When exploring whale meaning it is important to understand that there are two distinct suborders of whales. There are the toothed whales (Odontoceti) and baleen whales (Mysticeti). There are 26 species of toothed whales including the famous orca (or killer whale), beluga, narwhal, and sperm. The 10 species of baleen whales includes the humpback, gray, blue, right, and bowhead whales. Determining if your whale spirit animal is toothed or baleen will help immensely because they carry differing symbolism.
Paleontological records and molecular data indicate that all whales lived on land and migrated into the sea over 50 million years ago. Whale is a mammal like us. She must come to the surface to breathe air through her blow-hole and nurse her live-born young. Whale evolved spindle cells in her brain as long as 15 million years before us. These cells relate to self-awareness, compassion, and linguistic expression. As a warm-blooded animal living in cold oceans, whale relies on a thick layer of blubber as insulation. Legends say that whale spirit animal carries the history of the world, remembering back to the time when she was on land.
Magnetic Meaning of Whale
Whale is known to have a substance in the retinas of her eyes called biomagnetite, which causes sensitivity to the electromagnetic field of the Earth. She reads the electromagnetic field like a map and this helps her migrate across oceans. Whale symbolism speaks of the ability to find your way through the abyss using the pull of your soul’s compass. Others may think that somehow you magically “see” the way, but you know the map is coming through a different channel. You may not know how to explain this pull, but it is there.
True practitioners of the law of attraction don’t have to think of where to go, they are mysteriously drawn. Whale spirit animal brings a time of being “in the flow” with the law of attraction. She is where she needs to be when she needs to be there.
Generally, the electromagnetic fields follow coastlines, but in some locations these fields turn directly into the coastline. A significant amount of whale beachings occur in these locations. If you feel like you’ve followed your guidance onto the beach and now you’re stuck, wait. Either the high tide will come to haul you back in or you will experience a time of letting go. You are now at the mercy of fate. Before the rebirth must first come a death. Dive into the mouth of the whale to move through this process.
Belly of the Whale
The motif of the hero entering the belly of a behemoth is so prolific in mythology, that Joseph Campbell dedicates an entire chapter, titled “The Belly of the Whale,” of his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces to it. When a transformative process begins in our life we often expect that our outer world will shift. We think we’ll move to a new town, start an exciting new career, or meet someone who sparkles.
If whale spirit animal is with you, now is the time to adjust your expectations. This metamorphosis is going to happen inside the dark, wet belly of the beast. There is no use to fighting the process. You’ve already made it past the rows of sharp teeth. Like Jonah, put your time to use in quiet contemplation. The rebirth will come.
Sonar in Toothed Whales
Here is where we begin to make the distinction between the toothed and baleen whales. Toothed whales are closely related to dolphins and porpoises, and like their cousins, they use echolocation. The whales emit sounds, possibly using a nasal plug or their larynx, and then focus the sounds using a bulbous-shaped melon on their foreheads. The melon “points” the sound. This sound travels through the water until it hits a solid object and bounces back. The toothed whales then receive the sound in their lower jawbone and inner ear. Based on how quickly the sound returns and at what pitch, the whales can tell what is in front of them. Echolocation is so accurate that it can replace sight all together for navigation and hunting fish.
If you are working with a toothed whale spirit animal, bouncing ideas off of others may be a useful strategy. The ideas from your mind are like sounds coming from the whale’s melon. Putting your ideas out in the world to see how they are received will help you make sound decisions. Be sure to wait for the response before acting. Don’t get greedy with your ideas. Sound them out. It is not the ideas that will bring a reward, but the response to them that will tell you what opportunities are swimming around you at this time.
Sonar pollution from military activities is thought to interfere considerably with whales’ abilities to echolocate and, thus, efficiently hunt. This is one major environmental crisis among many threatening the lives of these beautiful animals.
