No, you can’t be swallowed by a whale, but it’s a graphic metaphor, and one that’s been used across the planet in many stories. This African story elegantly described the fractal quality of the universe long before we had the math to prove it:
“The Zulus have a story of two children and their mother swallowed by an elephant. When the woman reached the animal’s stomach, “she saw large forests and great rivers, and many high lands; on one side there were many rocks; and there were many people who had built their village there; and many dogs and many cattle; all was there inside the elephant.”” from biblioklept.org
While you’re on your Hero’s Journey, how do you know you are in the Belly stage? It’s unlikely there will be piles of plankton, seagull skeletons, or other flotsam around to give you a hint. Usually you won’t know until you are out of it. While in it, the stage may feel like a particularly gruesome test or trial.
The Belly of the Whale stage changes you in a big way — a way so big most mythologists label it as “being reborn.” This stage differs from a Test or Trial in that there are only a few ways out of the Belly: You could get pooped out, up-chucked, or you could slash and pummel your way out of the Whale. That’s got to change a girl!
Interesting studies are now discussing whether trauma can produce positive change. From inside a Hero’s Journey, I think, maybe… if you continue all the way through the Journey.
Enjoy this earworm,“In the Belly of the Whale” by Newsboys. Hang on until about 2:30. That’s when the freestylin’ starts.