives from the Poimandres writings, which are of
purely pagan origin. 3 Shepherd, ram, and lamb symbolism coin-
cides with the expiring aeon of Aries. In the first century of our
era the two aeons overlap, and the two most important mystery
gods of this period, Attis and Christ, are both characterized as
shepherds, rams, and fishes. The Poimen symbolism has under-
gone such thorough elaboration at the hands of Reitzenstein
that I am in no position to add anything illuminating in this
respect. The case is somewhat different with the fish symbol. Not
only are the sources more copious, but the very nature of the
symbol, and in particular its dual aspects, give rise to definite
psychological questions which I should like to go into more

l6 3 Like every hero, Christ had a childhood that was threatened
(massacre of the innocents, flight into Egypt). The astrological
"interpretation" of this can be found in Revelation 12 : 1: "A
woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,

lEisler, Orpheus- The Fisher, pp. 51ft. 2 [Cf. par. 127, n. 4.]

3 Poimandres, pp. 32ft.



and on her head a crown of twelve stars." She is in the pangs
of birth and is pursued by a dragon. She will give birth to a
man-child who shall "rule the nations with a rod of iron." This
story carries echoes of numerous kindred motifs in East and
West, for instance that of Leto and Python, of Aphrodite and
her son, who, when pursued, leapt into the Euphrates and were
changed into fishes, 4 and of Isis and Horus in Egypt. The Syrian
Greeks identified Derceto-Atargatis and her son Ichthys with
the constellation of the Fishes. 5

16 4 The mother-goddess- and the star-crowned woman of the
Apocalypse counts as one- is usually thought of as a virgin
(irapBivo^, virgo). The Christmas message, 'H irapBivo^ reroKev, avd
&<> (the virgin has brought forth, the light increases), is pagan.
Speaking of the so-called Korion in Alexandria, Epiphanius 6
says that on the night of the Epiphany (January 5/6) the pagans
held a great festival:

They stay up the whole night singing songs and playing the flute,
offering these to the images of the gods; and, when the revelries of
the night are over, after cock-crow, they go down with torches into
a subterranean sanctuary and bring up a carved wooden image,
which is laid naked on a litter. On its forehead it has the sign of the
cross, in gold, and on both its hands two other signs of the same
shape, and two more on its knees; and the five signs are all fashioned
in gold. They carry this carved image seven times round the middle
of the temple precincts, to the sound of flutes and tambourines and
hymns, and after the procession they carry it down again into the
crypt. But if you ask them what this mysterious performance means,
they answer: Today, at this hour, the Kore, that is to say the virgin,
has given birth to the Aeon.

16 5 Epiphanius expressly states that he is not telling this of a
Christian sect, but of the worshippers of idols, and he does so
in order to illustrate the idea that even the pagans bear invol-
untary witness to the truth of Christianity.

4 Eisler, The Royal Art of Astrology, p. 107.

5 Bouch-Leclercq, L'Astrologie grecque, p. 147. For the relation of the gyne
(woman) to the zodiacal sign Virgo see Boll, A us der Offenbarung Johannis,
p. 122.

6 Panarium, LI, 22, Oehler edn., Part 3, pp. 632^ This passage is not in the older
editions of the Panarium, since it was discovered only recently in a ms. at Venice.

166 Virgo, the zodiacal sign, carries either a wheat-sheaf or a
child. Some authorities connect her with the "woman" of the
Apocalypse. 7 At any rate, this woman has something to do with
the prophecy of the birth of a Messiah at the end of time. Since
the author of the Apocalypse was supposed to be a Christian, the
question arises: To whom does the woman refer who is inter-
preted as the mother of the Messiah, or of Christ? And to
whom does the son of the woman refer who (translating the
Greek literally) shall "pasture (TrotfxaiveLv) the pagans with an iron

