36–The Soul Fisher

In the name of the Great Life, may the distant light be exalted!

A fisher am I, a fisher who is chosen out of the other fishers!

A fisher am I, who is the elect of the fishers, and the head of all the trappers.

I know the water-marshes, I recognize their inner trails and mounds.

I enter all the netting spots, pools, and traps, traversing the marsh in darkness, and neither does my ship cut through them nor do I get caught.

By night, I observe it on an embankment. I started on my way early in a crescent skiff, one not made from iron. I covered the (threshold? lintel? sore?) of the one who was an enemy to us. I cleared out the loose leaves which were blocking the way of life.

A cover is set upon my prow, in whose shade the fish rest. The spear in my hand is a staff chosen in its place, a pole for pure waters, at the sight of which the fishermen tremble.

I sit in a radiant vessel and come to the mortal world. I come through the source of the waters. I go through the source of the waters and the beginning of the course. I come by šabaita with a calm and steady motion. The water is not choppy by my vessel, and its sound is not heard.

Before me is standing Hibil. At my side is seen Šitil, whose name is music to my ears. Close to me, Anuš sits and preaches. They say,

“O father of the good fisherman! O master of the fisherman, whose name is music to my ears!”

Near my vessel, I hear the commotion of fishers: fishers who eat fish, and their putrid stench comes to me. The sound of fishers and the sound of their traders who reproach one another and curse. One confronts his partner, a fisher, and says to him,

“Sell your own fish! They have gone rotten, and nobody is buying from me! You caught it in the deep sea, so that the loss would fall upon its buyer!”

The fisher says, making his buyer listen:

“You sell it! Damn your customers, and damn your bell, and damn your worthless vessel! You were the one who didn’t bring salt and put it on your fish that you buy, so that your vessel’s fish don’t stink, and yet you sell them for a great price! On top of that, you haven’t brought any flour or dates, and you haven’t brought any curing (?) salts! When you come empty-handed, no one of good virtue will join you.

Scram! Get lost, you crook who won’t buy from us and does business with your broken scales, which you hold and support with your elbow for your crooked transaction, and take ten for the price of five. Your trade bustles here, but it will be as if it never existed. In town, you confront the people and the leaders, whom you do not mention fairly.”

When the master of the fishermen, the leader of the living generation, and the prince of all trappers heard this, he said to his helmsman,

“Come, bring me a whistle so that I can make a sound in the marsh to wake up the fish of the deep, and frighten off the bird of prey that is a torment to my fish! I will grab the mighty heron and break off his wing on the spot! I take it from him and blow into my whistle!

The whistle is durable because water does not mix with pitch. As for the fishermen who heard the sound, their legs turned to jelly. One cries to his associate, saying:

Go to your blind because of the sound of the fisher, the fisher who does not trap fish! Neither does his voice resemble a fisherman’s, nor does his whistle resemble our whistle, and neither does his voice resemble our voice, nor does his speech resemble this world’s!

While the fishermen were still standing in their blinds, they did not take heed that other fishermen were starting to hatch plots. The fisher overwhelmed them swiftly, tossed out his net that extended over them, and surrounded them with ropes. He bound them with knots, they said to him:

“Release us from our fetters so that your fish do not leap  into our vessels! We will not catch those who mention your name!”

When the fishers said this to me, I struck them with an iron mace. I tied up their thieving merchant, who doesn’t claim what they bring him. I bound them in palm-fiber cords and ruined their ships for the water. I burnt their entire dragnet, and the snare that ties dragnets together. I put baskets on them and dragged them behind my stern.

I made them swear oaths and took their secrets so that they would not take the good fish. They will not steal the cauves of fish from me, tie them to a cane, hoist them up, cut them up or beat them, and I made them swear that they would not attempt to dip their nets and spear in the Jordan. They will neither leave nor will they stay on dry land, and take captives in the marshes. They will neither cast nets nor take my fish and spirits.

I told them that they would eat cauldrons of the fish that is called “the eel.” They will eat the catfish and catch the spider crab that gets up on its hands. The one who captured the barbel tied the knot and fixed it to the spit. I have trapped them in the marsh of deceit, and if they leave they will be fettered. Neither do they drink the waters of the Karun, nor do they know the way to the Kšaš. I have trapped them in their ships and tossed my towline to the good ones.

“Put your raft here so that it is not on the embankment.”

When the head of the trappers said this, the fishers spoke to him saying,

“May you be blessed, fisher, and may your ship be blessed as well. How beautiful is this throw net of yours! How beautiful is the mesh that is in it! Your cables are so beautiful that you do not seem like the fishers of this world. There are no weights in your mesh, and your spear does not catch fish.

Where have you come from? Tell us so that we may work for you. We will bake and make porridge, and bring it before you. Eat, and we will eat whatever morsel falls from your hand, and we will be satisified.

To them I say,

“You scum-sucking fishermen! I am not the fish-catching type of fisher, and I was not called forth to be someone who eats scum! I am a fisher of the souls who bear witness to the Life. I am a fisher attending to those whom he calls, gathers together, and gives hope. He calls them and tells them, ‘come gather by my side.’

If you come, o wanderers, you will be saved from the crafty birds. I will save my friends, raise them up, set them in my vessel, dress them in lightworld garments, and cover them in precious light. I will guide them with a crown of air and with that of the Great (Life) on their heads. They will sit in thrones and shine forth with precious light. I will take them and rise up, and as for you seven, here is the fate of scum, and filth will be your fate. The day of light shall rise, and the darkness shall return to its place. I and my disciples shall ascend, and we will see the place of light.

Light speaks and is victorious, and victorious is the man who has gone there. The End.

About C.G. Häberl

Dr. Häberl is an Associate Professor at the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures (AMESALL). He was born and raised in the State of New Jersey, and received his PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University. In addition to teaching Arabic and Aramaic language courses at AMESALL, he teaches content courses on the modern Middle East at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), of which he was the Director from 2009-2012.
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