Catching Your “Mary” Fish
22 Tuesday Jul 2014
Written by Mark in Icelandic
I saw an article on RÚV about Quentin Tarantino’s fishing trip in Iceland, with the curious title
Tarantino beit ugga af maríulaxinum
Tarantino bit fin off Mary salmon
According to the article,
“Hann beit af honum uggann og renndi niður með skoti af brennivíni sem er gamall og góður siður.”
“He bit the fin off of it and washed it down with a shot of brennivin, which is an old and honored tradition.”
So that was interesting to find out 🙂
At the time I had no idea what a maríulax was, I figured it was some species I had never heard of. Mr. Google very helpfully directed me to Vísindavefurinn, where I found an answer:
Hvers vegna er fyrsti laxinn sem einhver veiðir kallaður maríulax?
Why is the first salmon someone catches called a Mary salmon?
Maríufiskurinn var fyrsti fiskur sem sjómaður veiddi á ævinni. Skyldi sá sem veiddi fiskinn gefa hann fátækustu (sumir segja elstu) konunni í verstöðinni þegar komið var í land. Ef maríufiskur unglings var góðfiskur, það er þorskur, ýsa eða lúða, var spáð vel fyrir honum og framtíð hans á sjónum.
The “Mary” fish was the first fish a fisherman caught in his life. The person who caught the fish would give it to the poorest (some say the oldest) woman in the village after returning to land. If a youth’s Mary fish was a good fish, like a cod, haddock or halibut, it bode well for him and his future at sea.
Þennan sið má rekja aftur til kaþólskrar trúar og var maríufiskurinn þá eins konar heitfiskur. Heitið var á Maríu mey til fiskiheilla og var henni gefinn fyrsti fiskurinn.
This custom can be traced back to Catholic beliefs, the Mary fish being a sort of offering. The offering was to the Virgin Mary for success with fishing, and she was given the first fish.
I wasn’t quite sure how to translate the heit- words into English, I feel like there’s something better, offering if the only thing that came to mind.
So that apparently is the story behind the Mary fish; hopefully I’ll make it back to Iceland one day and catch my own. Not sure about the biting-off-the-fin part though… 🙂
uggi m fin lax m salmon veiða v (acc) catch, hunt; fish sjómaður m fisherman ævi f indecl life, lifetime fá·tækur adj poor, needy ver·stöð f fishing village/station þorskur m cod ýsa f haddock lúða f halibut spá v (dat) predict, forecast fram·tíð f future siður m custom rekja v (acc) follow, track, trace trú f belief, faith heit n (solemn) promise, vow, pledge heill f luck, happiness, success