Returning Salmon & The Arts of Death, Rebirth, & Transformation

fishers of men, photo by Patricia Herlevi
fishers of men, photo by Patricia Herlevi

Many of us have grown up with the tale of the salmon–who returns to spawn and die in the place of their birth. And there are many angles to take from the heroic determination of the salmon on its final quest, the eagle who waits patiently at the top of a waterfall to feast on the salmon or the fisherman who casts his line hoping for a fish large enough to feed his family for the week…

However, the real story of the salmon is about accepting fate of a species. It revolves around death and the rebirth process or how death transforms us and carries us onward to the next stage of our evolution.

Many years ago when I was still living in Seattle, I kept seeing the Skagit River flowing in my mind’s eye. Granted, the Skagit River is not near Seattle, but flows down from the Cascade Mountains into the Skagit Valley and part of the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, depending on which fork in the river one follows. And around the same time, I was experiencing nightmares of a massacre of Duwamish Indians that took place around Chief Seattle’s time. This led me to consult with a Lakota elder who told me that it was time for me to leave Seattle (he said I wasn’t safe staying there), and did I have any place in mind I could relocate.

I told him about the Skagit River and my intuition which told me to return to my birthplace, Mount Vernon, Washington, located in the Skagit Valley. Well, after I made the decision, I kept seeing salmon symbolism and pictures of salmon everywhere. The river still flowed through my third eye. And one day on a bus heading to Mount Vernon (where I was looking for my next apartment), I met a man who worked at a hospice. Then the only apartment I could rent at the time was across the street from a funeral home. It turned out that death was all around me and this left me trembling. Was I about to die a physical death?

My health wasn’t bad at the time so I worried about accidents and laid awake at night worrying about the next big flood in Skagit (which fortunately didn’t happen while I lived there). And I did experience some near misses with death. But it wasn’t until 2008-2009 that I realized I was facing a spiritual death or a metaphorical one that led to transformation. It came in the form of Pluto transiting into Capricorn and touching my North Node (fate) and then my Ascendant (identity) and then Uranus moving into Aries and shaking my life up, even landing me in a violent situation involving a mentally ill landlady and an irate neighbor (got out of that alive). I relocated to Bellingham where the transformation process continued to this day.

But let’s get back to the salmon because I’ve been visiting a salmon run in recent days. Droves of locals head to Whatcom Creek to fish or to cheer the fish on as they make their way upstream against some pretty strong currents and even a waterfall. Then the creek calms down as it winds its way to Whatcom Falls where the fish meet new challenges and then the ones that make it, swim to Lake Whatcom and then on to the Nooksack River where they spawn. That is if the eagles don’t dine on them first. What a journey!

The salmon story contains multiple threads that involves the eco-system and every being that encounters the salmon on the journey. To some, the salmon story doesn’t travel past a culinary experience (human, bear, and eagle), and for some it’s a spiritual experience (Native American legends and rituals), and for others it’s a hero’s journey, like the teens who stood along side a waterfall and cheered each fish as it leaped over the currents–in victory and showing where determination and effort lead.


But this brings me to the teachings of Abraham-Hicks where Abraham teaches us to place our boats in the stream heading downstream instead of struggling upstream. Obviously, the salmon don’t practice this teaching! The fish struggle with currents that push against them and even tear off their fins. These fish are completely ragged by the time they lay their eggs in their homeland then take their last breath. They, it would seem, are in a hurry to die and I guess they don’t have the same view of death as we do. It’s not an ending, but a doorway into the next realm. But first, they make their last sacrifice of a series of sacrifices to ensure that their species will continue despite pollution to their habitat and all the other human-made perils they face. The legend continues and that’s enough to cause tears to mist my eyes.


Salmon and trout make their way upstream to spawn during the fall months and especially during this time of the Scorpio Sun, when the days shrink and night’s expand. At a time when we face our inner darkness and the noon sun spreads deep shadows across the land, we face the inevitable of death, rebirth, and transformation. It is only when we accept the transformation and surrender to it that we reclaim our power. The Sign Scorpio teaches us as it initiates us into Persephone’s world as she transformed from an innocent maiden into the Priestess of Death. When the sun transits in Scorpio, we must master our own death, whether that’s a physical or a spiritual one. It’s no wonder that Scorpio’s colors are white, black, and blood red. Light, dark, and lifeblood.

Scorpio also rules regeneration, lineages, and procreation. It rules passion and without passion we can’t survive, at least not for very long. Passion equals life breath and ask a Scorpio sun person or even a Scorpio moon person about their passions. This is where they place their focus and sometimes obsession. We know that the symbols for Scorpio are the Scorpion, Eagle, Dove, and the Phoenix, but I would like to add one more symbol, the salmon–a determined fish who against all odds dies heroically knowing that he or she is part an eternal story.

Published by pnwauthor

I'm a former Washingtonian from Washington State, not Washington DC. I currently reside in Pennsylvania, even though my dream was to live and work in Vermont.

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