Tattoo symbols-The turtle and Tortoise

Updated: 4 days ago

First thing when it comes to the turtle-symbol is to separate the turtle from the tortoise.

And this clarification is essential because i see in the web many tattoo designs as tortoise that are turtles and vice versa.

In fact, though they have many characteristics in common (obviously) and belong to the same animal family, their energy and meaning is not the same.

And that is because they have one very significant difference which is that the tortoise is a land animal and the turtle is a sea creature.


Dotting, colour, linear tattoo design
Turtle mandala tattoo design by Mandira

Turtles and Tortoises have been present on planet earth for the last 300 million years, so they have so much to teach us!

Turtle Myths and cultures

In Hindu cosmology there is a myth that the sky is supported by four giant elephants that stand on a giant tortoise (the Akupara). This is a common myth for the Chinese and Northern native Americans as well.

For Native Americans (Iroquois and Mohawks) earthquakes happen because the World Turtle is stretching :)!

The earth according to the Hindus

In Chinese culture, the tortoise is one of the four sacred creatures or celestial emblems - the other three are the phoenix, the dragon and the Ky-Lin.

It represents the North so this is why it is recommended in Feng Sui to place the tortoise on the northern part of your house in order to have it's effect activated. It is also the animal of winter, with the black colour and water element included in it.

For Polynesians all humans are born from eggs that have been laid by the World turtle!


In Japan, the spiritual turtle was a water creature called the kappa. Meeting with the turtle energy in Japan can give you 10.000 years of a happy lives.  

Tahitians consider the turtle as the Lord of the Oceans.



Turtle and Chakras“Chakra” is a Sanskrit word literally meaning "wheel."

The chakra energy system has seven basic energy centres, or energy wheels on the human body. Each of them is represented as a lotus flower with different number of petals and is associated with the energy of an animal, a colour, a shape, as well as a natural element.


The turtle is naturally associated to mother earth and the root chakra. But the truth is that the turtle combines the earth with the water element. This is why it is a healing symbol of the sacral (2nd) and root (1st) chakra. The turtle carries the element of water and unifies the earth and water element, living in both environments. The tortoise is more powerful in my opinion helping the base chakra with issues about survival, stability and perseverance.


Turtle as spirit / totem animal

The tortoise as spirit or totem animal carries all the beautiful qualities of the animal itself. If you feel connected to this animal (through dreams or meditation) then you should know that it calls you to stay grounded and be patient. The turtle has longevity, independence and stability as a "moto" and maybe you need this qualities in your life. It brings good luck and roots to mother earth. It reminds you to keep walking even if difficult, to follow your own path.

If you feel more connected to the sea turtle (through dreams or meditation), especially if you visualise the animal in the water, then you should know that it calls you to keep flowing. Patience and flexibility are the qualities you need in your life.

The turtle and tortoise remind you that your body is your home and you should carry it with love and gratitude!