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Turtle Dreams

Mayan Turtle Glyph
Wonderful website dedicated to Ancient Maya: MY2K

It seems that my Turtle page is the third most popular animal on my website.  This is prompting me to do a much needed update on Turtle symbology.
As 2012 approaches, I have been doing much research on the Ancient Mayans, their mythology and/or cosmology.  And Turtle plays a central role in a Creation Myth shown in hieroglyphs.  It is interesting to make parallels here with many of the Native American tribes (to include the ancient Native South/Central Americas) view on turtles: She is a sacred symbol of/for Earth.  In the context of Ancient Mayans, as Linda Schele describes in her fantastic book Mayan Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path, First Father is born through the center of the Turtle's shell, high up in the heavens, in the constellation Orion.  Specifically, the Orion Nebula.  Although there is debate on this issue, as the three stars which constitute Orion's belt differ from the three stars which hang down as his sword and which contain the nebula.  At any rate, First Father, which is part of the Hero Twins myth in the Popol Vuh (the Queche Mayan cosmogenesis myth) is also seen as the sun.  The myth of the rebirth of the sun, through the symbol of the Turtle's cracked shell.  The turtle is the Mother and this symbol is also considered part of the very central core, the hearth stones, of a Maya home.  The hearth stones, three, are used for cooking and are located in the very center of the house...a mirror of the cosmos.  
Turtle, as a symbol, is ancient.  There are many differing interpretations and dreaming of a turtle can be quite confusing.  I hope to give you many different possibilities; hopefully you can find an answer that fits into the dream theme context.  See my list of Turtle Symbology below.

The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky

If you are interested in Mayan art history or would like to see a film centered around their mythology/religion/spirituality, see Arnofsky's The Fountain.  It is a beautifully woven story, three parts intertwining together (another reference to 3 here) which incorporates the above.  It is worth watching several times. 


The Turtle is a symbol, a vehicle, a carrier or container...a womb perhaps...for holding the sacred, the Divine, God, Great Mother, First Father.  The turtle is no small animal in dreaming.  Of course on the top layer, the symbols surrounding the turtle: small, slow, hides away, burrows into the earth, etc. also need to be applied.  But the turtle lives on both land and sea, can protect itself, can out live humans.  There is much to consider.  Dreams, as always, go much deeper than we normally want to dive, like the turtle.  What is embedded here is rebirth, a new life, change, the Divine in every way.  To not take lightly a dream of Turtle, consider all aspects.

     "If turtle has shown up in your life, it is time to get connected to your most primal essence.  Go within your shell and come out when your ideas are ready to be expressed.  It is time to recognize that there is an abundance out there for you.  It doesn't have to be gotten quickly and immediately.  Take your time and let the natural flow work for you.  Too much, too soon, can upset the balance.  Turtle reminds us that all we need for all that we do is available to us, if we approach it in the right manner and time.
     "Turtle reminds us that the way to heaven is through the earth.  In Mother Earth is all that we need.  She will care for us, protect us, and nurture us, as long as we do the same for her.  For that to happen, we must slow down and heighten our sensibilities.  We must see the connection to all things.  Just as the turtle cannot separate itself from its shell, neither can we separate ourselves from what we do to the Earth."  Ted Andrews, Animal Speak  

Bat Cave, NC

Turtle Symbology 
Mother Earth, oldest symbol in Native American teachings, many sweat lodges are symbolic of going into the Mother, in the shape of a Turtle.
In Mayan mythology the creator god is born or emerges from the carapice of a Turtle which is seen riding the night sky, along the Milky Way.   
In Hindu faith..."the tortoise is a lunar creature...a giant tortoise upon whose back stands an elephant who in turn supports the world.  It is also a creature of Prajapati, the Creator, who was also called Lore of Creatures." (Conway, Animal Magick)
China: the world architect and supporter, a symbol of strength embodied in a being named P'an Ku or Black Warrior; two other dieties exist in the form of a tortoise: Wu Hsien (Transcendent Tortoise) and Hsi Wang-Mu (Golden Mother of the Tortoise).
In Japan, a god of the sea, connecte with water.
West Africa: a symbol of fertility, feminine power.
Alchemical texts refer to the turtle as the massa confusa or material existence of evolution.
Long life or longevity
Symbol to slow down, pace yourself
Carrying your home with you always, home is where the heart is...
Have a thick shell or protective coating.  Do you need protection, are you not protecting yourself?
Snapping turtle may represent your mood, agression or defensive mechanism.

Troll Toll, by Mark Pinard
Oil Pastels, 2009

The turtle is also the shape of a mandala, with a rounded back symbolic of the world and wholeness.  Perhaps this is why turtle is connected with so many creation myths around the world.  The Galapagos turtles live longer than humans...the idea of longevity, wisdom, patience, slowing down and assesing the situation before jumping to conclusions.  Turtles can withdraw into their shells and rejuevenate...or hide.  They can live on both land and water and therefore a symbol of balance and adaption; older than any other verterate animal.  There is a sense of independence, taking care of oneself, having the ability to protect and take your home with you, wherever you are.  A lack of attachments to anything material.  If you have a turtle dream, there could be layers of meaning embedded.  To be sure, as an ancient symbol, the turtle carries archetypal energy.