,6 7 As this passage contains an allusion on the one hand to
the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 66 : 7, 8 and on the other to
Yahweh's wrath (Psalm 2 : 9 9 ), it would seem to refer in some
way to the future rebirth of the Messiah. But such an idea is
quite impossible in the Christian sphere. Boll 10 says of the
description of the "lamb" in Revelation 5 : 6ff.: "This remark-
ably bizarre figure with seven horns and seven eyes cannot pos-
sibly be explained in Christian terms." Also, the "lamb" de-
velops some very unexpected peculiarities: he is a bellicose
lamb, a conqueror (Rev. 17 : 14). The mighty ones of the earth
will have to hide from his wrath (Rev. 6 : 15ft.). He is likened
to the "lion of the tribe of Judah" (Rev. 5 : 5). This lamb, who
is reminiscent of Psalm 2 : 9 ("Thou shalt break them with a rod
of iron, thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel"),
rather gives one the sinister impression of a daemonic ram, 11 and
not at all of a lamb who is led meekly to the slaughter. The
lamb of the Apocalypse belongs, without doubt, to the cate-
gory of horned monsters mentioned in these prophecies. One
must therefore consider the question whether the author of the
Apocalypse was influenced by an idea that was in some sense
antithetical to Christ, perhaps by a psychological shadow-figure,

7 Boll, pp. 12 iff.

8 "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was de-
livered of a man child."

9 "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces
like a potter's vessel." 10 Boll, p. 44.

11 His eyes signify the "seven Spirits of God" (Rev. 5:6) or the "seven eyes of
the Lord" (Zech. 4 : 10). The Lamb stands with the seven angels before God's
throne, as Satan did with the sons of God (Job 1 : 6), so that God is described
under the aspect of Ezekiel's vision and is thought of in Yahwistic terms- an
"umbra in lege"!



an "umbra Jesu" which was united at the end of time with the
triumphant Christ, through an act of rebirth. This hypothesis
would explain the repetition of the birth myth and also the
curious fact that so important an eschatological expectation as
the coming of the Antichrist receives but scant mention in the
Apocalypse. The seven-horned ram is just about everything that
Jesus appears not to be. 12 He is a real shadow-figure, but he
could not be described as the Antichrist, who is a creature of
Satan. For although the monstrous, warlike lamb is a shadow-
figure in the sense that he is the counterpart of the lamb who
was sacrificed, he is not nearly so irreconcilable with Christ as
the Antichrist would have to be. The duplication of the Christ-
figure cannot, therefore, be traced back to this split between
Christ and Antichrist, but is due rather to the anti-Roman re-
sentment felt by the Jewish Christians, who fell back on their
god of vengeance and his warlike Messiah. The author of the
Apocalypse may have been acquainted with Jewish speculations
known to us through later tradition. We are told in the Bere-
shith Rabbati of Moses ha-Darshan that Elias found in Bethle-
hem a young woman sitting before her door with a newborn
child lying on the ground beside her, flecked with blood. She
explained that her son had been born at an evil hour, just when
the temple was destroyed. Elias admonished her to look after the
child. When he came back again five weeks later, he asked about
her son. "He neither walks, nor sees, nor speaks, nor hears, but
lies there like a stone," said the woman. Suddenly a wind blew
from the four corners of the earth, bore the child away, and
plunged him into the sea. Elias lamented that it was now all up
with the salvation of Israel, but a bath kol (voice) said to him:

It is not so. He will remain in the great sea for four hundred years,
and eighty years in the rising smoke of the children of Korah, 13
eighty years under the gates of Rome, and the rest of the time he
will wander round in the great cities until the end of the days
comes. 14

168 This story describes a Messiah who, though born in Bethle-
hem, is wafted by divine intervention into the Beyond (sea =
unconscious). From the very beginning his childhood is so

12 That is, if we disregard passages like Matt. 21 : 19 and 22 : 7 and Luke 19 : 27.

13 [Cf. Num. 16.- Editors.] 1 4 Wunsche, Die Leiden des Messias, p. 91.

