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San Callisto Catacombs
and the Nummo
Updated June 27, 2020 by Shannon Dorey


Green Nummo in San Callisto CatacombsShannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 p. 5

This painting found on the Appian Way in the Roman Catacomb of San Callisto and dated from the second century, depicts the Nummo and swallowing and regurgitation of Lébé as it was known to the Dogon people.

The Catacomb of San Callisto (also Callistus or Callixtus) contains the Crypts of the Popes, and this painting is supposedly depicting Jonah in the belly of the whale. This green aquatic being looks nothing like a whale.

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 horse was a symbol of the Nummo in the Dogon religion.Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 pp.4-5

Because they were aquatic beings, the Nummo were also described as being a type of catfish with whiskers on the lower jaw. As shown in some Dogon drawings, the Nummo had these same whiskers. The green fish being depicted in the Catacomb of San Callisto has whiskers.

The Nummo also had long, thin fishtails that made them look like serpents when they moved 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 The Master (Mistress) of Speech, I associate the Jonah story with the mythical swallowing and regurgitation of Lébé to create the "Third Word". The Dogon associated the "Third Word" with the regeneration and creation of modern day humans.Shannon Dorey, The Nummo, 2019 pp.4-5

The regeneration of Lébé was an important aspect of the Dogon religion because it was hoped that as a result of the genetic changes that humans would eventually regain their androgyny and immortality. The Dogon considered the green fish-tailed Nummo the ancestors of humanity.

Here is a passage from The Master (Mistress) of Speech about the Jonah story told by Joseph Campbell, who refers to it as being a very old pre-Christian story.

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 [Indigenous Peoples] 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

Many of the paintings found in the Christian catacombs are associated with the Dogon religion, and some are referred to in my latest revision of The Nummo. For more information on these things refer to my books.