Fishiness

 

“According to pre-Christian mythology, the oceans and the lakes were created out of the blood of a giant, and governed by the god  Njodur, who was in charge of fishing and sailing. In this cosmic order humans were merely tiny pawns, subject to supernatural forces and manipulated by aquatic animals. This is apparent in notions of ‘fishiness’ (fiskni, fskiheill), the ability to get fish. Fishiness was a transient quality people considered to be differentially distributed among fishermen. According to an old proverb ‘no one catches another man’s fish’. Most of the catch was divided by a share system, but some species were not distributed. These belonged to the individuals who had caught them and were spoken of  as fortunate draws. Some people were thought to scare fish away and were called ‘fish- deterrents’. The foreman of the boat arranged his men according to their fishiness. During fishing those who lacked the quality were seated at the oars to keep the boat in position while others jigged with hand lines. Somehow fishiness was predetermined. According to a proverb, ‘ a poor fisherman gets poor fish’……….

Even though fishiness was considered an individual quality, it was part of a grand design over which humans had no control. Fishing peasants spoke of their prey as a ‘gift’ of god and the catch was spoken of as a ‘contribution’ in fish. In the folk analysis, the catch was supplied by nature and humans were just passive  recipients, observers of a mysterious system of rationing.

Reference

Gisli Palsson, The Idea of Fish in the Icelandic world-view

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