Mother Earth the Turtle

Healing Earth Tarot
7 of Shields
The blue waves of the sea surround a spooked wheel with the Great Turtle and her eggs in its Center.
For me this card encompasses a whole world view:
Mother Earth the Turtle
floating within the blue blanket of Father Sky.

She is seen with her 7 eggs, symbolizing the future of us all, hinting at the next 7 generations following ours, the people, for whom we need to steward and protect our living Mother, so in turn She will continue to nurture and feed all of her living children residing on her broad back.
All the creation myth of the First Nations, in which Mother Earth the Turtle feature prominently float through my mind.

Here is one, often told in our Longhouse:

The Earth on Turtle’s Back
Long time ago, before the Earth was here, all was water. Many creatures lived in the water, swimming about. Far above the clouds, there was, however, a land where lived a powerful chief. His wife was going to have a baby. In that Sky land was a great tree with four large roots, stretching out to each of the four sacred directions, and bearing many kinds of fruits and flowers.

One night the chief’s wife dreamed that the great tree had been uprooted. The chief perceived that this was a dream of great power, and thus must be fulfilled. With great effort, the tree was uprooted, leaving a large hole in the sky. The chief’s wife leaned to look through the hole, but lost her balance and fell.

Grasping at the tree as she fell, she only managed to hold onto a handful of seeds. The water creatures below saw her falling. They realized that she was not a water creature and tried desperately to think of a way to help her.

“I have heard,” said one, “that there is earth far below the waters. Perhaps we should try to get some for her to stand upon.”

One by one the animals tried to dive down far enough to retrieve land, but one by one they failed. Finally, brave little muskrat tried one last time. Deeper and deeper she dove until her little lungs almost burst. Suddenly she found a bit of land. Scooping it up, she frantically swam to the surface. But alas, where to put the land?

The Turtle said, “Put it on my back. I will hold up the Land and the Sky Woman.” And so they did. Sky woman landed safely on Turtle’s back and was very thankful. She cast the seeds about.

The Land on the Turtle’s back became ever so beautiful. The tiny piece of Earth on the turtle’s back began to grow.

It grew and grew and grew until it formed an island in the water. The island grew larger and larger, but still the turtle bore the weight of the Earth on his back. A huge island sat in the middle of the water, and today that island is known as North America or  “Turtle Island.


But not only the Native Americans have stories about the Great Turtle, the Chinese do too and so do tribal people in Africa and Australia.
Turtle is universal.
Turtle provides grounding for all our high flying ideas, asking questions of sustainability and consideration for all life on this small and so very fragile planet.
It asks each and every one of us to do their part, not only lip service and – maybe a little recycling…..

Mother Earth the Turtle is a recurring subject in my art.
Again and again She appears,
As bone carving on a Medicine pouch,
As petroglyph drawing on a drum.
As a pendant or pin in the jewelry I make my living with…..
Each and every time I draw Her, carve Her, cut Her shape out of Sterling silver or any other metal, I am speaking her message – and the message of all my Relations.
Inspired by this card, I will today, yet again create a Turtle, draw a Turtle, speak of Turtles……

Will you hear me?

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5 thoughts on “Mother Earth the Turtle

  1. Quote from Steven Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time”: A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertand Russel) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

  2. Here in Western Europe there is not such a strong mythology with Turtles or Tortoises. The Greeks had something about fertility from the number of eggs laid but other than that, since there have been no turtles in the UK, Scandinavia etc we don’t have any references outside Alice in Wonderland. However, looking back along the Fossil record, there are or have been turtle fossils found all over the world even in Europe. Perhaps one of the only places they are not found is at the poles but then that goes for a lot of creatures.

    I noticed, while looking up info on turtles that there are quite a few heraldic coats of arms from Germany which show the turtle and this link is interesting in that the archeological remains in northern Spain show evidence of turtle being high on the diet of our ancestors:

    http://www.science20.com/anthrophysis/discovery_first_evidence_early_europeans_ate_turtles-82372

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