Whale as a symbol

Dream whaleOn Monday, I featured Brenda Ferrimani‘s painting of her dream “Whale Speaks.” Whales, as the largest mammal, and also very intelligent mammals, are complicated dream symbols. They are apparently conscious and self-aware, and they swim in the ocean, which is often associated with the unconscious. For me, that suggests that they come in dreams as reminders to expand conscious awareness. They communicate through vocalizations that sound to us more like song than speech, so if a whale shows up in my dream, it might have come to remind me to sing or use music to get closer to spirit. If a whale breaches in my dream, it could be a suggestion to take a creative leap, to bring something out of the depths and into the world. In many cultures in the world whales are associated with creation, perhaps from a deep, genetic and mythic memory of life arising from the ocean depths.

One of the archetypal whale stories in Judeo-Christian culture is the tale of Jonah, from the Old Testament, who was sent by God to prophesy and Ninevah and when he tried to go instead to Tarshish, a great storm endangered the ship he was on and the sailors cast him overboard, which calmed the storm. Then Jonah was swallowed by the whale (or great fish, but in modern society, it’s usually a whale) for three days before being spit out on land again. After that, Jonah obeyed God’s command. The belly of the whale is, metaphorically, a kind of death, and Jonah’s escape a rebirth. But there is more to the symbolism. When we are called, by whatever we name the divine creative power of the universe, we must answer or our lives become a kind of death, dark and unpleasant. So for me, a whale in a dream, most especially if I see the whale’s belly, is a reminder that I should be doing my true work in the world.

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