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Friday, February 26, 2010

What is the Spiritual Significance of Whales?


Question from a reader: What is the spiritual significance of whales?

Killer whales are on everyone’s mind because of the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer, who was killed by a killer whale at the SeaWorld Aquarium in Orlando, Florida. I’m sure most of us felt really disheartened by this sad event.  I saw an interview with the young lady's sister on a local news station where she expressed how her sister knew at a very early age she wanted to work with killer whales. As a trained professional, she knew the danger of her work. Nevertheless, she loved what she was doing. Our prayers go out to this family.

The other side of this story concerns aggressive animals kept in captivity that are used for entertainment purposes. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights organization, has put a statement on their web site www.peta.org, asking that the animals of SeaWorld be released to sanctuaries that can provide them with a more natural environment.

In response to the question for this week, I pulled out one of the best books on animal, bird & reptile symbolism -- Animal-Speak- by Ted Andrews to see what he had to say about whales. I met Ted a few years ago at a workshop in Maryland. In his book, he offers several significance spiritual points regarding whales. First, did you know that the whale is the world's largest mammal and there are over ninety species of the whales? This includes the dolphins and porpoises. The killer whale or more commonly referred to as the orca, is the largest species of the dolphin family. As for their spiritual purpose, they are the ancient keepers of the knowledge of the creative force of breath and sound. Most of us know the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale. Jonah was able to live within the belly of the whale for three days before he was resurrected. Being the largest mammal in the world, it was able to metaphorically act as a safe haven for Jonah while he was able to go deep within his own consciousness and pray. Interestingly, three is the number of the creative force.  

In conclusion, I want to share this story with you that my meditation teacher tells:
A teacher told her students that whales cannot really swallow people, because their throats are too small. When one of the young students shouted out, “Yes, they can.” “No, they can’t” the teacher repeated. “The whale swallowed Jonah.” The student retorted. Again the teacher explained about the small throats of whales. The student spoke out. “I’m going to ask Jonah when I get to heaven.” The teacher responded, “But what if Jonah went to Hell?” Then you ask him.

Have a great weekend.  

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