Since I was a little girl I have loved whales. I didn’t know about spirit animals or the gifts that they bring. I just knew that the orca to me was one of the most beautiful animal that I had ever seen. My family went one year on a trip to sea world when I was about 10 years old. There are two things that I remember about that trip. One, I wanted to be like those people who swam in the water with the orcas. And two, I lost my favorite doll Cookie. I think of Cookie now as a sacred sacrifice for the promise of something better but then I was just heartbroken because I lost my best friend.
I should also share here that when I was young my family called me Quan, short for Quanita. I was a very weepy child. I am now a pretty weepy adult, 😂. I didn’t find out until year later that according to the Dagara Medicine Wheel that I am a water spirit and some of the medicine I bring to the world is about forgiveness, reconciliation, grief, and the emotions. The Dagara word for water is Kuon.
As a teenager I bought a ceramic whale statue that stood about a foot high. It was cresting out of the water and looked so majestic to me that I saved up my money (a little over $100) and bought it. I kept it for years. Moving it from apartment to apartment until there was an accident and it broke.
Then there was a long time when I didn’t really think about whales at all…
Until, my friend Barbara and I started to talk about doing some work together. She invited me to come to a singing workshop that her and her teacher were hosting. I excepted. The time leading up to this workshop was full of whale medicine. I had a dream about a whale where he reminded me that he was with me when I was younger and that he was back. The was news reports about 10 breached whales in New Zealand. During this time I was also planning a Global Day of Grieving for Descendants of Slaves.
Barbara and I decided that the whale was the totem for the work we were to do together. We even bought matching necklaces and bracelets with whales on them. We were doing our work on Whidbey Island which is known for the orcas that swim around the area.
I was later told by an indigenous woman that when the shamans and medicine keepers were being forced to stop practicing and sometimes killed the whales agreed to keep the medicine safe until the medicine people were ready to pick it up again. The myth says that the whales would return the medicine by breaching themselves.
Since then I have learn that whale medicine is about grief, or whaling. Singing your song into the world, the song that only you can sing. And many more lessons about community, depth, and breath.
And earlier this year I was introduced to the book, Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals by Alexis Pauline Gumbs rocked my world.. This book and it’s guide for diving deeper grew me.
I was with a women who’s mother had just died a couple of months ago around a fire by the river. We were all sharing mother stories when she share a story about a mother whale, Tahlequah or J35, an orca who’s calf died shortly after birth. This mama carried her dead baby for 17 days in grief.
And just this week I was gifted a 12 million year old whale vertebrae by three of my Fire & Water peeps. I have no words. I was just thinking about creating a workshop using lessons from whales when this gift showed up.
I am so moved by this dance I have had with the whales. I wonder what they are asking of me now?