Ancient Greece

Dolphins and their mystical importance

Susanna Galanis
 

 

DOLPHINS AND THEIR MYSTICAL IMPORTANCE 

 

 

         …these references seem to point to a deeper association with the processes of life, death and rebirth, perhaps linked to the dolphin’s ability to pass between the air-breathing, living world of humans and the suffocating, terrifying world beneath the waves, which for the Greek sailors could easily be identified with the kingdom of the dead…

 

 

b7901Dolphins teache us that when we live in tune with the patterns and rhythm of nature, we learn how to truly be in touch with, resonate and communicate with All That IS and how to share this sagacity with anyone interested. There are those that believe Dolphins are more intelligent than humans. Especially when it comes to love. They have large brains, superior intelligence and are often associated in mythical lore with higher forms of consciousness. Some believe they are far more evolved than we are, especially on a spiritual level.Two dolphins. Mosaic (2nd BCE) from the "House of Dolphins".Dolphins are connected with the power of breath and with emotional release, which are also both deeply connected. One of the most important factors in spiritual growth is to give ourselves the freedom of full experiencing our feelings and emotions. Often negative emotions are suppressed as we don’t want to be a part of them, so we try to stay apart from them. Some of these emotions are,  sadness, pain, anger, grief — we need to stop doing this, as this only lays the foundation for disagreeable outcomes. We need to feel our feelings, by suppressing these feelings, of course they DO NOT go away. They are still there, subconsciously, manifesting blocked energy with-in, and if these blocks aren’t removed, this can go on to physical imbalances, with-out. On top of this, by blocking these so called negative feelings, this can result in losing the quality of being able to feel at all, losing much of life’s joy. Becoming dead to the world.

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Simply stated breathing is conversing with the outside world. When people feel that the outside world is a source of pain, they learn, very frequently at a young age, to constrict their breathing. The diaphragm is built to assist us in breathing and to feel deeply, but it becomes suppressed. When we learn to breathe deeply we can learn to feel deeply, in turn letting go of stifled feelings. One way of doing this is to copy the dolphins pattern of breathing, a superb tension reliever!. Dolphisn breathe deeply, hold their breath underwater, then breathe out forcefully. Living in water is an important characteristic of Dolphins, as in many belief systems, including astrology, water is related to feeling and emotion.

If a dolphin swims into your life, he/she is asking you to relish water both physically and mentally, swimming freely and going along with your natural feelings. He/she is showing you how to enter the waters of life and then with breath and sound call forth what you most need or desire. Dolphins use a variety of whistles, grunts, clicks, and body postures to communicate. They have unique, personal whistles they give out. If they want to get the attention of another Dolphin, they give out their personal whistle. Sound is the creative life force and a big part of dolphins life, therefore this needs to be a part of your life. Communicate. With those around you and All That Is. Creating inner sounds creates outer manifestations.

If a Dolphin is your power animal, you may do well using your voice for healing or communicating, whether incorporating this into a job or just as a hobby or in day to day life with those nearest and dearest to you.

Dolphins have a wise, innocent, purity of being which reaches out to our inner nature. Follow their lead and open yourself to the energy of love, harmony and balance. Express your inner truth, be true to yourself. follow your inner joy. Dolphin is asking you to go back to your roots, to the depths of your being and rediscover the Love that you truly are.

Dolphins spend most of their day playing. Their life is lived in joyful harmony with each other and their world. Apparently they have learned the lesson that love is the most important factor in life. If dolphin is your power animal he may be there to teach you how to love yourself and your world more. A big part of Dolphins medicine is living in balanced, harmonious communities. They live in big groups of up to 100. Females will give birth to a single offspring, with several dolphins around her, helping with the birth, pulling the newborn out by its tail. They then protect him or her from any imminent danger. If a dolphin is hurt or ill, other dolphins will tend to them, lifting them to the surface to breathe.

Dolphins mystical symbolism includes: knowledge of the sea, change, patron of sailors, harmony, wisdom, balance, communication skills, freedom, trust, understanding the power of rhythm in your life, use of breath to release intense emotions, water element magic, unselfishness. Dolphin reminds us to get out, play and most importantly, to breathe.