Songs of Baleen Whales
Baleen whales have huge, flexible keratin plates in their mouths in the place of teeth that are used for filtering krill and small fish from mouthfuls of seawater. All whales have complex languages via which they communicate over long distances, much further than elephants. Sound travels efficiently through water, so animals who appear to be traveling solo are often coordinating their movements with other whales over thousands of miles of open ocean. Baleen whales go beyond chirps and clicks to songs.
Humpback whales are likely the most famous of baleen whales because of their elaborate, beautiful compositions. I had a tape recording of humpback whale song that I listened to as I went to sleep as a child. I still remember every note. There is emotion in their songs of many stanzas. There is something that calls us back to the origins of who we are, to love, and expansiveness.
The meaning of whale is getting caught up in the flow of a moving, uplifting work of art. The scientific name of the suborder of baleen whales is “Mysticeti” containing the word “mystic”. This speaks to the knowing that being moved by song is a mystical experience.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.
I found a whale baleen in Oahu. I was wondering what the spiritual or metaphysical significance of that is?
Hello Ronald, Thank you for your great question and what a fun find! Baleen is a substitute for teeth and is made of softer keratin versus hard dentin like we have. Think of the phrase “to take a bite out of something” and we realize that teeth are about how we take in information. An animal, like a horse, that needs to chew things over is going to have much different symbology than a baleen whale who “filters” what he takes in. Baleen whales take big mouthfuls of sea water filled with krill in at once and then push that water back out through the plates of baleen. What is left is what the whale eats. Baleen would point to a need to take in a lot of information and/or ideas at once, filter them through your own reasoning and only then make them your own. There is also a softer approach to learning here with the keratin of the baleen versus the usual concept of cutting one’s teeth on something. Given that whale is the mystic, the information is likely to be of a spiritual nature. Many Blessings, Stacey
A client told me they are good at reading animal energy. As I worked on her she was picking up a whale energy. I felt this to be rather interesting, since I was seeking my animal energy that morning. JLM
Remember Jodie that we have many spirit animals we work with throughout our lifetimes. The question is … did the whale come for today, this week, this year, or your lifetime? Only you can answer that? And as you sink into the medicine of whale spirit animal, brainstorm other spirit animals you may be working with as well. Many Blessings, Stacey
Hi Stacey In a journey to meet totem spirits in my chakras I discovered Sperm Whale in a sea of blue water at the center of the sun of my solar plexus. She is smiling at me and I swim right into her belly. What is amazing to is that I have a lot of heat generated from my solar plexus and the cooling waters of the sea are having an effect-more balance. What does it mean to have Sperm Whale as totem of my 3rd chakra?
Hello Bethana, What a beautiful encounter with sperm whale. Thank you for sharing. Sperm whales are deep, deep divers capable of spending extended amounts of time in the deep, dark depths of the abyss. They hunt giant squid in the darkness, wrestling the creatures and devouring them. There is a lot of symbolism here in a willingness to plumb your own depths and find the shadowy aspects of you that need to be destroyed so that you can return and surface into the light. According to Caroline Myss, the third chakra relates to the dark passion of self-entitlement. This is the part of us that feels we deserve things. Consider an experiment of taking the word “deserve” out of your vocabulary. This will help you see how much you think you deserve things. The light side, the grace, of the third chakra is the grace of understanding. By understanding yourself on a deeper level, you’ll gain a greater perception, a larger understanding, of the mystical realms. Many Blessings, Stacey
Hello Stacey, how are you doing? Thanks for awesome info and all the work you do! Was wondering if you can help me to understand and to be closer to this mind blowing encounter with this amazing Southern right whale. Cant stop thinking about her. Was out surfing when we met.. Spent about hour swimming around and under me. Live close to beach, so I went and got underwater camera, and returned to next beach to go meet up. Again for more than a hour!!
