Turtle Symbolism & The Spiritual Meanings Of Seeing A Turtle

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turtle symbolism

Turtles are part of the oldest group of reptiles who evolved millions of years ago. Even now, some turtles can live up to 150 years! Old is an understatement when it comes to these reptilian creatures.

These reptiles are found on every continent except Antarctica, but most species reside in South Asia and North America. There are roughly 300 species of turtles, and include both land and sea turtles.

And while it's easy to confuse turtles and tortoises, getting to know more about turtles means also learning what they symbolize.

Turtle Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Turtles

Turtles symbolize longevity, healing, tranquility, perseverance, wisdom, transformation, and steadfastness; turtles also represent the Earth in some cases. Meanwhile, tortoise symbolism almost always has something to do with protection.

Because they live such long lives, and because they are hundreds of millions of years old, it's no wonder turtles are a symbol of longevity. Living for such a long time has made turtles a symbol of wisdom and perseverance, surviving a cruel world with just a shell. And that shell represents a sense of home, as well as protection.

These creatures, in their varied forms, have been able to develop a strong kinship with many groups of people around the world, giving them many meanings.

Turtle Encounters and Omens

Some believe that when you encounter a land turtle, it's a sign that you need help and the turtle is there to aid you, but only if you ask. It's a sweet reminder that there is no shame in asking for help when it's needed.

Turtles are usually seen as positive omens, indicating your life is on the right track.

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What Turtles of Different Colors Symbolize

Not all turtles are green; in fact, turtles can be brown, reddish-brown, black, or a variation of colors. Still, you may dream of or see symbols of turtles with colors not seen in the wild.

White Turtle Meaning

If you see a white turtle, it's a sign of peace and prosperity. In Japan, it's said that the white turtle gifts the people it visits with a long life, free from illnesses.

Black Turtle Meaning

Black turtles are thought to be a symbol of longevity, good fortune, and protection. In China, the black turtle is one of the Four Symbols of Chinese astronomy.

Golden/Yellow Turtle Meaning

Seeing a yellow or golden turtle represents wild beauty, power, grace, and raw emotion. It comes with the belief that you're moving forward into a new phase of your life, and that you will adapt to various situations.

Green Turtle Meaning

The green turtle is a symbol of good luck and is also thought to be a guardian. In Polynesian culture, green turtles represent creation, navigation and fertility, and were said to guide these people to Hawaii.

Blue Turtle Meaning

A blue turtle is a symbol of wisdom and honesty, usually in regards to someone around you. In dreams, blue turtles represent creativity, balance and peace.

Purple Turtle Meaning

A purple turtle means you're unsure of a decision you need to make and are looking for direction or guidance. Purple turtles also represent awakening your emotions and desires, as well as psychic abilities.

Orange Turtle Meaning

An orange turtle, also known as the Eastern box turtle or land turtle, represents emotional fluidity, emotional intelligence, and emotional expression.

Turtle Symbolism in Dreams

When turtles appear in your dream, it represents your environment around you and is showing you that you're currently in balance. A turtle in a dream is trying to deliver a message, and the context of your dream holds a variety of meanings.

Dreaming of holding a turtle

If you're holding a turtle in your dreams, it means you're holding onto other people's emotions or problems. However, it also means you can't let go of events from your past and they are holding you back in life.

Dreaming of being attacked by a turtle

If you're being attacked by a turtle in your dreams, it means your life and mind are at odds and unbalanced. Your life isn't moving at the pace you're comfortable with.

Dreaming of a turtle chasing you

Similar to a turtle attacking you, dreaming of being chased by a turtle means life is moving way too fast for you. This dream is also connected to feeling inadequate with your capability or intelligence.

Dreaming of a turtle swimming

If you see a turtle swimming in your dream, it means you have been blessed with good fortune. If you're swimming with the turtle in your dream, it represents a long and happy life.

Dreaming of a dead turtle

Usually, when you see a symbolic animal die in a dream, it would be the opposite of what that animal represents. However, with turtles, seeing one die or seeing a dead turtle in your dreams means you're moving slowly through a transformation or change in your life.

Dreaming of a flying turtle

A flying turtle represents strength, power, and stability. It also means you're under the belief that everything is perfect and problem-free.

Dreaming of feeding a turtle

Feeding a turtle in a dream means you need love, desiring connection and support, and that solitude is very damaging for you. Another interpretation of feeding a turtle is that you're having a hard time making a decision.

Dreaming of riding on a turtle

If you're riding on a turtle in your dream, it means you may be frustrated with how slow life is moving, yet you still have complete trust and faith in the direction the universe is taking you.

Dreaming of turtles fighting

To have turtles fighting in a dream represents an internal conflict you're currently facing, related to your spiritual and physical values. Turtles fighting can also symbolize a conflict you're having in your home life.

Dreaming of killing a turtle

One might expect that a violent act like killing a turtle would bring bad vibes, but if it's intentional it's actually a good omen. Killing a turtle oddly represents wealth and success in certain areas of your life.

Dreaming of eating a turtle

Eating a turtle is actually a good thing in your dreams. It represents embodying a turtle's spiritual traits and protections, leading to a long and pleasurable life.

Other dream meanings

Turtle shell: A turtle shell represents protection, safety, and energy around the home. But if the turtle shell appears in a bad dream, it represents anti-social behavior, defensiveness, introversion, and unbalanced empathy.

Turtle head: A turtle head represents "third eye energies" particularly dealing with psychic abilities like claircognizance or clear knowing.

Turtle eggs: Turtle eggs represent eternity, freedom, holiness, and completeness.

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Turtle Spirit or Totem Animal

A spirit animal is a guide who helps you in your journey of life, teaching you lessons when obstacles come up and showing you wisdom when you need it. A totem animal is similar to a spirit animal, but they are a bit different in nature; a spirit animal is always with you, while a totem animal is one you call upon when you need help.

