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WHALE DREAMING CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE NUMINOUS KIND
OVER A YEAR AGO, WE WERE WORKING WITH A WOMAN WHO told us a dream that truly captivated us with its dense tone of meaning and presence of the sacred. But with every approach we tried, we never felt that we understood it deeply enough to do it justice. After trying to abandon it multiple times, we realized that the dream, itself, would not let us go. It kept calling us back into its complexity because it contained a message that needed us to give it a voice. We finally realized that the dream may very well be the voice of the Spirit of Nature calling out for a connection with the human world at this crucial moment of impending environmental crisis when life itself seems to hang in the balance. If the Earth in its sacred guise wanted to speak to us, it might come like this.
The dream is quite simple. A huge whale approaches the dreamer in the water, close enough to reveal the presence on its lower jaw of an extensive, incised, Maori moko.
A moko is the ornate, ritually symbolic, chiseled tattoos that both men and women wear, each in their own style and bodily placement. This moko on the lower jaw reveals that the whale is female—the embodiment of earth, matter, nature, body, water, depth, birth, darkness, gestation, secret and mystery. Every Maori moko indicates the bearer’s ancestral and tribal origins, birthright, depth of attained otherworldly knowledge, rank, status and participation within the social order. More deeply, the moko emerges in the Maori origin story as a sacred gift from the gods to denote the human connection with the Divine. The god who gives the moko is an unborn child of the Earth Mother, living and moving within her body, responsible for the visible scars of earthquakes and volcanoes. Thus the scarring of the body participates with the scarring of the Earth Mother. This moko, then, comes from the deepest realm of the oceanic Earth Goddess.
The moko, then, is the visible and permanent imprint of the Holy in human life. Receiving a moko is a tapu, or sacred, ritual of initiation. The process itself is extremely painful, not only from the deep chiseled lines, but also because it is connected to the divine energy known as “the trembling current that scars the earth.” The patterns are incised into the skin with a jade chisel, the pigment coming from the ash of the great and ancient Kauri tree, itself a relative of the whale as a land form. Thus, a human bearing a moko has a direct connection with the divine, the pattern bearing the energy of the god whose being is deep within the earth.
In the dream the whale, a familiar of the depths, bears this imprint of divine energy from within the earth. The moko shows that she comes from and is related to the realm of the gods. In other words, the Holy appears in this dream as a whale.
Pan-culturally, the gods can appear in their animal spirit guises. In the Biblical tradition when Jonah resists God’s calling to him to prophesy and he flees the Divine Will, the whale acts as the instrument and vehicle of the Holy, carrying the resistant ego to its god-connected fate and destiny. The whale as symbol has to do with the great mind in the depths, the invisible god in the unfathomable darkness rising to the surface as a messenger from the unseen world.
The moko on the dream whale shows that it is identified with the human world in its indigenous nature. Thus, the whale shows the dreamer that in her depth she has an indigenous soul which is the same as the god-touched whale, the Holy in its animal guise. The whale is the dynamic of nature itself appearing to the dreamer in order to deliver a message.
The dreamer receives this great message from the depths, delivered through the whale to her human sister, that the earth is attempting, indeed wanting, to establish contact with the human realm. The dreamer is called on to activate her shamanic potential to enter into a living dialogue with the Holy that has sought her out. She must be in touch with her indigenous nature that knows the earth is alive and sacred.
The message that the whale delivers through its moko is not decipherable by the mind. It is only available as a heart understanding, without words. The message is that the Holy dwells in the earth. It is the earth and its creatures and powers. The message is that the earth must be understood and treated as a living being in deep and meaningful relationship with us.
About the author:
Sacred Fire magazine is an initiative of the Sacred Fire Foundation which seeks to help all people re-discover and celebrate the sacred, interconnected nature of life, a perspective held by indigenous peoples and spiritual traditions everywhere which is the source of all personal, cultural and environmental well-being.