DOLPHINS IN ANCIENT GREECE

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Like the people in ancient greece, people who spend their lives at sea are superstitious. The sea itself tempts seafarers to become irrational. Before the days of the compass and the shipping forecast, the sea was indeed wildly unpredictable and dangerous. It is still terrifying and awesomely powerful, even with today’s satellite positioning and sonar. To frightened, suggestible sailors, an inquisitive dolphin frolicking in the bow-wave must have seemed like a messenger from the gods. It is those seafarers, whose families never knew whether they would return alive, who gave us the first myths about the creatures.The Greeks were among the first great seafaring nations, and the wealth of their civilization was built largely on their forays across the Mediterranean. It is not surprising, then, that dolphins appear frequently in Classical mythology – they are depicted, for example, on frescoes on the bathroom wall in the Palace of Knossos in Crete, which dates to 1600 BC– but it is through the writings of the Greek poets that most of the myths about dolphins are known to us today.

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One of the earliest dolphin stories is Homer’s ‘Hymn to Apollo’, which describes how the God Apollo founded the temple at Delphi after a journey which took him all over Greece in search of a suitable site. Eventually he chose a lonely cave nestling at the foot of Mount Parnassos, which was guarded by the dragoness Python, whom he slew with an arrow from his silver bow.

After killing the dragoness, Apollo set off to hijack a Cretan merchant ship, leaping aboard the boat in the guise of a dolphin. Terrified, the crew huddled below deck while the dolphin Apollo directed the winds to blow the ship right around the Greek coast and into the harbour below Delphi. Then, according to Homer’s poem, the sun god instructed his hostages to live in the new temple and serve him as priests:

And whereas I first, in the misty sea, sprung aboard the swift ship in the guise of a dolphin, therefore pray to me as Apollo Delphinus.

Like most myths, this is a story told in code. It is about the invasion of one culture by another; the replacement of the indigenous earth goddess Python, or Delphys, by the sun god Apollo; the overthrow of the mysterious, complex, female spirit of night by the bright, clear, logical, and preeminently masculine spirit of the sun

The appearance of dolphins in earlier works of irt it Knossos and elsewhere suggests that the dolphin already had a place in Cretan oral mythology, although the works of later writers and poets do not make it clear exactly what this was. The dolphin continued to feature in art and sculpture wherever the Greeks had influence, from Palestine and Mesopotamia in the east to Rome in the west, and later throughout the Roman Empire. Even in the rock city of Petra, miles from the sea and hidden in a cleft in the Jordanian desert, there is a carving of a dolphin.

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Without a detailed written record it is difficult to know exactly what significance dolphins held for the Greeks. The sculptures, the mosaics, the beautifully engraved and painted pottery tell us that they were important, but not why. There are, however, some clues.

In many sculptures from the East, the dolphin is associated with Atargatis, the mother goddess, goddess of vegetation, nourisher of life and receiver of the dead who would be born again. In later myths, particularly in Roman literature, and again in art and statuary, it is the dolphin that carries souls to the ‘Islands of the Blest’, and around the Black Sea images of dolphins have been found in the hands of the dead, presumably to ensure their safe passage to the afterlife. Taken together these references seem to point to a deeper association with the processes of life, death and rebirth, perhaps linked to the dolphin’s ability to pass between the air-breathing, living world of humans and the suffocating, terrifying world beneath the waves, which for the Greek sailors could easily be identified with the kingdom of the dead. Whatever the exact symbolism, it is clear that the dolphin is intimately involved with the fundamentals of human existence.

If the dolphin is implicated in some way in the transition between this world and the next it is no surprise to find that it is also associated with God Dionysos, who himself dies and is reborn again each year in his role as the God of vegetation, and who was also worshipped at Delphi. Although most Greek writers refer to Delphi simply as the temple of Apollo, Plutarch is at pains to point out that the worship of Dionysos was equally important at the site. He should know – he was one of the priests of Apollo at Delphi for many years.

The surviving story that links Dionysos with dolphins gives barely a hint of their mystical importance, though it does once again involve them in the transition between life and death. Dionysos is travelling in disguise on board a pirate ship when the sailors decide that instead of delivering their passenger safely home they will sell him into slavery in another town. Dionysos retaliates by driving the crew mad with hallucinations, at which they jump into the sea. They are saved from drowning only because they repent of their evil plan, at which Dionysos relents and turns them into dolphins.

This myth is often cited as the reason why, for many Greeks, killing a dolphin was an appalling crime. Dolphins were once human, and they retain human characteristics such as care for their young and sociability.

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