Fish Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

whale in water

To understand what a fish symbolizes, we must consider the innermost relationship these creatures have with the water element. Water is a well-known symbol of subconsciousness, purification, healing, and emotions. Considering this, it is clear that fish symbolism is related to knowledge, transformation, creativity, eternity, and femininity.

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Fish Symbolism and Meaning

The symbolism of fish is known to humankind since ancient times, and it is strongly connected to the water element. 

Psychologically speaking, water is a powerful symbol of the depths of the unconscious. Water also means knowledge and mysteries of the unknown. Ultimately, water is strongly connected to the idea of life and birth.

So what do fish symbolize in this context? Fish, as a water animal, is linked to steadfast movement and independence. Fish represents the unconscious of higher-self, feelings, and motives. It is also a metaphor for deeper awareness and the intelligence and thought process.

lots of fishes

Since water brings life, all the creatures living beneath its surface will symbolize fertility, birth, and rebirth. Fish is no different and its symbolism is deeply connected to the sacred feminine.

The fish’s symbolic meaning differs from a culture to another, and it also depends on the exact species of fish. The fish is also a bringer of good luck and prosperity.

To understand what do fish represent, you should learn about this creature’s fantastic journey through myth and history. Present in every culture and worldwide, the fish is subject to beautiful legends and stories (1).

Fish Native American Symbolism

Native American people were genuinely spiritual and always connected to nature. They passed their life experience, history, and knowledge from generation to generation through symbols and signs.

For some tribes, the fish had an essential role as the principal source of food, so they revered it as the Plains tribes esteemed the buffalo. Part of many ritual ceremonies of the North-western tribes, the salmon was honored as a significant medicine animal.

Fish were also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Among these tribes, it is worth nominating Creek, Chickasaw, and Ho-Chunk. 

colorful fish swimming

Their crests were carved on totem poles and depicted salmon, sturgeon, or halibut. Eastern tribes like Lenape, Caddo, and Iroquois incorporate Fish Dances in their rituals, while Hopi had a Fish kachina.

But what do fish symbolize for the Native Americans? Since this water creature was the main sustenance mean for many tribes, its symbolism is associated with prosperity and fortune. Fish is also a symbol of fertility. 

The Kwagiulth people esteemed twins and considered that giving birth to twins is a gift from the salmon. Often depicted as a skilled shapeshifter and magician of the water element, fish is also associated with wisdom and the in-depth knowledge of nature mysteries (2).

Fish Eastern Symbolism

The fish is one of the most important symbols of wealth and fortune in Asian cultures. Most often depicted as a carp or koi fish, fish are an important motif in Chinese mythology.

Let’s see what fish symbolizes for Asian people. In China, koi fish are being offered to newly wedded couples as a symbol of fertility, devotion, and happy marriage. 

Since these fish display a wide range of colors and can be quite expensive, Asian people see them as a symbol of wealth and abundance.

The koi fish symbolism also speaks of courage and tenacity. Due to their ability to climb rushing streams and waterfalls, they have been associated with determination.

shark in water

For Japanese people, Koi fish resemble a Samurai warrior.

The spiritual meaning of fish is evident since a golden fish pair is one of the Buddha’s Eight Auspicious Signs. 

The symbolism is linked to happiness as the fish have complete freedom of movement in the water. They also represent fertility and abundance. Due to the long life span, the koi fish also symbolizes longevity.  

In Eastern Indian mythology, the fish symbolism is connected to creation and transformation. An old legend speaks of Vishnu turning himself into a fish to save the world from a flood (3).

Fish Christianity symbolism

The fish is a significant symbol for the Christians since it symbolizes Jesus Christ. The fish sign is a very old one, known as ichthys, an indication of the fish or Jesus fish.

The Christians adopted it as a secret symbol; ichthys means Iesous Christos Theou Yeos Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour). 

Because the sign of the fish is older than Christianity and was used by Greeks and Romans as well, the early Jesus’ followers believed it would not raise suspicions. So the ichthus fish marked the Christian gathering places and tombs (4).

colorful fish swimming

Jesus’ fish meaning is also related to the Holy Eucharist and its particular significance for Christians. Ichthus fish’s meaning is also revealed in the bible. We all know how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. 

In this case, the symbol of fish is related to faith, abundance, and, most important, charity. To understand the spiritual meaning of fish in the bible, we must be mindful of the Gospels. Jesus referred to His disciples as “fishers of men.” 

In this case, the biblical meaning of fish is that man finds himself into an abyss of sin and needs redemption. All things considered, the catholic fish is a symbol of the Christian religion.

Fish Celtic Symbolism

To understand what does a fish symbolizes for the old Celtic people, we must consider the importance of all living creatures for these folks. A common subject in Welsh and Celtic mythology, the animals, are linked to fertility and vitality. Fish, the salmon, in particular, is a symbol of wisdom.

