The Vast Meaning Behind Whale Symbolism

whale symbolism
Whales are among the largest yet most peaceful creatures in the world. Whales symbolize communication, transformation, wisdom, protection, gratitude, magnificence, and music. Almost every culture and religion has whales as a part of the native folklore or mythology. The symbolic meaning of whale is resilience, intelligence, compassion, sensory perception, and spirituality.

What Do Whales Symbolize?

The whale’s symbolism changes from one culture to another. The symbolism also changes based on the type of whale. For example, the humpback whale is associated with compassion, love, peace, and kindness. It’s one of the nicest and gentlest creatures on the earth and in the sea. 

Since whale head makes up 40% of their body, they also represent intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom. Research shows that whales can understand and respond to complex emotions (like humans). Their behavior and communication capabilities make whales one of the most intriguing and marvelous animals. 

The Whale’s Intuition

Some people believe that cetaceans like whales, porpoises, and dolphins have psychic abilities that make them detect danger. Whales use their intuition to avoid dangerous situations. They are alert to their surroundings and known to protect smaller fish by taking them to safer places. The symbolism for whales mainly comes from their abilities and traits displayed in the oceans. 

The sperm whale has perfume in its belly, which symbolizes how a man has hidden resources inside him. The white whale from the novel Moby Dick denotes atheism and obsession.

The Northwest natives use the blue whale to represent their totem animal. The blue whale is the largest animal known to humanity. 

Similarly, the orca killer whale is associated with emotional rebirth and reincarnation, especially in Native American cultures. In almost all mystic theories, whales denote good luck, goodwill, and good fortune. 


Spiritual Meaning of Whales

The beluga whales denote self-love and urge people to embrace their authentic version. They’re deep thinkers and spirit guides that help manifest one’s desires. 

The narwhal whale means corpse whale in Old Norse, as the brown skin color reminded them of drowned soldiers. They show that every individual is unique despite their similarities. The spiritual meaning of whales emphasizes self-love and acceptance.

whale symbolism
Beluga whale (top) and Narwhal (bottom)

Other Spiritual Meanings

In Hinduism, whales are considered a reincarnation of Vishnu. They represent his Matsya avatar (as a fish) and denote power.

In Celtic cultures, whales are the protectors of the seas. The star constellation Cetus is named after whales, indicating their compassionate nature in helping people navigate rough seas. 

Whales are also associated with music in Irish lands. The Irish harp is made of a whale’s bone which is said to have magical musical power. The humpback whale’s song is popular among sea travelers. The whales approach boats to sing and swim away. They represent good fortune, creativity, and the importance of a fulfilling life. 

The story of Jonah in the Bible presents whales in a different light. Jonah is a self-centered person who declines the call of God to become his prophet and is swallowed by a whale. After three days in the whale’s belly, Jonah goes to Ninevah as a prophet. While some consider the whales a sign of introspection, other Christians term them sea monsters and gateways to hell. 

What Does the Whale Totem Symbolize?

People with whale totem animals have a deeper spiritual consciousness and are connected to the cosmic world. They can see things for what they are. These people are reliable and stand up for their loved ones. 

The whale spirit animal helps you gain insight and heal yourself. As spirit animals, whales deal with self-care, healing, and spiritual growth. Those with whale power animals are nurturing, passionate, and feel connected to large communities. They stand up for the truth and strive to keep the community together. 

whale symbolism
A Whale Totem depiction

What Does the Whale Symbolize in Native American Culture?

Whales are sacred for the Native American tribes. Some Native American tribes use the whale as a crest on totems. Many Native Indians from Central America worship whales as Mother Sea (Mama-cocha). 

The South Native Indians revere orca killer whales. According to some legends, a pair of killer whales swimming side by side signifies a romance or love that lasts for a lifetime. The Native Americas have never indeed hunted whales. They worship, respect, and protect these sea animals. 

What Does the Whale Symbolize in Japan?

Whales have cult-like fame in Japan. The modern symbolism is more about environmental protection and safeguarding whales from being killed for commercial use.

Traditionally, whales are considered protectors and worshipped as deities, like in Buddhism, in Japan and Vietnam. The Japanese associate whales with power, protection, harbingers of good luck, and benevolence. 

What do Whales Symbolize in Dreams?

Whales travel long distances and are categorized into baleen and toothed types. They can stay underwater for a long time and breathe or expel through the blowhole on the back. The fishermen believed whales were good omens if they didn’t fight, as these sea animals would bring loads of fish to their nets. 

The dream meanings of whales depend on which type of whale you dreamt about and what the dream was.

Examples of Common Whale Dreams

  • Dreaming of a mother whale could imply that you are missing your mother or someone who loves and nurtures you. It can also indicate the need to care for yourself and your children or loved ones better. 
  • Dreaming of a whale’s tail is a bad omen and a sign of threat. It can also mean you are anxious and worried about something (which isn’t fully clear). 
  • Dreaming of a blue whale is a sign of assurance that whatever is threatening you will be chased away and that someone or something will protect you from danger. Alternatively, it can mean you should take a stand against what’s affecting you and deal with it. 
  • The underlining message of dreaming about whales is to look inwards. 

Interested in learning about more symbols? Check out these Celtic symbols for strength.


Vanessa's liberal arts background has prepared her well for Symbol Scholar. A self-proclaimed theology nerd, Vanessa has interests in world religions, Reformation theology, history, and more. When she's not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, reading, exercising, and watching professional basketball.

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