threatened that he is scarcely able to live. The legend is sympto-
matic of an extraordinary weakness of the Messianic element in
Judaism and the dangers attending it, which would explain the
delay in the Messiah's appearance. For 560 years he remains
latent, and only then does his missionary work begin. This in-
terlude is not so far off the 530 years mentioned in the Tal-
mudic prophecy (cf. par. 133), near enough anyway for us to
compare them, if we take this legend as referring to Christ. In
the limitless sea of Jewish speculation mutual contacts of this
sort are more likely to have occurred than not. Thus the deadly
threat to the Messiah and his death by violence is a motif that
repeats itself in other stories, too. The later, mainly Cabalistic
tradition speaks of two Messiahs, the Messiah ben Joseph (or
ben Ephraim) and the Messiah ben David. They were compared
to Moses and Aaron, also to two roes, and this on the authority
of the Song of Solomon 4:5: "Thy two breasts are like two
young roes that are twins." 15 Messiah ben Joseph is, according
to Deuteronomy 33 : 17, the "firstling of his bullock," and
Messiah ben David rides on an ass. 16 Messiah ben Joseph is the
first, Messiah ben David the second. 17 Messiah ben Joseph must
die in order to "atone with his blood for the children of Yah-
weh." 18 He will fall in the fight against Gog and Magog, and
Armilus will kill him. Armilus is the Anti-Messiah, whom
Satan begot on a block of marble. 19 He will be killed by Messiah
ben David in his turn. Afterwards, ben David will fetch the new
Jerusalem down from heaven and bring ben Joseph back to
life. 20 This ben Joseph plays a strange role in later tradition.
Tabari, the commentator on the Koran, mentions that the Anti-
christ will be a king of the Jews, 21 and in Abarbanel's Mashmi'a
Yeshu'ah the Messiah ben Joseph actually is the Antichrist. So he
is not only characterized as the suffering Messiah in contrast to

15 Targum on Canticles 4 : 5 in The Targum to The Song of Songs, p. 50.
Wunsche, p. 111. In the Zohar the Messiah is called "Mother." Schoettgen,
Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae, II, p. 10. Cf. also the "Saviour of the twins" in
Pistis Sophia (above, par. 133, n. 44).

16 Zohar, trans, by H. Sperling and M. Simon, II, p. 358: "Hence it is written
of him [the Messiah] that he will be 'poor and riding on an ass . . .' (Zech.
12:9)." Also Wunsche, p. 100. 17 Ibid., p. 114. 18 Ibid., p. 115.

19 Armilus or Armillus - "PwfivXos, the Antichrist. Methodius: "Romulus, who
is also Armaeleus." 20 Wunsche, p. 120.

21 Chronique of Tabari, I, ch. 23, p. 67.



the victorious one, but is ultimately thought of as his antag-
onist. 22
l6 9 As these traditions show, the above-mentioned weakness of
the Messianic element consists in a split which in the end be-
comes a complete polarity. This development is foreshadowed
in Persian religious literature, in the pre-Christian idea of an
enantiodromia of the great time-periods, and the deterioration
of goodness. The Bahman Yast calls the fourth Iron Age "the
evil sovereignty of the demons with dishevelled hair of the race
of Wrath." 23 On the other hand, the splitting of the Messiah
into two is an expression of an inner disquiet with regard to the
character of Yahweh, whose injustice and unreliability must
have shocked every thoughtful believer ever since the time of
Job. 24 Job puts the problem in unequivocal terms, and Chris-
tianity gave an equally unequivocal answer. Jewish mysticism,
on the other hand, went its own way, and its speculations hover
over depths which Christian thinkers have done their utmost to
cover up. I do not want to elaborate this theme here, but will
mention as an example a story told by Ibn Ezra. In Spain, he
says, there was a great sage who was reputed to be unable to
read the Eighty-ninth Psalm because it saddened him too much.
The verses in question are:

I will not remove from him my steadfast love,

or be false to my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant,

or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn my holiness:

I will not lie to David.
His line shall endure for ever,

his throne as long as the sun before me.
Like the moon it shall be established for ever;

the witness in the skies is sure. Selah!
But now thou hast cast off and rejected,

thou art full of wrath against thy anointed.
Thou hast renounced the covenant with thy servant;

thou hast trodden his crown in the dust.

22 Bousset, The Antichrist Legend, p. 111.

zzPahlavi Texts, trans, by E. W. West, p. 193.

