When European explorers first sailed through the Gulf of Mexico, they wrote about the constant ‘thud, thud, thud’ of turtles hitting their boat. In the past few centuries, turtles have gone from a sailing pest to a rare and treasured creature. These adorable animals live all across the world and carry tons of symbolism on their hard-shelled backs. Today, let’s talk all about turtle symbolism and how to make the most of a turtle tattoo!
What Do Turtle Tattoos Symbolize?
Because the meaning of a turtle varies depending on culture and location, and there are a lot of locations for these cute things, I’m going to be pretty concise with the symbolism. Otherwise, this feature would go from a five minute read to an hour-long novella! We still need to talk about tattoo designs, after all. Here’s a quick list of sea turtle meanings:
- Hawaiian Turtle Meaning – These turtles, named ‘Honu,’ represent long life and good luck. They say that turtles guided the first explorers of Hawaii with their perfect navigation skills. Turtle tattoos with flowers only add meaning to the tattoo. Combined with a hibiscus flower, Hawaiian turtle tattoos represent a long and prosperous life.
- Native American Turtle Meaning – ‘Native American’ encompasses quite a lot of cultures, so keep in mind that I’m being super general here. In some tribal legends, the turtle dove to the bottom of an endless sea and brought back mud to create the first land. The turtle represents healing, long life, and water.
- Turtle Symbolism in Christianity – What does a turtle symbolize in the bible? It actually talks very little about this wonderful creature, other than to say Christians should never eat them. Leviticus groups the turtle with unclean and creeping things, and sees them as a type of water-lizard.
- Turtle Meaning in Dreams – Turtles do more than live for obscene time periods. We also associate them with slowness (as in The Tortoise and the Hare fairy tale). If you dream about turtles, you might be moving too slow in your life or spending a bit too much time ensuring you are ‘safe.’
- Turtle Meaning in Hindi – The Hindi name for ‘turtle’ is ‘kachhua.’ An overturned turtle says that someone became overzealous and ended up stuck. Turtle hunting remains an active occupation in South Asia, so a turtle tattoo could also symbolize that. In Hindu mythology, a huge tortoise carries four elephants, who in turn carry all of the world with their trunks. This little tradition inspired a huge element of the Discworld fiction series.
- Turtle Symbolism in Chinese Culture – The turtle, along with a snake, rules the North directional point. Called the Dark Warrior, this turtle rules over Winter and the sea. Turtle tattoos represent support, prosperity, and wealth. Because of their long lives, Chinese mythology thinks that the turtles have supernatural powers.
Unique Turtle Tattoos
See what I mean? Turtles are quite complex! It’s only fitting that you pack just as much meaning into your turtle tattoo. On a personal level, turtles make amazing designs and can represent all sorts of things. It might be your favorite animal, or it might remind you of your mom, or you may have had a pet turtle—all of these sound like good reasons to get a turtle tattoo!
Baby Turtle Tattoos
For a charming turtle tattoo, you can consider a baby turtle tattoo. These cute critters shout that you are still learning, growing, and having fun in life! Some good cartoon turtle tattoos use the cute baby turtle from Finding Nemo as a base. Other ways to depict a cute turtle tattoo include referencing fairy tale pictures, using a Neo-traditional tattoo style, or just looking at cute turtle gifs on the internet until inspiration strikes you.
Turtle Foot Tattoos
For some reason, the turtle just seems perfect for a foot tattoo. Maybe it’s because of their association with endurance and strength that we find the foot and ankle so fitting for them. Cute tribal turtle tattoos look like jewelry on the ankle, cartoon turtles fill the space perfectly, and watercolor turtle tattoos stand out boldly in the area. A pod of turtles represents a family, and you can add one smaller turtle each time your family grows!
So, how do you feel about turtles now? Despite their slow and lax nature, these animals live longer than we do, and they’ll also see so much more! Packed with so much meaning, you can’t really call turtle tattoos ‘permanent.’ As you grow in life, so will the meaning of your tattoo, and who knows? Maybe you’ll grow incredibly old with this tattoo—old enough to feel like a turtle yourself—and you’ll be able to share so many stories with your friends and family about your journey through life.