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The Salmon of Knowledge

The Salmon of Knowledge or Salmon of Wisdom (bradán feasa), tells the story of how a boy called Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Fionn, son of Cumhaill) became a wise man by being the first person to eat the Salmon of Knowledge. Fionn would go on to lead a band of hunters and warriors known as the Fianna and become one of the greatest heroes in Celtic Mythology.

According to the story, a druid had foretold that anyone who ate the salmon would gain its magical powers and have the knowledge of all things.  It was an ordinary salmon that ate the nine hazel nuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom from nine hazel trees that surrounded the fountain. In doing so, the salmon gained all the knowledge in the world.

Moreover, the first person to eat of its flesh would, in turn, gain this knowledge.

The poet Finnegas spent seven years fishing for the salmon. When he finally caught it, he instructed his apprentice, Fionn, to prepare it for him. Fionn burned his thumb when spattered with some of the hot fat from the cooking salmon and immediately sucked on it to ease the pain.

When he brought the cooked meal to Finnegas, his master saw a fire in the boy’s eyes that had not been there before. When asked by Finnegas, Fionn denied that he had eaten of the fish. When pressed, he admitted his accidental taste.

Finnegas decreed, “You will gain great powers, you must now go and become leader of the Fianna.” And so it was that this incredible knowledge and wisdom gained from the Salmon of Knowledge allowed Fionn to become the leader of the Fianna, the famed heroes of Irish myth.