The salmon symbolism is present in the entire Celtic mythology and is tied with esoteric knowledge and the power to foresee the future. 

One of the essential Celtic sacred creatures is the rainbow salmon, one of the Celtic zodiac signs and the symbol animal for the Hazel Tree sign. According to the ancient Celtic legends, the salmon gained its wisdom by eating hazelnuts, another symbol of insight.

shark in water

One of the most critical legends in Irish mythology features the Salmon of Knowledge. Once an ordinary salmon, this magnificent fish ate the hazelnuts felt into the Well of Wisdom and gained all the world’s knowledge. 

Captured by poet Finn Eces and eaten by his servant, Fionn son of Cumhail (leader of the famous Fianna, the famous Irish heroes), the salmon transferred all the world’s knowledge to the young boy. Later, the great wisdom allowed Fionn to become the leader of Fianna (5).

Fish African Symbolism

The symbolic meaning of fish in Ancient African culture is fertility and creativity; fish representing a new phase of life. One of the most important myths from the African continent involves Mangala, the creator god.

According to the Mande creation myth from Southern Mali, Mangala planted eleusine seeds into the cosmic womb. From these seeds, two fish were born, and Mangala sent them into the waters of creation.

The two fishes symbol is potent in Africa, being encountered in ancient Egypt as well. The species of interest are tilapia and the Nile perch. Depicted on Egyptian bas-reliefs since ancient times, the tilapia symbolizes a sunrise due to its beautiful colors. 

colorful fish swimming

Tilapia was also associated with fertility and protection as the females are hiding the babies in their mouths when sensing danger.

On the other hand, the Nile perch was associated with the night due to its dark colors. This fierce predator eats even its own race; therefore, it was seen as a symbol of darkness and destruction.

Both fish follow the boat of the sun since one represents the day and the other the night. Another vital appearance in Egyptian mythology is the fisherman symbol. A man capable of catching both fish can also master day and night; ultimately, his destiny (6).

Fish in Dreams

What does it mean to dream about fish? The fish dream meaning cannot be entirely revealed unless we consider the overall mood. If you dream about fish is usually a positive thing; you have to move forward. Unless you dream of a dead fish…

The dead fish dream meaning is related to unpleasant situations you might experience in the future.

Let’s see what does dreaming about fishing means. To dream of fishes points out to the thoughts you quietly acknowledge, but you don’t take them too seriously. The fish symbolism in dreams is connected to your emotions.

whale in water

Dreaming about catching fish symbolizes a real-life win like getting a better job or getting married. It also means you will acquire knowledge. Fishing dream meaning is associated with positive things like good luck and success.

A dream of eating fish means that you will soon experience an emotional situation, but overall, life will be positive. Depending on the species, eating fish dream meaning may be different.

To dream of fish jumping out of the water means experiencing unexpected events and feeling uneasy.  A big fish dream meaning is that you fear something or you are worried about something.

Fish Encounters and Omens

Across cultures worldwide, the fish attracts numerous superstitions. Generally, people are very skeptical when it comes to the sea and its creatures. The unknown always scares and frightens. However, there are as many good omens as there are ominous signs.

The prophetic meaning of fish is revealed through dreams. So what does dreaming about fishing mean? It depends on the context.

If you dream of fish swimming in clean waters, it means that new achievements are foreseen. Career people should expect promotions or better deals. If the water is muddy or dirty, a bad omen, illness, or trouble are approaching. 

two dolphins in water

But what does a dead fish symbolize? Well, the dead fish symbolism is somehow dual. The dead fish symbol is related to loss and failure; however, if you dream of dead fish, do not despair. 

Dead fish meaning in a dream is a warning that you missed an opportunity. Just rethink your strategy, and things will get better.

On a positive note, a woman dreaming about fish might be pregnant. Fish dream meaning pregnancy was prevalent among the Welsh women, and it is a good omen.

Another good omen is dreaming about goldfish. The goldfish symbolism is associated with prosperity, abundance, and success (7).

Fish Mythology and Folklore

Fish is an important symbolic figure in almost every religion and culture. Inspiring people from prehistoric times, the symbolic fish is a constant motif in ancient art. 

The fish symbolism in literature is often the same as what the fish in the bible represents: life. Fish meaning in Christianity is Jesus Christ, the symbol of life itself.

The pagan fish symbol, used long before then the Christian ichthys, also means life but from a different perspective. The Neopagans use the fish symbol to represent a woman’s womb or vagina.

The fish symbol meaning is linked to femininity, sexuality, and birth. 

colorful fish swimming

Before the Christians adopted religious fish symbols, the Great Mother Goddess (another name for the fish) was acknowledged by the Celts and other pagan cultures throughout Europe and the other continents.

