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The Meaning of An Ancient Symbol of Three Fishes and Lotuses

Three fishes symbol, ancient symbol, General Djehuty, Hathor
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Some may be wondering where the symbol of three fishes symbol on The Cosmic Web comes from. So here goes: the author, Corbin, has been drawing this symbol since childhood, first seen on the cover of a book of poetry by a relative (Not the book of poetry by Allen Ginsberg, who adopted the symbol). He drew it while sitting in class on the margins of papers, in sketchbooks, doodling it for years but not knowing what it meant. The color choices used are related to turquoise and amethyst.

Image created by Corbin Black

In 2019, Corbin, a freelance writer, was randomly picked to write for a now-defunct website, one of the first to discuss ancient aliens in the ancient world, Ancient Code focused on Egyptian history. Unconvinced of aliens, he studied the subject matter and eventually conceded that there is much unexplained about the ancient world. There is a wealth of evidence in stone and even cave paintings of unexplainable technology and beings thousands of years ago. It really opened the writer’s mind at a time when the New York Times began publishing stories about Navy ships and UFOs.

However, given the freedom to write whatever he chose, he wrote about the powerful matriarchal society in Egyptian culture, which is so different from today. He wrote about Hathor, the Egyptian goddess, feeling compelled to do so. Why had early Christians tried to wipe out her story? It didn’t work, and today she is becoming well-known again. The story of how there was once equality of gods and goddesses is more important than ever today, as women’s rights are under assault in the United States.

Three Fishes Symbol

It was only after researching more about the story of Hathor that one day, driven by some very interesting synchronicities, Corbin found the same three fishes symbol. There it was, the same symbol, although now it had three lotus flowers along with the fishes. 

In a Google search, the symbol from the British Library shows the symbol used between the 16th to 11th centuries BC. 

“The earliest known manifestation of the three-fish-one-head symbol is in ancient Egypt, where it was a familar motif on ceramic dishes from the New Kingdom period between the 16th to 11th centuries BC. Representing the tilapia fish and found together with depictions of the lotus, it is associated with the Goddess Hathor,” they write. 

Thousands of years later, the three fishes symbol is seen in the Christian context representing the Trinity. It’s also seen on pottery from the Chinese Yuan Empire (1279–1368).

A giant Buddha footprint inspired America Poet Ginsberg’s logo. He saw it in 1962 in Bodh Gaya, India. 

“I saw the three fish one head, carved on insole of naked Buddha Footprint stone at Bodh-Gaya under the Bo-tree,” he wrote. “Large – 6 or 10 foot size – feet or soles made of stone are a traditional form of votive marker. Mythologically the 32 signs – stigmata, like—of the Buddha include chakras (magic wheels symbolic of energy) on hands and feet. This is a sort of a fish chakra. So antique artists used to sculpt big feet as symbolic of the illumined man – before Greeks brought in human-face representation of Buddha. They never used to have statues of him – umbrellas, Bo-trees, or feet instead – before Alexander came to India.”

Interestingly, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam adopted or co-opted the symbol. Thus, it shows the universality of the Trinity concept. 

Left: Image via  National Museum of Asian Art. Right: Image via Asian and African studies blog

Symbols of Tilapia Fishes and Blue Lotus

In the three fishes symbol, they unite to form one head. Those familiar with Egyptian religion may intuitively know that means uniting in consciousness with God (Ra). The blue lotus is a symbol of Hathor, rejuvenation, and rebirth. When intertwined with the papyrus, it symbolizes reaching enlightenment, like the Caduceus, the staff of Thoth or Hermes. 

Similar symbols of the Tilapia fish with lotus are seen in ancient clay blue bowls. However, their heads aren’t united as one. The blue bowl above is from the National Museum of Asian Art.

