January 22, 2019 San Callisto Catacombs and the Nummo by Shannon Dorey


Green Nummo in San Callisto (also Saint Callistus or Callixtus)Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 p. 5

The catacombs, where early Christians were buried beneath Rome, Italy, are important for displaying early Christian art and symbolism. This painting found on the Appian Way in the Roman Catacomb of San Callisto (also Saint Callistus or Callixtus) and dated from the second century, is very telling. The Catacomb of San Callisto contains the Crypts of the Popes, and this painting, which is supposedly Jonah in the belly of the whale, is depicting the swallowing and regurgitation of Lébé as it was known to the Dogon people.Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 pp.4-5

The Nummo were green with horns and this painting depicts a green horned aquatic being, whose head looks more like a horse than a whale. The Nummo were identified with horses and were described as being a silurus, which is a type of catfish. Most of these fish have barbs, which are whiskers on the lower jaw. As shown in some Dogon drawings, the Nummo had these same whiskers. The green fish being depicted above right, has whiskers. The Nummo also had long, thin fishtails that made them look like serpents when they were moving on land. This figure also has a long, thin fishtail.Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 pp.4-5

The figure on the boat is diving for the creature rather than being thrown overboard by fishermen, as is told in the Jonah story. Once he or she is swallowed and regurgitated, the individual appears content as in the depiction on the left, where the figure is comfortably reclining.

In this quote from The Master (Mistress) of Speech, I associate the Jonah story with the mythical swallowing and regurgitation of Lébé to create the “Third Word”, which is associated with the creation of modern day humans.Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 pp.4-5

Joseph Campbell describes the Biblical account of Jonah being swallowed, perhaps symbolically, by a great fish (popularly called a whale) as it is illustrated on a 3rd century lamp. He discusses the significance of the fish in world mythology.

A Christian lamp of about the third century is decorated with the Jonah legend, which is symbolic of the coming of the human out of the fish condition. So you can take a legend and read into it a mystic reading which may or may not have been there in the first place. The Jonah story is that he was a missionary who was told by God to preach in Nineveh, but he fled on a ship and was a source of trouble to everyone. Evidently off center and a negative presence, he was thrown overboard and consumed by a fish, but later he came out of the fish. This motif is known as the ‘night sea journey.’ It’s an old, old story. Hiawatha was consumed by a fish, the raven hero of the Northwest Coast Indians was consumed by a fish, and so forth. This is the going down into the abyss and coming out again….

The same “old old story” appears in the Dogon religion. The regurgitation of Lébé symbolized regeneration. This is exactly what occurs with the story of Jonah and the big fish, or whale.Shannon Dorey, The Master (Mistress) of Speech, 2019 p.143

This same aquatic being appears on the Externsteine, a sandstone rock formation in the Teutoburg Forest in the Lippe district of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Externsteine relief is supposedly a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross.Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 edition, p.186 For more information on the Externsteine refer to my article The Externsteine and the Dogon Religion.Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 p.186

Many of the paintings found in the Christian catacombs are associated with the Dogon religion and some of them are referred to in my latest revision of The Nummo.

Learn more about the Dogon religion from my books, The Master (Mistress) of Speech, The Nummo and Day of the Fish and The Rose. Purchase all four books.