Both animals are there to help you through life, to guide you on the right path, and to protect you from negative or dangerous energies.

You can't choose your spirit animal; however, you'll know if you have a turtle spirit animal if you've had a profound experience with one, or resonate with them in some way.

People with a turtle as their spirit animal are characterized as old souls, having a deep and open-minded perspective on life, and a need to teach others about life and its purpose. With a turtle as your spirit animal, you basically have a good luck talisman for bringing healing and protection to your life 24/7.

Those with a turtle totem are connected to the earth's ancient wisdom, just like these creatures have for millions of years. A turtle totem allows you to feel at ease no matter where you are, and help you put your emotions in check.

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Spiritual Meaning of Turtles in Christianity

Christianity has a harsh view of these magnificent creatures. Rather than being a wise reptile, turtles are looked at burdened beings who carry a heavy shell filled with the sins of heretics. Christianity sees turtles as evil spirits of combat and immortality due to their long life.

However, in the Bible, there are moments where the turtle is seen as a figure of fertility since they produce many eggs in their lifetime. In Leviticus 12:8, people bring two turtles as a way to cleanse sins.

Spiritual Meaning of Turtles in Hinduism

Turtles symbolize the earth in Hinduism. Turtles are depicted as great creatures who carry the world on their backs.

In Hinduism, they associate the turtle's plastron, or underside of the shell, with the terrestrial world, and its shell with the celestial world. In some ancient Hindu texts, the body is called Kurmaraja, meaning "king of turtles." There are also moments where turtles represent femininity.

Turtle Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

Native American Turtle Symbolism

Native American culture depicts turtles as the earth and being the creators of the world, referred to as Turtle Island. Native American cultures believe turtles to have a stronger and ancient understanding of the world they hold upon their shell.

Most tribes also believe turtles represent healing, wisdom, spirituality, health, safety, longevity, protection, and fertility. There are tribes who believe the turtle contributed greatly to creation by diving into the water to create Mother Earth.

Celtic Turtle Symbolism

Turtles are symbols of wisdom, protection, innocence, and longevity in the Celtic culture. They believed that people who had the turtle as their totems related to the "sure and steady" message the creature represents.

Turtles are a powerful totem for protection because of how it withdraws into its shell for self-defense. In Celtic lore, turtles are seen as the keepers of the doors of the faerie realm. They also represent patience and tenacity.

Nordic Turtle Symbolism

In Nordic myths, turtles were associated with Earth goddesses: Asha, the goddess of art and pottery, seen alongside a painted turtle, and Fjorgyn, the goddess of nature and soil, who is depicted with a vole, a snapping turtle, and a toad.

Eastern Turtle Symbolism

Eastern cultures collectively identify turtles as blessings that bring people gifts of long life, happiness, and protection from evil spirits.

In both Chinese and Japanese cultures, the turtle represents longevity, support, and good luck. Japanese culture also believes turtles are a haven for immortals in the world, as well as being the symbol of Kompira, the god of seafaring people.

Taiwanese Turtle Symbolism

Turtles are actually revered in Taiwan, so much so that people bake cakes in the shape of turtles at festivals and lay them in temples to celebrate their ancestors. They represent good luck, longevity, and peacefulness in Taiwanese culture.

Vietnamese Turtle Symbolism

Turtles play an important role in Vietnamese history. They are closely related to the independence of Vietnam in the 15th century, and represent strength and intelligence.

These reptiles are sacred and are included in several foundational stories, one being the "Sacred Giant Turtle." The story goes that Lê Lợi, a wealthy landowner, was given a magical sword, driving the Ming Army off his land, and eventually leading to being crowned emperor.

As he took a boat ride one day, a golden turtle appeared in the water of the lake. Lê Lợi placed his sword on the turtle's back, and the turtle then swam back into the lake. Lê Lợi returning the sword brought peace.

Polynesian Turtle Symbolism

Turtles represent health, fertility, foundation, peace, and rest in Polynesian culture. Many get the animal tattooed on them.

Polynesian culture has their share of turtle legends, like "The Turtle and The Shark." In the legend, a blind woman and her daughter put their fate into the hands of the gods, who transform them into a shark and turtle, allowing them to swim to a village for food.

After they are fed, they are transformed back into humans to dance for the tribe who took pity on suffering. Today, the islands still dance and sing songs to ask the spirits of both the turtle and the shark for help.

Aboriginal Turtle Symbolism

In Aboriginal culture, turtles symbolize endurance, hearing, listening, wisdom, skills, speed, and survival. Turtles were also a favored food source, so the culture would use rituals to help increase the species' bounty.

Ancient Egypt Turtle Symbolism

In Ancient Egypt, turtles were given the name “the mysterious one” after many witnessed their water element, or ability to submerge themselves beneath the water. After that, turtles were viewed as powerful animals, and people used images of the creatures to ward off evil enemies and spirits.

Turtles were used in amulets and other ways to protect the Egyptian peoples' health.

African Turtle Symbolism

Turtles were tricksters in African lore, but were also viewed as the wisest animal on the planet.

Turtles are characterized as clever creatures who are slow but smart, and are always able to figure a way out of sticky situations. Since turtles can live both on land and in water, they are considered to be "special friends" of the God of Rain.

African cultures associate fertility and femininity with turtles. This is why they are known to be omens of life and motherhood.

Turtle Tattoo Meaning

Getting a turtle tattoo has many meanings behind it. Turtle tattoos can represent feeling like an old soul, going through a period of transformation, or a strong connection to nature.

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Deauna Nunes is an assistant editor who covers pop culture, lifestyle, love and relationship topics for YourTango. She's been published by Emerson College's literary magazine Generic. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.