24 Cf. the opposition between mercy and justice in God's nature, supra, pars.


Thou hast breached all his walls;

thou hast laid his strongholds in ruins. 25

It is the same problem as in Job. As the highest value and
supreme dominant in the psychic hierarchy, the God-image is
immediately related to, or identical with, the self, and every-
thing that happens to the God-image has an effect on the latter.
Any uncertainty about the God-image causes a profound uneasi-
ness in the self, for which reason the question is generally
ignored because of its painfulness. But that does not mean that
it remains unasked in the unconscious. What is more, it is
answered by views and beliefs like materialism, atheism, and
similar substitutes, which spread like epidemics. They crop up
wherever and whenever one waits in vain for the legitimate
answer. The ersatz product represses the real question into the
unconscious and destroys the continuity of historical tradition
which is the hallmark of civilization. The result is bewilder-
ment and confusion. Christianity has insisted on God's goodness
as a loving Father and has done its best to rob evil of substance.
The early Christian prophecy concerning the Antichrist, and
certain ideas in late Jewish theology, could have suggested to us
that the Christian answer to the problem of Job omits to men-
tion the corollary, the sinister reality of which is now being
demonstrated before our eyes by the splitting of our world:
the destruction of the God-image is followed by the annulment
of the human personality. Materialistic atheism with its Utopian
chimeras forms the religion of all those rationalistic movements
which delegate the freedom of personality to the masses and
thereby extinguish it. The advocates of Christianity squander
their energies in the mere preservation of what has come down
to them, with no thought of building on to their house and
making it roomier. Stagnation in these matters is threatened in
the long run with a lethal end.

As Bousset has plausibly suggested, the duality of the apoc-
alyptic Christ is the outcome of Jewish-Gnostic speculations
whose echoes we hear in the traditions mentioned above. The
intensive preoccupation of the Gnostics with the problem of
evil stands out in startling contrast to the peremptory nullifica-
tion of it by the Church fathers, and shows that this question

25 Psalm 89 : 33ft.



had already become topical at the beginning of the third cen-
tury. In this connection we may recall the view expressed by
Valentinus, 26 that Christ was born "not without a kind of
shadow" and that he afterwards "cast off the shadow from him-
self." 27 Valentinus lived sometime in the first half of the second
century, and the Apocalypse was probably written about a.d. 90,
under Domitian. Like other Gnostics, Valentinus carried the
gospels a stage further in his thinking, and for this reason it does
not seem to me impossible that he understood the "shadow" as
the Yahwistic law under which Christ was born. The Apocalypse
and other things in the New Testament could easily have
prompted him to such a view, quite apart from the more or less
contemporaneous ideas about the demiurge and the prime
Ogdoad that consists of light and shadow. 28 It is not certain
whether Origen's doubt concerning the ultimate fate of the
devil was original; 29 at all events, it proves that the possibility
of the devil's reunion with God was an object of discussion in
very early times, and indeed had to be if Christian philosophy
was not to end in dualism. One should not forget that the theory
of the privatio boni does not dispose of the eternity of hell and
damnation. God's humanity is also an expression of dualism, as
the controversy of the Monophysites and Dyopnysites in the
early Church shows. Apart from the religious significance of
the decision in favour of a complete union of both natures, I
would mention in passing that the Monophysite dogma has a
noteworthy psychological aspect: it tells us (in psychological
parlance) that since Christ, as a man, corresponds to the ego,
and, as God, to the self, he is at once both ego and self, part and
whole. Empirically speaking, consciousness can never compre-

26 He was, it seems, a cleric, who is said to have been a candidate for the
episcopal see in Rome.

27 Irenaeus, Adv. haer., I, 11, 1 (Roberts/Rambaut trans., I, p. 46).

28 Doctrine of the Valentinian Secundus (ibid., I, p. 46).

29 De oratione, 27: ". . . so that that supreme sinner and blasphemer against
the Holy Ghost may be kept from sin through all this present age, and here-
after in the age to come from its beginning to its end be treated I know not
how" (. . . ita ut summus ille peccator et in Spiritum sanctum blasphemus per
totum hoc praesens saeculum a peccato detineatur, et post haec in futuro ab
initio ad finem sit nescio quomodo tractandus), thus giving rise to the view that
"even the devil will some day be saved." [Cf. alternative trans, by J. E. L. Oulton
and H. Chadwick, p. 304.]


hend the whole, but it is probable that the whole is uncon-
sciously present in the ego. This would be equivalent to the
highest possible state of reAeiVns (completeness or perfection).

