Jonah He Lived in a Whale: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Feb 10, 2020

The Fast of Nineveh is observed three weeks before the beginning of Orthodox Lent for three days, to commemorate the people of Nineveh having heeded the warning of the Prophet Jonah, after he was swallowed by the whale. This image of Cetus the whale, by Canadian artist Tania Nault,

The Old Testament tale of the prophet Jonah being swallowed by a whale is commemorated each year at this time in a three-day fast, while the constellation Cetus the whale just begins to set over the western horizon.

In the Book of Jonah, the prophet is described as trying to escape his destiny after God speaks to him and tells him he must go to the ancient Mesopotamian city of Nineveh, in modern-day Iraq, to tell the people they must repent. Historical accounts of the period reveal that there were deadly plagues ravaging the area during Jonah’s time, around the 8th century BC. 

So Jonah is tries to flee from his destiny by heading out to sea with some unsuspecting merchants. But the ship is tossed in a storm that leads the heathens on board to begin throwing over their wares as sacrifice to the storm gods, until they’ve exhausted all of their options. Then they find Jonah asleep below deck, and they’re incredulous: “What are doing here when all of us are pleading to our gods for safety?” He confesses to them that he is a Hebrew, living in fear of his Lord, and they are all described as being “exceedingly afraid.” With Jonah’s consent they toss him overboard, calming the seas instantly.

But Jonah gets swallowed by a “great fish” for three days, and three nights, where he has a vision of the “holy temple” which is the future body he will inhabit, once he has recommitted to his destiny task.

In the night sky at this time, the constellation Cetus the whale is in the west, just below and south of Venus, the brilliant evening star. Beyond Cetus, deeper into the night, is the region where we find a collection of superclusters, as though they were souls waiting their turn to be swallowed by the whale, having committed to fulfill a destiny task on the earth.