The Chinese Great Mother Kwan-yin is depicted as a fish while the Indian goddess Kali was known as the “fish-eyed one.” Isis, the Egyptian universal goddess, was named the Great Fish of the Abyss.

The Japanese folklore speaks of the catfish symbolism. Namazu, the giant catfish bringer of earthquakes, is an important figure of Japan’s mythology.  In Ancient Greece, the goddess Aphrodite was celebrated on Fridays when they ate fish.

Fish Spirit Animal

When the fish spirit animal appears in your life, it brings a message of hope, and it empowers you to make the right decisions.

The fish also brings the power of the water depths. People guided by the fish spirit have tremendous psychic powers and authority. Your spirit guide urges you to make use of these abilities. 

Fish spirit animal meaning is also linked to emotional healing. Are you feeling unstable? The spirit guide will show you how to find balance. Sometimes you may find yourself asking what do dreams about fish mean. 

Well, it is a sign that your fish spirit animal wants to lead you towards balance and harmony in life. Your spirit animal might point out that maybe your goals are unrealistic, and you should focus on real problems. 

This is the moment when flying fish symbolism kicks in. The salmon spirit animal might appear in your life exactly when you feel uneasy and unhappy. 

Maybe you are facing one of the most challenging struggles of your life, or perhaps you need a spiritual improvement. The Salmon will be there to guide you and lend you some of its traits: intuition, spirituality, wisdom, or determination (8).

Fish Totem Animal

The fish totem allows us to connect to the mysterious water element. To understand the meanings of fish, we first must understand the symbolism of water. 

Since ancient times the unknown of the aquatic universe was related to the human subconscious and knowledge. We always might find surprises under the water surface.

The fish animal totem swims into our dreams, prompting us to connect to our spiritual side. It is clear that dreams about fishing meaning are that our fish totem guides us through hard times.

colorful fish swimming

Your spiritual fish guide will appear in a dream of fish and teach you how to adapt to circumstances quickly.

In case your totem animal is a large species of fish, be sure that the big fish symbolism is related to the idea of growing and evolving. Your spirit guide instructs you to aim towards bigger goals. 

Whether your animal totem reveals itself in a fish dream or crosses your path, it will surely give you some of its energies. 

This totem represents adaptable and intuitive people. You can stimulate wealth; you can transform everything into gold. Very independent, Fish people are often inclined to beat the odds.

Fish Power Animal

Whenever you find yourself in the situation to change, but you stall, it is time to summon your fish power animal. 

If the transformation makes little sense to you, call your inner power animal, and it will give you the wisdom to understand the reasons for the change.

When your life seems to be motionless, the fish energy will give you the strength to move forward. 

Fish medicine will help you amplify your instincts. If you find yourself chained to a toxic person or a bad place, the Fish energy will inspire you to seek liberation and move forward.

dolphin in water

Life is a constant sequence of changes, and if you decide that peace and harmony are your goals, the fish power animal will remind you to take the necessary steps to fulfill your wishes. 

It is also a reminder that you can learn something significant from any challenge you go through.

Everything is possible as long as you reconnect to your roots and understand where you are coming from. With the help of the fish power animal, you will better acknowledge the destination.

The fish power animal is here to reassure you that the future is bright if you pay attention to the decisions you make today.  

Fish Tattoo Meaning

Fish tattoos are very common among both men and women due to the designs and bright colors. These tattoos have their origin in the Japanese culture, the most famous design representing the koi fish. 

The meaning and the symbolism of the koi fish tattoo comes from an ancient Japanese legend of how this fish became a dragon.

The symbolism of this tattoo design also depends on its colors, but usually, the koi fish is being chosen as a token of determination, perseverance, courage, and family.

Many people choose to tattoo two fish, and in this case, the fish sign meaning is related to the Western zodiac, with the Pisces sign to be more specific.

whale illustration

A very common tattoo design is the Polynesian fishing hook. The fish hook symbolism is related to the idea of abundance, prosperity, and union.

A more unique and mysterious tattoo design is the fish skeleton. The fish skeleton symbol meaning is related to the biblical loaves and fish parable. 

So, if you choose this tattoo design, you probably already know that fish skeleton meaning is a reminder not to take things for granted. There are not so many fishing-related tattoos because only a few people can relate to fishing symbols.

Conclusion

The fish symbols are widely spread in cultures all over the world. Being a positive omen, it was chosen as a symbol of prosperity and good luck. Also, associated with fertility and femininity, the fish’s meaning is motherhood. The fishing meaning for Christians is related to Jesus Christ, and thus ultimately, the fish symbolizes love.

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