7 2 I have dwelt at some length on the dualistic aspects of the
Christ-figure because, through the fish symbolism, Christ was
assimilated into a world of ideas that seems far removed from
the gospels- a world of pagan origin, saturated with astrological
beliefs to an extent that we can scarcely imagine today. Christ
was born at the beginning of the aeon of the Fishes. It is by no
means ruled out that there were educated Christians who knew
of the coniunctio maxima of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces in
the year 7 B.C., just as, according to the gospel reports, there
were Chaldaeans who actually found Christ's birthplace. The
Fishes, however, are a double sign.

73 At midnight on Christmas Eve, when (according to the old
time-reckoning) the sun enters Capricorn, Virgo is standing on
the eastern horizon, and is soon followed by the Serpent held
by Ophiuchus, the "Serpent-bearer." This astrological coin-
cidence seems to me worth mentioning, as also the view that the
two fishes are mother and son. The latter idea has a quite special
significance because this relationship suggests that the two fishes
were originally one. In fact, Babylonian and Indian astrology
know of only one fish. 30 Later, this mother evidently gave birth
to a son, who was a fish like her. The same thing happened to
the Phoenician Derceto-Atargatis, who, half fish herself, had a
son called Ichthys. It is just possible that "the sign of the prophet
Jonah" 31 goes back to an older tradition about an heroic night
sea journey and conquest of death, where the hero is swallowed
by a fish ("whale-dragon") and is then reborn. 32 The redemp-
tory name Joshua 33 (Yehoshua, Yeshua, Gr. lesous) is con-
nected with the fish: Joshua is the son of Nun, and Nun means
'fish.' The Joshua ben Nun of the Khidr legend had dealings
with a fish that was meant to be eaten but was revived by a drop
of water from the fountain of life. 34

30 Namely Piscis Austrinus, the "Southern Fish," which merges with Pisces and
whose principal star is Fomalhaut. 31 Matt. 12 : 39, 16 : 4; Luke 11 : 29L

32 Cf. Frobenius, Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes, and my Symbols of Transforma-
tion, pars. 3o8ff. 33 "Yahweh is salvation."

34 Koran, Sura 18. Cf. "Concerning Rebirth," pars. 244^, and Vollers, "Chidher,"
p. 241.



2 74 The mythological Great Mothers are usually a danger to
their sons. Jeremias mentions a fish representation on an early
Christian lamp, showing one fish devouring the other. 35 The
name of the largest star in the constellation known as the South-
ern Fish- Fomalhaut, 'the fish's mouth'- might be interpreted
in this sense, just as in fish symbolism every conceivable form
of devouring concupiscentia is attributed to fishes, which are
said to be "ambitious, libidinous, voracious, avaricious, lascivi-
ous"- in short, an emblem of the vanity of the world and of
earthly pleasures ("voluptas terrena"). 36 They owe these bad
qualities most of all to their relationship with the mother- and
love-goddess Ishtar, Astarte, Atargatis, or Aphrodite. As the
planet Venus, she has her "exaltatio" in the zodiacal sign of the
fishes. Thus, in astrological tradition as well as in the history of
symbols, the fishes have always had these opprobrious qualities
attached to them, 37 while on the other hand laying claim to a
special and higher significance. This claim is based - at least in
astrology - on the fact that anyone born under Pisces may expect
to become a fisherman or a sailor, and in that capacity to catch
fishes or hold dominion over the sea- an echo of the primitive
totemistic identity between the hunter and his prey. The Baby-
lonian culture-hero Cannes was himself a fish, and the Christian
Ichthys is a fisher of men par excellence. Symbologically, he
is actually the hook or bait on God's fishing-rod with which the
Leviathan- death or the devil- is caught. 38 In Jewish tradition
the Leviathan is a sort of eucharistic food stored up for the

35 jeremias, The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, p. 76. This
lamp has never been traced.

