Molid Ancient History and Folklore
The earliest written records of mola that I've been able to
find date back to Pliny the younger who, according to Wikipedia,
had the real name of Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, lived
from 63 - ca. 113 and was a lawyer, author and a natural philosopher
of Ancient Rome. Pliny quotes Apion as saying that the largest
of fishes was the porcus (pigfish), called Orthagoriscus by the
Lacedaemonians, and states that it grunted when taken. The Orthagoriscus
of Pliny was referred by Rondelet to a fish then known as mole
at Marseille which was apparently the headfish or sunfish, Orthagoriscus
mola. Note: molas can gnash their long throat teeth together
and make a grunting sound when removed from the water.
A bit closer to home, a 2001 study of archeologial remains in
California suggests there was a rather robust prehistoric mola
fishery on the southern California coast. For a truly inspired
and hysterical YouTube video on this findings check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4smMyPNcA0.
This film is based on the following article: J. Porcasi and S.
Andrews (2001) Evidence for a Prehistoric Mola mola fishery on
the Southern California Coast, Journal of California and Great
Basin Archaeology, Vol 23 No 1.
Not much is known about the cultural significance of mola. According
to Margaret Titcomb, author of Native Use of Fish in Hawai'i,
the Hawaiian names for mola include: Kaumakanui which literally
translates to big eyes placed on it; Kunehi apahu (cut off) and
Kunehi makua (king). It is this last name from which the following
legend arose. Polynesians are said to have called the sunfish
makua or "King of the Mackerels". It was bad luck to
catch and kill sunfish for such an act would render the mackerel
incapable of finding their way to the islands and subsequently
into the fishermen's nets.
In Japanese culture, mola were once used as a form of tax payment
by Shoguns several centuries ago. And today mola are an adored
fish throughout the country of Japan. The seaside town of Kamogawa
in the Chiba prefecture has even chosen the mola as their town
mascot. And various places throughout Japan offer the opportunity
to swim with mola as a tourist attraction.
If you know of any mola legends or lore, please do pass them
along my way.
Alfred C. Andrews, 1948, Greek and Latin Mouse-Fishes
and Pig-Fishes Transactions
and Proceedings of the American Philological Association,
Vol. 79. pp. 232-253. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=00659711%281948%2979%3C232%3AGALMAP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-K.
Was the Patron Saint of Cornwall rescued by a fish,
an ocean sunfish maybe??
St Piran was brought up in South Wales in the 5th century and
founded a church in Cardiff. He then moved to Ireland where
he became famous for healing the sick. However, according to
legend, in his old age he was captured by a band of pagans. These
ruffians tied a millstone around his neck and flung him off a
high cliff at the height of a raging storm. Miraculously as
he sank beneath the mountainous waves the storm calmed, and the
millstone floated up taking him with it. Piran clambered on
to the millstone and using it as a raft sailed away on it. He
landed at Perran Beach in North Cornwall, where he set up a church,
discovered tin for the Cornish, and performed many further miracles.
Could St. Piran's millstone have been a fish? The Sunfish with
it large grey round shape has the scientific name of Mola mola,
meaning, guess what, MILLSTONE. So maybe he was simply thrown
into the water from the cliff top and when he bobbed up to the
surface was able to seize hold of a passing sunfish, which recognised
him as a holy man and towed him to safety in Cornwall. In summer
you can often see sunfish swimming around headlands, especially
in North Cornwall; perhaps they are coming by to check if St
Piran needs their help again.
submitted by Douglas Herdson