Description from the museum:

“This type of bowl, decorated with painted fish and lotus flowers, was a ritual object in New Kingdom Egypt (ca. 1539–1075 B.C.E.) and is often found in tombs. The lotus symbolized rebirth because the blue lotus sinks below the surface of the water each evening at sunset and re-emerges each morning at sunrise. The Tilapia fish, which also symbolized rebirth, is often included in the designs. This type of fish holds its eggs in its mouth until they hatch, thus appearing to regenerate spontaneously when live fish swim out of the parent’s mouth. The design at the center symbolizes a pool, or water in general, and the entire work comes to represent the marsh and the symbols of rebirth found therein.”

“These bowls are particularly associated with the goddess Hathor, and many are decorated with her symbols. While the function of the bowls is unclear, many show signs of wear and have been found in tombs. They may have been ritual containers for water, wine, or even milk. The symbolism of rebirth also implies their use as funerary objects or at least as votive objects to a deity like Hathor, who was connected to the necropolis and thus linked to the protection and rebirth of the dead.”

Left: Silver bowl via Instagram/ egyptology_persian. Right: Golden bowl of Djehuty (Louvre) by Aoineko via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Tomb of General Djehuty and Fishes

Often, Corbin comes across things by synchronicity and chance, and such is the case with another three fishes-like examples. While looking at Instagram, he saw the example below.

This time, we have six fish and 15 lotuses with a central circle, and the bowl is gold, another symbol of Hathor. It’s the Golden bowl of Djehuty, another name for the Egyptian Thoth and Greek Hermes.

The inscription on the 7-inch gold bowl reads:

“Given in praise by the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ra-men-kheper, to the hereditary chief, the divine father, the beloved by God, filling the heart of the king in all foreign lands and in the isles in the midst of the great sea, filling stores with lazuli, electrum, and gold, keeper of all foreign lands, keeper of the troops, praised by the good gold lord of both lands and his ka, the royal scribe Tahuti deceased.” 

Again, those who study Egyptian beliefs will know there is a deeper meaning to uniting Upper and Lower Egypt. It’s the same meaning as the dual staff of Hermes, the Caduceus.

According to ucsd.edu, the bowl was a tribute to Djehuty (or Tahuti) at his funeral “to be placed in his tomb for the use of his ka.”

This Djehuty is a General and King’s scribe whose tomb was raided in 1824 by Bernardino Drovetti. According to Wikipedia, the antiquities collector mentioned a coffin and mummy, but the whereabouts are sadly unknown.

There was also a similar silver bowl with 5 fish and 12 lotuses, an emerald heart scarab (see the Instagram post), a daggera gold ring, a gold bracelet, and canopic jars. No doubt other artifacts were discovered, but they are missing and scattered. 

The gold ring is called The Ashburnham Ring, and it bears an inscription on two sides:

“He of the Two Ladies, Great of terror in all lands” and “Menkheperre, beloved of Ptah, radiant of face.”

Image via worldhistory.org. Inset of dagger via Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt

General Djehuty and the Taking of Joppa

General Djehuty is the main character in the “Taking of Joppa” story, similar to the Trojan Horse story but 200 years prior. The story tells of another important object, the staff of “tautnefer,” also belonging to King Menkheperre (Thutmose III or Tuthmosis). The King ordered his followers, “Hide thou my great cane, which works wonders, in the baggage of Tahutia that my power may go with him.” 

The true name for the mysterious staff is incomplete, but it immediately brings to mind the staff of Hermes, the Caduceus, or the Sekhem scepter seen everywhere today. Even so, many people don’t understand the true power of this ancient symbol.

Naming the staff is one of the earliest examples in history of giving a title to possessions. In the story, Djehuty appeases the “Foe” and shows him the staff after he asks to see it, but that is his foe’s downfall.

 “Look on me, o Foe in Joppa ; here is the great cane of King Men-kheper-Re, the terrible lion, the son of Sekhet, to whom Amen his father gives power and strength.”

Afterward, the General struck the Foe on the forehead, and they fell back. From there, the Djehuty managed to smuggle 200 warriors into the city after pretending to surrender.

According to one source, Tuthmosis III gave Djehuty a gold medal of valor, which was represented by 3 gold flies, for his military success.

Image via Facebook

Featured image: Own work with Golden bowl of Djehuty (Louvre) by Aoineko via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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