36 Picinellus, Mundus symbolicus (1680-81), Lib. VI, cap. I.

37 Bouche-Leclercq, p. 147.

38 How closely the negative and the positive meanings are related can be seen
from the fish-hook motif, attributed to St. Cyprian: "Like a fish which darts
at a baited hook, and not only does not lay hold of the bait along with the
hook, but is itself hauled up out of the sea; so he who had the power of death
did indeed snatch away the body of Jesus unto death, but did not observe that
the hook of the Godhead was concealed therein, until he had devoured it; and
thereupon remained fixed thereto."

Stephen of Canterbury (Liber allegoricus in Habacuc, unavailable to me) says:
"It is the bait of longed-for enjoyment that is displayed in the hook, but the tena-
cious hidden hook is consumed along with the bait. So in fleshly concupiscence the
devil displays the bait of pleasure, but the sting of sin lies hid therein." In this
regard see Picinellus, Lib. VI, cap. 1.

faithful in Paradise. After death, they clothe themselves in fish-
robes. 39 Christ is not only a fisher but the fish that is "eucha-
ristically" eaten. 40 Augustine says in his Confessions: "But [the
earth] eats the fish that was drawn from the deep, at the table
which you have prepared for them that believe; for the fish was
drawn from the deep in order to nourish the needy ones of the
earth." 41 St. Augustine is referring to the meal of fishes eaten by
the disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24 : 43). We come across the
"healing fish" in the story of Tobit: the angel Raphael helps
Tobit to catch the fish that is about to eat him, and shows him
how to make a magic "smoke" against evil spirits from the heart
and liver of the fish, and how he can heal his father's blindness
with its gall (Tobit 6 : iff.).

75 St. Peter Damian (d. 1072) describes monks as fishes, because
all pious men are little fishes leaping in the net of the Great
Fisher. 42 In the Pectorios inscription (beginning of the fourth
century), believers are called the "divine descendants of the
heavenly fish." 43

7 6 The fish of Manu is a saviour, 44 identified in legend with
Vishnu, who had assumed the form of a small goldfish. He begs
Manu to take him home, because he was afraid of being de-

39 Scheftelowitz, "Das Fisch-Symbol im Judentum und Christentum," p. 365.

40 Cf. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, V, pp. 4 iff.

41 Lib. XIII, cap. XXI. (Cf. trans, by F. J. Sheed, p. 275, modified.)

42 "The cloister of a monastery is indeed a fishpond of souls, and fish live there-
in" (Picinellus, Mundus).

An Alexandrian hymn from the 2nd cent, runs:

"Fisher of men, whom Thou to life dost bringl

From the evil sea of sin

And from the billowy strife

Gathering pure fishes in,

Caught with sweet bait of life."
(Writings of Clement of Alexandria, trans, by W. Wilson, I, p. 344.) Cf. Doelger,
'IX0TS, I, p. 4. Tertullian (De baptismo, cap. I) says: "But we little fishes, after
the example of our TX9T2 Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety
in any other way than by permanently abiding in (that) water." (Trans, by
S. Thelwall, I, pp. 231-32.) The disciples of Gamaliel the Elder (beginning of
1st cent.) were named after various kinds of fishes. (Abot de Rabbi Nathan,
cap. 40 [cf. trans, by J. Goldin, p. 166], cited in Scheftelowitz, p. 5.)

43 Pohl, Das Ichthysmonument von Autun, and Doelger, I, pp. i2ff.

44 "I will save thee." Shatapatha Brahmana (trans, by J. Eggeling, I [i.e., XII],
p. 216).



voured by the water monsters. 45 He then grows mightily, fairy-
tale fashion, and in the end rescues Manu from the great flood. 46
On the twelfth day of the first month of the Indian year a
golden fish is placed in a bowl of water and invoked as follows:
"As thou, O God, in the form of a fish, hast saved the Vedas that
were in the underworld, so save me also, O Keshava!" 47 De
Gubernatis and other investigators after him tried to derive the
Christian fish from India. 48 Indian influence is not impossible,
since relations with India existed even before Christ and various
spiritual currents from the East made themselves felt in early
Christianity, as we know from the reports of Hippolytus and
Epiphanius. Nevertheless, there is no serious reason to derive
the fish from India, for Western fish symbolism is so rich and at
the same time so archaic that we may safely regard it as autoch-
*77 Since the Fishes stand for mother and son, the mythological
tragedy of the son's early death and resurrection is already im-
plicit in them. Being the twelfth sign of the Zodiac, Pisces de-
notes the end of the astrological year and also a new beginning.
This characteristic coincides with the claim of Christianity to
be the beginning and end of all things, and with its eschato-
logical expectation of the end of the world and the coming of
God's kingdom. 49 Thus the astrological characteristics of the
fish contain essential components of the Christian myth; first,
the cross; second, the moral conflict and its splitting into the
figures of Christ and Antichrist; third, the motif of the son of a
virgin; fourth, the classical mother-son tragedy; fifth, the danger
at birth; and sixth, the saviour and bringer of healing. It is
therefore not beside the point to relate the designation of Christ
as a fish to the new aeon then dawning. If this relationship
existed even in antiquity, it must obviously have been a tacit

