As heroes and heroines across the ages embarked on the archetypal journey of initiation, they often encountered a sea monster or other creature as they entered the Underworld or the underbelly of Mother Earth.
This perilous journey is clearly not for everyone.
Of course, there are those who actively seek out the mysteries of the universe. For others it is not a choice, rather it is a calling they must heed out of responsibility for the tribe, or one that comes to them unbidden in dreams.
Animals in Initiation Myths
In his book Rites and Symbols of Initiation, anthropologist and scholar, Mircea Eliade discusses the role of animals in terms of initiation and rites of passage. One such common motif is the act of being swallowed by a sea monster, digested fully, and then appearing out the other side. This act is one of rebirth and the hero emerges newly born and fully transformed.
Eliade writes: “(We) need only remember the situation of the novices shut up in initiatory cabins in the shape of some marine monster, they are supposed to have been swallowed by the monster and be in its belly, hence they are “dead,” digested and in process of being reborn. One day the monster will disgorge them-that is, they will be born again.” This “beyond is also a place of knowledge and of wisdom…and is imagined as entry into the body of a fish or a sea monster…”
The act of being swallowed was sometimes played out in rituals, often practiced in caves. Other times, the initiate received a vision or dream with a similar motif, like being dismembered and put together again, reborn or digested by a monster and then later emerging anew, often with ‘supernatural’ abilities.
The Big Dream as Modern Rite of Passage
In our modern times, we are sadly removed from the indigenous practices of our ancestors and it is the dream, the last frontier that bestows us access to esoteric knowledge: namely in the form of the ‘Big Dream.’
Many of us experience the Big Dream or exceptional human experiences (EHE) (a term coined by researcher Rhea A. White) for a greater purpose than we realize. With these experiences comes new knowledge that may alter us in a profound way. These dreams are often spiritual awakenings or initiations and may lead to a dramatic transformation in the dreamer.
But how does this dream stand out from others and what is its purpose in our lives?
I believe the most important aspect of “Big Dream” is its emotional impact on the dreamer. The feelings of pure joy and love, even to the point of ecstasy rarely experienced in waking life, are an indication that you may have had a spiritual awakening or initiation. I’ve woken in such a state of mind, and find that I can return to it for weeks if I put myself back into the dream state.
As far as content is concerned, there are certain common elements to these “big dreams” such as apocalyptic scenes, encounters with guides or otherworldly beings, alchemical death and rebirth motifs and of course being confronted by a whale.
When these dreams occur, the dreamer may transcend into a higher awareness or higher reality that can be directly reached in the sleeping state.
There have been many recordings of whale dreams, both archaic and modern. The Dream Tribe has been paying attention to such recordings on our site and each dream or waking vision carries that feeling of awe and a sense of ‘largeness’ than its creator.
Here is one of a series of whale dreams I recorded:
I am on a boat or barge that is docked. The waves are rough and stormy, pushing hard against the boat. People are afraid all around me but I’m not. I want to stay.
Suddenly I hear this loud wail-like moan that makes the boat vibrate. I look out into the water and see a beautiful but fierce orca whale, shining a brilliant black and white. He is the one calling and I watch and listen with awe and fascination.
In this particular dream, an orca whale is vibrating the entire boat with its moan-like wails, calling to me. Later I awoke feeling ecstatic, as if initiated into the deeper mysteries of life.
I also noticed during this time a strange sensation near the bottom of my ear and that I could pick up ‘higher frequencies’ during the hypnagogic state.
Whale as Keeper of the Records
In many cultures, whales have been given the role as the ‘keeper of records” or holder of what Carl Jung called “the collective unconscious.” It is not surprising since whales been around for millions of years and like their dolphin friends, they are mammals that had to adapt to the sea. Interestingly, they can communicate using high frequencies through sonar and echolocation, just like in my dream.
Perhaps the whale dreams offer us a special gift, a way to receive this ancient knowledge with new “ears” and with reverence to preserve these awesome creatures.
Have you ever been swallowed by a dream creature?
If so, what type of creature and what happened in the dream?
How did this transform you?
Share below and leave a comment.