by Eric Whollem
natural iron oxide in acrylic emulsion on white clay
Collection of the artist
Photo copyright by the artist.
"Mako" means salmon in the Concow Maidu Indian
language. "Kollem" means woman. In my interaction
with the Maidu I never heard a story about Mako
Kollem. This is my own storytelling here, as it is
winter and the time for tales. . . .
SUPI POBOKU: A RIVER OF MYSTERIES
Below the ridge where I lived in the Feather Falls
area runs Supi Poboku, the Middle Fork of the Feather
In the canyon there is the home of Usbuki, the Great
White Lizard. He is the moon in whiteness. He is the
power of warriors. He is good fortune. His abode is
a cave behind the watery curtain of Feather Falls.
Salmon used to run plentifully in the river in the old
days. Fishing stations, established according to family
fishing rights, were established along the river. They
used fishing nets in the old days. Salmon was a
WOCTOLLY THE MERMAN
One day a strange man was caught in the fishing nets;
this was Woctolly (Waktali). The lower part of his
body was mako, or salmon. He interacted with the
fisherman, but as a trickster. He could fly. He caused
much mischief. He was a salmon merman.
It could be said perhaps that Woctolly was a shaman.
Shamans are called doctors in common talk among
the Maidu today. No one uses phrases like medicine
Woctolly is also featured in the lore of the Cato
Indians of the California Coast Range, across the
(This valley is called Hipiningkodom by the Maidu.
This means the Valley of Heaven.)
A Cato doctor told me that Woctolly is today painted
on the sweat lodges of the Cato, a cousin people to
Salmon Mother is a sculptural rendition of the mother of
Woctolly. Woctolly can be seen rising from her head.
On her gown is a great lizard. . .a version of Usbuki.
This sculpture is coated with earth paints manufactured
by the artist from raw natural earths. Red iron oxide is
a commonly occuring color in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
where I was living when I created this work.
I call her Mako Kollem. She carries a salmon in her
The salmon merman of the Maidu is a Native California
naiad, or freshwater merman. Other fresh water fish
are featured in folk lore of mermen from around the world.
See my posts on the Maidu Indians on this link:
BELOW IS A VIDEO
ABOUT THE CONCOW MAIDU
THE CARP MERMAN OF INDIA
There is ancient lore in India about Manu, the
giver of laws. As Vaivaswata Manu his boat was
rescued by a carp merman, Matsya, an incarnation
of Vishnu. Matsya began as a small carp in the
Malaya River of Dravida.
Sagara Postal Service
by Eric Whollem
mixed media faux postage stamp
COPYRIGHT BY THE ARTIST
Matsya is depicted as half carp, half Vishnu, a
blue skinned god. Vishnu is regarded as the
This legend is often compared to the story of
Noah in the Bible.
THE CARPS OF TIBET
In Tibetan Buddhism the two golden fishes of
enligtenment, are among the Eight Auspicious
They are carps. They are distant relations
of the Ant and Abtu fishes of Egypt, also
symbols of wisdom.
THE CARP IN JAPAN
Every Japanese school child has heard the
story of the carp that created the world by
a whisk of it's tail.
THE SALMONS OF KNOWLEDGE
The Celts of Ireland have a legend about the
well of Segais, the home of the Salmons of
A hazel tree with crimson nuts grew near this
well. These nuts gave all knowledge to whoever
The salmons in the well ate these nuts and
gained great wisdom and foreknowledge.
When the Goddess Boand inadvertenly
caused the bounds of the well to be broken
the waters rushed over her, carrying her away.
After that the river that flowed there was
called ther River Boyne, and was henceforth
a source of inspiration to the Irish.
THE VIDEO BELOW
SELKIES IN CELTIC MYTHOLOGY
A SALMON MERMAID FROM IRELAND
Liban was a Celtic fairy goddess. She was a
guardian of wells.
She could take the form of a salmon. She was
a salmon mermaid, much like Woctolly of the
THE RIVER DOLPHINS OF THE AMAZON
In Brazil even today it is believed that the pink
river dolphins that swim the Amazon have the
magical power to shape shift to human form.
It is said on birth certificates in Brazil, in the
cases where the father is not known, that the
infant is the "child of the river dolphins."
These river dophins, called Bo, are anorther
example of freshwater mermaids and mermen.
THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF ODIN
The Scandinavian god Odin gained his wisdom
from the fountain of Mimir.
He was a shapeshifter who could take the forms
of an eagle, a beast, a bird, or a fish.
He is related to Adonai from the Middle East.
Adonai was the son of Aphrodite. As Adonis
he was a psychopomp or spiritual guide of the
dead. He would manifest as a fish.
Adonis and Odin thus both are related to the
shamanic transformations as exemplified in the
legend of Woctolly of the Maidu Indians. Liban
comes closest to Woctolly of any of the mermaids
or mermen of world folklore.
The salmon has a long, jutting jaw, giving it an
appearance not dissimilar to the dolphin. River
dolphins are known in India, Brazil, Greece, and
See my posts about the CONCOW MAIDU INDIANS:
This link will take you to more about MYTHOLOGY:
Anthropology, mythology, mermaids, shamanism.