45 De Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology, II, pp. 334^

46 Shatapatha Brahmana (Eggeling trans., pp. 2i6ff.).

47 Doelger, I, p. 23. Keshava means 'having much or fine hair,' a cognomen
of Vishnu. 48 ibid., pp. 2 iff.

49 Origen (De oratione, cap. 27): ". . . as the last month is the end of the year,
after which the beginning of another month ensues, so it may be that, since
several ages complete as it were a year of ages, the present age is 'the end,' after
which certain 'ages to come' will ensue, of which the age to come is the begin-
ning, and in those coming ages God will 'shew the riches of his grace in kind-
ness' [Eph. 2 : 7]" (Oulton/Chadwick trans., p. 304).

assumption or one that was purposely kept secret; for, to my
knowledge, there is no evidence in the old literature that the
Christian fish symbolism was derived from the zodiac. More-
over, the astrological evidence up to the second century a.d. is
by no means of such a kind that the Christ/Antichrist antithe-
sis could be derived causally from the polarity of the Fishes,
since this, as the material we have cited shows, was not stressed
as in any way significant. Finally, as Doelger rightly emphasizes,
the Ichthys was always thought of as only one fish, though here
we must point out that in the astrological interpretation Christ
is in fact only one of the fishes, the role of the other fish being
allotted to the Antichrist. There are, in short, no grounds what-
ever for supposing that the zodion of the Fishes could have
served as the Ichthys prototype.

Pagan fish symbolism plays in comparison a far greater
role. 50 The most important is the Jewish material collected by
Scheftelowitz. The Jewish "chalice of benediction" 51 was some-
times decorated with pictures of fishes, for fishes were the food
of the blessed in Paradise. The chalice was placed in the dead
man's grave as a funerary gift. 52 Fishes have a wide distribution
as sepulchral symbols. The Christian fish occurs mainly in this
connection. Devout Israelites who live "in the water of the
doctrine" are likened to fishes. This analogy was self-evident
around a.d. 100. 53 The fish also has a Messianic significance. 54
According to the Syrian Apocalypse of Baruch, Leviathan shall
rise from the sea with the advent of the Messiah. 55 This is prob-
ably the "very great fish" of the Abercius inscription, corre-
sponding to the "fish from the fountain" mentioned in a

50 Especially noteworthy is the cult of the dove and the fish in the Syrian area.
There too the fish was eaten as "Eucharistic" food. (Cumont, Les Religions
orientales dans le paganisme romain, pp. 108-9, 2 55~57-) The chief deity of the
Philistines was called Dagon, derived from dag, 'fish.'

51 rb -rrorripiov rijs evXoylas'- calix benedictionis (I Cor. 10 : 16, DV).

52 Scheftelowitz, p. 375. 53 Ibid., p. 3.

54 Cf. Goodenough, V, pp. 35ft - .

55 At the same time "Behemoth shall be revealed from his place . . . and then
they shall be food for all that are left." (Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha,
II, p. 497.) The idea of Leviathan rising from the sea also links up with the vision
in II Esdras 13 : 25, of the "man coming up from the midst of the sea." Cf. Charles,
II, p. 579, and Wischnitzer-Bernstein, Symbole und Gestalten der jiidischen Kunst,
pp. i22f. and 134I



