Every year, May 23 is World Turtle Day. The purpose is to celebrate these creatures and also to bring awareness to protecting the turtles’ habitats.
When I saw the announcement of this upcoming day, my mind had a flash vision of an evening beach view somewhere in the Caribbean, filled with sea turtles nesting. I do not recall if I was in Bermuda, Key West, or somewhere in Mexico, which is not surprising given my then jumbled life, but I can quickly recognize my feelings and emotions.
I was in my early 20s and working on cruise ships, and while my life was full of fun adventures, I used alcohol and partying as my numbing agent—unbeknownst to me, I had a trauma body that would require a lot of healing. I loved working on cruise ships, probably because it helped me avoid reality, but I was also fatigued from being overworked, and I was antsy to learn what would come next.
This one day in particular had me ruminating on the lack of direction I was feeling. I was usually with friends or a group of people when I went off the ship, but for whatever reason, I was alone when I happened to stumble upon these beautiful, mystical creatures that captivated me for several moments. I just stared at them and took in their beauty.
Being the angel sign and animal symbolism person I have always been, I wanted to deep-dive into the spiritual meaning turtles bring, specifically sea turtles. I remember eagerly racing to an internet café, where I looked them up and learned they were a reminder and symbol of:
>> Good luck
>> A long lifespan
>> Feeling at home wherever you are
>> Following a clear path
>> Remaining true to self
>> Patience (something I needed to hear at the time)
>> Healing (I didn’t know I needed it at the time)
Looking back on my life, which ebbed with every back deck party and choice I made working at sea, my chance encounter with the turtle was timely and on point. I can’t say I trusted their symbolism then; I was anything but patient, I rushed my path, not following my own intuition, and I resisted healing work for a long time.
Until I didn’t—and then my life significantly changed.
Turtles—along with certain birds like owls, and insects like ladybugs and butterflies—were one of the first animal wisdom messages to bless my life. While I may not have listened to their advice then or let it guide me as I could have, they are a personal reminder that each animal brings to us a loving message on how to live more optimally.
To celebrate and honor their messages, the following are my favorite five symbolic meanings turtles bring:
1. Protection. A turtle’s shell is attached to its spine and lower ribcage as a permanent suit of armor, reminding us of our own available protection. A turtle’s shell is miraculous to me, and I have always been in awe of the magnificent defense available to them through its shield.
2. Wisdom. The turtle is known to be one of the wisest of souls in the animal kingdom. If we look at their journey, we can learn how turtles take their lessons one day at a time; they move in such a way that they accept the present, and then they move on. We would all do well to take this as a lesson and move at our own pace as the turtle does.
3. Patience. The tortoise and the hare is a well-known story that reminds us to slow down—that steady wins the race. Turtles remind us to slow down and pace ourselves. They also stay grounded, even amongst chaos. With a face-palm to myself, I gladly share that my early 20-year-old self could have benefited from that message, too.
4. Longevity. Not only have turtles been on Earth for as long as human beings, they live a very long time. According to the Turtle Conservation Society, most turtles live up to 80 years, and sea turtles can live 150 years or more. Turtles remind us to live long and prosper, and take our time with birthing creative projects that will do the same.
5. The earth. Turtles are associated with our embodied evolution on Earth and our physical existence. Their journey is straightforward and paced, and they are physically low to the ground, which reminds us again to stay grounded and be close to Earth, treating it with care.
Turtles bring so much love and many beautiful reminders for all of us.
May the 23rd of this month give us all space to celebrate their wisdom, and if you feel called, join me in checking out Sea Turtle Conservancy to adopt a turtle, learn how helium balloons are harming sea turtles, and about other actions you can take (like reducing plastic waste) to help the turtles do what they came to do: live long and share their message. If you have other ways to raise awareness and help the turtles, please do share in the comments!