Old Habits and New Owners


We know the water mill is ancient. In 2013 it’ll reach its 200th anniversary. Everything about the mill feels old. The thick, stone walls are at some parts of the house more than 100 cm thick. The wooden structure of the roof has more joints than a wooden ship. There are windows that are long gone but have left a permanent mark on the outside. There are engravings with names of people who are old enough be the village grandparents.

three fishes in a bottle behind stone

While restoring the mill we’ve found an old custom that we’d left behind a long, long time ago–we’d even forgotten all about its meaning. As he was digging in a wall to reopen a door that was blocked, our builder discovered a glass bottle containing three dried fish.

How freakily superstitious were the miller and his wife when they moved in? Was it witchcraft? Black magic ceremonies? Or maybe they were following some weird, local religion and held gatherings around an open fire in the garden?

No…

Some quick research told us that the hiding of three fish in a bottle has a Christian background. It might sound pagan to keep dried fish in a wall, but its explanation has in either way a deep religious meaning. One tells the story of the three fish symbolizing the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Another tells the story of the three fish being a symbol of Saint Peter, who was originally a fisherman. He’s closely related to stories from the New Testament about harvesting fish and the dividing of the Fish and the Bread. This dividing is a sign of God’s endless care for humankind.

In any explanation, the three fish are meant to protect the house and its owners in general and to ward off hunger and poverty. So we’ve asked the builder to put the bottle back into the wall where it came from.

One never knows–nor should one question everything.

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Filed under All, History, Renovation

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