Hello Louie, That sounds amazing! I’d love to see the video! If you get a chance to post it and share the link here that would be awesome. Right whales are no small beast, so to spend so much time with one so close to shore surely sounds like a soul contract. You two were likely destined to meet. Think of all the ways this gorgeous creature realigned your mood, thinking, heart, body and soul. Just his/her presence alone has the capacity to offer you a vibration for change. The electromagnetic field of a whale’s huge heart is simply stunning to be in the company of. I think this encounter goes way beyond simple words and short interpretations, although I’m sure you’ll find many over the years. Allow this experience to unfold in meaning on many levels. The energy of it can show a path to the holy. Even revisiting the memory can continue to help you realign or center in times of need. There is a lifetime’s worth of brilliance and gifts to absorb. Enjoy! Many Blessings, Stacey
Thanks again! can’t find a way to post photos here but I e.mailed you some of the pictures. Louie
Hi Stacey… I had an amazing dream yesterday.. I Dreamt I was in the ocean soaring with humpback whales… I felt so alive…it was exhilarating.. This is the first time I’ve had a dream which felt so alive…
Can you help me with wat it means…
Hello Kim, That sounds like a wonderful experience and I think it’s important to view it as that – a mystical experience. Researching the symbolism of whales will help you understand what it means, but ultimately an experience like this cannot be summed up in words and the power of it lasts indefinitely. This is a felt encounter that shifts the very core of your being in ways you may never fully comprehend. And that’s okay. These things aren’t meant for solely for the mind, but for the heart and soul. Many Blessings, Stacey
Stacey, thanks so much for your beautiful blog and site. I’ve just returned from giving a TED talk in the San Juan Islands – Trust Your Inner Voice. I wanted to see the whales….went to Lime Kiln State Park – one of the world’s best places to site Orca’s from land. No luck.
Then, a few days ago – that silent voice awoke me in the morning – guiding me to get in the car, go to the park to meditate, and see the whales. I trusted and got in the car. It took my breath away to see so many whales in the ocean. I sat there for 3 hours!!!!
I prayed to higher power to see them breach…saying I’d REALLY know that the divine is guiding me. I prayed that they would come up close to me – if they did, I would accept it and KNOW I’m being divinely guided.
Both these things happened. There was a gentleman next to me who filmed it all. He is going to send me – I’d be happy to send to you. I get emotional just remembering the incident. I don’t want to forget.
It was such a blessing. I’m in the midst of such change – and I see that their coming was a signal for me to have faith over fear. My field is healing sound – so it’s not lost on me – their sonic ability (which I alluded to in my TED talk – small world!!!)
I’m interested in hearing from others or from you what else you know about Orcas as symbol of change.
Thanks SO much!
Hello Eliana, What a beautiful story. I love whale watching in the San Juan Islands. It’s such a beautiful place and they are such majestic creatures. There are times in our life when we are offered concrete proof of the presence of the Divine in our lives and there are times when we are asked to go on faith alone. When you receive the gift of proof such as this I strongly recommend you record it in a journal and you treasure it as a dear gift. This experience will come in handy in the future in times when you sit on the beach and no one comes. God loves you regardless of where the orcas went hunting, playing and swimming this morning. Notice how they are black AND white, showing us the full, blissful times in life and the quiet, empty ones. The yin and the yang. Change comes when we move between the two opposites. Many Blessings, Stacey
I enjoyed your blog here, and your responses to your readers. 🙂
Would you happen to have any information to share on Whale Sharks (their symbolism in the real world, and in dreams)?
I am haunted with emotion by a Whale Shark from my dreams. I know it sounds crazy, but this beautiful creature actually rules my emotions in my awaken state, following a dream with him in it.
If anyone can lend me information on Whale Sharks, thank you I advance. (I have been searching, but frankly, Whale Sharks aren’t as hot a topic as the more common Whales).
Hello Tabs, You are correct! Whale sharks are not as common as whales in the spirit animal guides. I would recommend combining the symbolism of sharks (They are cool, calm, collected and cold blooded. They have the ability to sense electromagnetic fields. And they are ancient creatures associated with deep, primal wisdom) with the symbolism of whales. Many Blessings, Stacey