religious debate at the court of the Sassanids (5th century). The
fountain refers to the Babylonian Hera, but in Christian lan-
guage it means Mary, who in orthodox as well as in Gnostic
circles (Acts of Thomas) was invoked as 7^777, 'fountain.' Thus
we read in a hymn of Synesius (c. 350): Hayd Trcr/d^, apx&v dpxd,
pi$ibv pi^a, piovds el p.ovabuv, kt\. (Fountain of fountains, source of
sources, root of roots, monad of monads art thou.) 56 The foun-
tain of Hera was also said to contain the one fish (pbvov IxOvv)
that is caught by the "hook of divinity" and "feeds the whole
world with its flesh." 57 In a Boeotian vase-painting the "lady of
the beasts" 58 is shown with a fish between her legs, or in her
body, 59 presumably indicating that the fish is her son. Although,
in the Sassanid debate, the legend of Mary was transferred to
Hera, the "one fish" that is hooked does not correspond to the
Christian symbol, for in Christian symbology the crucifix is the
hook or bait with which God catches Leviathan, 60 who is either
death or the devil ("that ancient serpent") but not the Messiah.
In Jewish tradition, on the other hand, the pharmakon athana-
sias is the flesh of Leviathan, the "Messianic fish," as Scheftelo-
witz says. The Talmud Sanhedrin says that the Messiah "will
not come until a fish is sought for an invalid and cannot be pro-
cured." 61 According to the Apocalypse of Baruch, Behemoth as
well as Leviathan 62 is a eucharistic food. This is assiduously
overlooked. As I have explained elsewhere, 63 Yahweh's two pre-
historic monsters seem to represent a pair of opposites, the one
being unquestionably a land animal, and the other aquatic.

56 Wirth, Ans orientalischen Chroniken, p. 199.

57 Ibid., pp. 161, 19L

58 [Cf. Neumann, The Great Mother, ch. 14 and pi. 134. - Editors.]

59 Eisler, Orpheus- The Fisher, PI. LXIV.

60 See Psychology and Alchemy, fig. 28.

61 Scheftelowitz, p. 9; from the Talmud Nezikin VI, Sanhedrin II (BT, p. 662).
Cf. the kcrdU -kivLuv in the Pectorios inscription, supra, p. 8gn.

62 A passage in Moses Maimonides (Guide for the Perplexed, trans, by M. Fried-
lander, p. 303) has bearing on the interpretation of Leviathan. Kirchmaier (Dis-
putationes Zoologicae, 1736, p. 73) cites it as follows: "Speaking of these same
things Rabbi Moses Maimon says that Leviathan possesses a [universal] combina-
tion (complexum generalem) of bodily peculiarities found separate in different
animals." Although this rationalistic author dismisses the idea as "nugatory," it
nevertheless seems to me to hint at an archetype ("complexum generalem") of
the "spirit of gravity."

63 Psychological Types (1923 edn., pp. 333ft.).

J 79 Since olden times, not only among the Jews but all over the
Near East, the birth of an outstanding human being has been
identified with the rising of a star. Thus Balaam prophesies
(Num. 24 : 17):

I shall see him, but not now,

I shall behold him, but not nigh;

a star shall come forth out of Jacob. . . .

180 Always the hope of a Messiah is connected with the appear-
ance of a star. According to the Zohar, the fish that swallowed
Jonah died, but revived after three days and then spewed him
out again. "Through the fish we shall find a medicament for the
whole world." 64 This text is medieval but comes Irom a trust-
worthy source. The "very great 65 and pure fish from the foun-
tain" mentioned in the Abercius inscription is, in the opinion
of Scheftelowitz, 66 none other than Leviathan, which is not only
the biggest fish but is held to be pure, as Scheftelowitz shows by
citing the relevant passages from Talmudic literature. In this
connection we might also mention the "one and only fish" (eU
ixovos IxOvs) recorded in the "Happenings in Persia." 67

6-1 Scheftelowitz, p. 10. Cf. Matt. 12 : 39 and 16 : 4, where Christ takes the sign

of the prophet Jonah as a sign of the Messianic age and a prefiguration of his

own fate. Cf. also Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, V, pp. 470.

65 Uafifxeyed-qs. 66 Pp. 7f.

67 Ta ev Uepaidc irpaxdivra (Wirth, p. 151).


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