I live in a part of the world where people worship the Sun. They go to the beach as often as they can in the summer. They turn all shades of brown and wrinkly. And they genuinely enjoy it.
I do not enjoy the Sun with that intensity.
I like that it’s warm.
I’m glad the growing season has arrived.
But I don’t want to be out in it all day.
So, this past summer, I kept envisioning a place where I could take my family and there would be sunny space with some kind of water and also an area that was shaded and full of trees.
I still took the kids to the beach a couple of times. (Bleck!)
But, at the end of the summer, we visited a state park that – tah dah! – had all those things I had been wishing for.
I felt so excited when we found it- finally, we could all go to one place and everyone could have what they wanted. I did a little happy dance.
Another great thing about this park was that it had hiking trails. I dig a good, woodsy hike.
The dark, earthy smells.
I love it all.
So, we went hiking the first afternoon we were there and we came upon a fire pit out deep in the trail.
Only, it wasn’t just a fire pit. There was a turtle carcass in it.
Burned to white on the shell, the bones, everything.
Turtles are one of my totem animals – meaning it holds a special symbol or energy for me. I have loved them (and frogs!) since I was very little.
I could not help but wonder if the turtle had been dead before it was burned, or had some cruel kids tortured it? I tried not to think about it.
Instead, I walked all around the carcass – looking at all the different bones. How some had cracked along particular lines. How some had been dragged away by other creatures. How the vertebrae remained almost complete- and how interesting it looked; like a braided rope.
I could have hung out with it for hours.
As it was, I probably spent 15 minutes there, and the kids were getting restless.
I stood and looked out to the nearby pond. I imagined the turtle living there.
And I said a small prayer to it: thank you for your sacrifice,
thank you for letting me look at you,
thank you for living so long.
As I was about to walk away, I saw a picture in my mind of myself holding one of the bones (I don’t know what part it is exactly, but it had a specific shape) and felt a gentle whisper to ‘take the power.’
Now, in all honesty, I am very intuitive, so I definitely listen to the voices in my head.
But I don’t always trust them on sight.
I prefer a few other clues so I can verify the intuitive nudges.
I also felt uncomfortable disturbing its grave.
And I didn’t want to set a bad example for my kids.
At the very same time, and in complete contrast, I also knew that there would be something really, truly powerful about having that turtle bone near me. I can’t tell you why or how. Just a calm knowing, down in my gut, that it would be a powerful item for me to have.
I didn’t pick it up, but as I walked away, I could feel the bone in my hand.
I wrote earlier about how I believe everything happens for a reason.
I also believe that, if we pay attention (if we begin to find and create our own language of symbols) the Greater Field of Life will guide us and speak to us through those symbols.
Ted Andrews wrote a very helpful and popular book on the topic of animal symbols called Animal Speak. In the book, he goes into great detail about the symbolic meaning of animals. He looks at their physiology, their ancient symbology, their mating habits, all kinds of stuff- and what those things might be offering in terms of spiritual guidance. He believes that animals can be messengers from the gods (yes, just like the Romans and Greeks did).
He writes about the turtle:
As a group, turtles are more ancient than any other vertebrate animal. There are around 250 kinds, 48 of which are found in the United States. Turtles are usually distinguished from tortoises in that tortoises are landbound. Turtles live in and around the water. Every turtle has at least one characteristic that makes it stand out, and which usually has great symbolic significance.
A great deal of mythology exists in regards to the turtle. In the Far East, the shell was a symbol of heaven, and the square underside was a symbol of earth. The turtle was an animal whose magic could help you unite heaven and earth within your own life. A symbol of the turtle was an invitation for the blessings of both heaven and earth.
Because of its great age and its slow metabolism, the turtle is associated with longevity. Long life and groundedness within life is part of what is associated with the turtle. It does not move fast. It is as if, on some level, the turtle knows it has all the time in the world. Turtles can teach us new perceptions about time and our relationship to it.
Turtles have amazing survival skills and strategies. They hear well. Actually, they sense vibrations in the water through their skin and shell. Turtles are also able to distinguish some colors, and they do have a sense of smell. Turtle totems hold the mystery of awakening the senses – both on physical and spiritual levels.
Turtles carry their home on their back. Contrary to depiction in cartoons and such, turtles can not leave their shells. The shell is actually the backbone and ribs of the turtle. It serves as home and shelter for it.
Turtles are omnivorous. They eat insects, plants, fish, amphibians, and even small mammals on occasion. They are opportunistic. To the Native Americans, the turtle was a symbol of Mother Earth and a reminder that she provides for all of our needs.
It you are drawn to turtles 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 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.
Given that I have been grappling with my own sensuality, it would seem that this turtle bone might be a helpful reminder of my commitment to integrate my sensual self. And also a symbol of moving ahead with the work we do here. Of course, I don’t know the answer. But the bone still pulled at the edges of my mind, like a small child in a tug-of-war.
Some First Peoples tribes call this kind of interaction a call to the animal’s ‘medicine.’ Meaning that the energy of the animal, or its sacred qualities, can be borrowed to help a human (or tribe) heal. Perhaps it is time for me to hold my own turtle energy.
Last week, we returned to the park with the turtle bones. I took a hike, by myself, and went to find the ruins again.
They were still there, with one notable change. The bone I had seen in my hand as I left the first time was now sitting atop the shell. I am quite sure someone placed it there- a human. But to me, it was on offering.
I took the bone into my hand and looked at it.
I turned it over and felt its rough and smooth edges.
I sniffed it. (Yeah, I did.)
And I put it into my pocket.
I stood a few more minutes, listening to the sounds, and seeing the changes only a few weeks had made in the landscape. Beautiful Autumn had arrived.
And now, the bone sits next to me on the desk.
I don’t know what magic will come from it.
I look at it every few moments and turn it over often.
Perhaps it has no magic.
But I think we have to wait and see.
I do think it is meant to be with me.
When it is no longer meant to be with me, I shall return it to the Earth.
To everything there is a season.
Perhaps I answered my own question back at the beginning of this post: the earthiness I love which was all around me when I first found the turtle bones.
Maybe this is the guide to the season of my own earthiness.
A return to my animal nature.