Turtle: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Turtles and tortoises…

In the UK turtle means the ones in the ocean, I believe that turtle covers both in America which made researching this card really annoying…  I will be doing a tortoise post at some point so I’d suggest reading that as well, it’ll be in the comments as a pingback if I forget to update this.  So let’s start by looking at the differences:

  • Turtles have streamlined shells, tortoises have domed shells
  • Turtles have webbed feet, tortoises have large stumpty feet
  • Turtles swim at 10mph, tortoises walk at 0.17mph
  • Turtles are ominvores, tortoises are herbivores
  • Turtles spend most of their live at sea, tortoiess spend most of their live on land
  • Both lay eggs

Turtles have been around for 150 million years.  Crocodiles have been around for 65 million years.  So if we take the croc to have ancient primal collective knowledge, imagine how much the turtle knows.

Turtles have powerful front flippers and hind legs which act as a rudder.  They don’t have teeth but they do have a sharp beak which can do some serious damage under the right circumstances.  If they find themselves in shallow water with a shark, they can injure it but if they find themselves in deep water with a shark, they’re in trouble.  This really goes to show just how important environment is. There are some places you’ll thrive and some you’ll die and a vast range of inbetweenness.  In our lives I think this is probably particularly true of work and school.  Some people are just not good at school or traditional work environments.  They are much better at working for themselves.

Whilst they spend their time underwater, often diving deep (as in the image where they are in the dark of the sea) they do need to come up to the surface to breathe.  This echoes some of the themes of the dolphin card which I won’t repeat here.  That said, the turtle seems able to hold their breath for much longer – apparently whilst they can sleep at the surface, they also sleep at the bottom of the ocean, wedging themselves under rocks.

They are graceful, chilled out creatures which drift along on the currents for long distances.  But this relaxed attitude belies the dramatic start in life they’ve had. Mummy turtle lays eggs on a beach, often at high tide, along with lots of other mummy turtles all at the same time of night for safety.  The eggs are buried in the sand and are a reminder to us that sometimes it pays to keep things hidden, let things incubate before exposing them to the elements.

These eggs emerge at the full moon and use the bright moonlight reflected on the sea to guide them to the water.  But, like we saw with the moth, humans have come along and interfered.  Artificial light is drawing baby turtles away from the sea and causing a lot of confusion and death.  About 1 in 1000 babies make it to adulthood but if they do get there, they have a good chance at a long life.  This gives us two slightly at odds ideas; don’t put all your eggs in one basket and longshots can pay off.

The shell is obviously an important part of the turtle.  Whilst it might look like armour and a disconnected part of the turtle, it’s actually got nerve endings in it and is attached to the rest of the turtle.  The shell is kept clean by fish which feed on the algae which lives on it.  I believe it helps them float and it means they’re at home everywhere, which probably explains some of their chilled out attitude.  I’d probably be a lot more relaxed if I had all my stuff with me and my personal space always on hand.  Whilst the shell protects against pain, any turtle will tell you that you can retreat into it but you can’t stay there permanently.  Also, think about where your safe space is – this might be physical or imaginary – and how you can retreat into it when you are far from it.  I’ve been doing a safe space meditation for a while and (when I remember) I can drop into it when I am anxious.  I spend a couple of minutes there and then the world is a little easier to face.

Apparently the shell itself has symbolism which is tied to the moon.  There are 13 large plates/markings/bits in the main shell as there are 13 moons in a year.  Round the edge of the shell there are apparently 28 bits like the 28 days in a lunar cycle.  We saw above the importance of the moon – eggs are laid at high tide (new and full moon) and the baby turtles hatch on the full moon.  As we’ve seen before, the moon symbolises the feminine, goddesses and mother earth.  Indeed, the turtle has been used as a symbol for mother earth and the idea of the turtle carrying the land on it’s back appears in various mythology.

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