Oct 29, 2008

Totem Series: Turtle

Green Sea Turtle, Indo Pacific

Buy at AllPosters.com

Long before the world was created there was an island, floating in the sky, upon which the Sky People lived. They lived quietly and happily. No one ever died or was born or experienced sadness. However one day one of the Sky Women realized she was going to give birth to twins. She told her husband, who flew into a rage. In the center of the island there was a tree which gave light to the entire island since the sun hadn't been created yet. He tore up this tree, creating a huge hole in the middle of the island. Curiously, the woman peered into the hole. Far below she could see the waters that covered the earth. At that moment her husband pushed her. She fell through the hole, tumbling towards the waters below.

Water animals already existed on the earth, so far below the floating island two birds saw the Sky Woman fall. Just before she reached the waters they caught her on their backs and brought her to the other animals. Determined to help the woman they dove into the water to get mud from the bottom of the seas. One after another the animals tried and failed. Finally, Little Toad tried and when he reappeared his mouth was full of mud. The animals took it and spread it on the back of Big Turtle. The mud began to grow and grow and grow until it became the size of North America.

Then the woman stepped onto the land. She sprinkled dust into the air and created stars. Then she created the moon and sun...

-- Iroquois Creation Myth

As I mentioned in this recent entry, the attrition of turtle populations is raising alarm bells, not only of environmentalists, but indigenous peoples for whom they hold deep spiritual significance. Turtles are one of the oldest species on the planet and their mythology speaks to their ancient associations with earth itself. In many cultures, turtle is the very firmament upon which their civilizations stand. Turtle is the solid ground where waters recede.

There's an apocryphal story about an old woman at an astronomy lecture. Upon hearing about the earth orbiting the sun and the sun swirling through the galaxy, the woman pronounces this lesson nonsense and explains that the world sits on the back of a giant turtle. When the scientist asks her, "But, what is the turtle standing on?" she replies, "It's turtles all the way down." If it ain't true, as the saying goes, it oughta be.

Great myths like the turtle who carries the world are rich symbologies, not literal descriptions of any cosmology. When we examine them, we tend to find that they are encoded forms of actual events and principles. The ubiquity of the turtle emerging from the water and supporting civilization could very well be explained by a prehistoric flood. Much like turtle mythology, flood myths are globally ubiquitous, arousing scientific interest in that possibility.

More intriguing, turtle mythos speaks to the geometry behind creation itself.

Turtles have been and are held sacred in many traditions. In the Far East the turtle shell is seen as a symbol of heaven while the squarer underside is symbolic of mother earth.

Ponder this for a moment. Again, the idea of the merging of heaven and earth; above and below. More to the point, we have a conceptualization of spirit (heaven) becoming manifest form (earth). And the turtle represents this through the geometry of its body; the circle and the square.

That message comes through quite directly in the Eastern conception of the tortoise supporting 4 elephants, supporting the earth; the alternating forms of circle, square, circle, square.

The Concept of the Universe: The Cosmic Turtle Featuring a Snake (Cobra) and Elephants

Buy at AllPosters.com

This is a creation myth rich in geometric function. As sacred geometer and mandala artist Charles Gilchrist explains, the squaring of the circle and the mythical four directions are seminal to the way we conceptualize earth.

C.G. "One of the most obvious examples is seen in the natural human creation of maps and their consistent orientation to the four directions. Virtually all maps, no matter where or when they were made, make reference to the four directions, North, South, East, and West. This world wide and timeless phenomena proves our human concept of the four directions is coming from within, as we keep reinventing it again and again and again. The four corners is a root psychological archetype naturally developing through the deeper sacred geometric archetypes of The Vesica Pieces and The Dynamic Square."

L.P. "So Charles, you are saying the ancient concept of the four directions evolved directly from the cross and the square which is to be found in the Vesica Piscis, and somehow bubbles up from the deepest aspects of our consciousness.?"

C.G. "Yes, exactly. The repeating revelation of the four directions comes from the deepest archetypes of our consciousness which are effecting our view of the material world. Sacred Geometry is at the heart of literally everything and is continually shaping our understanding whether we realize it or not."

. . .

And Leslie, here's the answer to your first question: a squared circle is created by duplicating its diameter four times, enclosing that circle (Fig. 10). In that sense, a square which perfectly encloses a circle is equivalent to that circle. That circle and square are like the left and right hands of the same energy. In that sense, The Square equals The Circle. That is what your Hindu author was writing about. Compare the squared circle enclosing a dynamic square and you have the graphic roots of classical Mandala (Fig. 11)"

Gilchrist points out that the astrological symbol for Earth is a circle around an equilateral cross. This form will also be familiar to anyone who has ever cast a ritual circle and called in the four directions. It will likewise be familiar as the Native American medicine wheel:

Medicine Wheel, Sedona, Arizona

Buy at AllPosters.com

And, the Celtic cross:

The Nevern Cross II

Buy at AllPosters.com

People I've known with turtle totems have been very connected to earth energy. Their medicine is extremely complex, embracing the mystery of our origins. In his book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews describes turtle as the "keeper of doors," explaining that it's association with shore areas connect it to the portals of the faerie realm.

When turtle shows up in your life, it can be a reminder to connect to mother earth and to bring your spirituality into physical manifestation.

If you have a Turtle totem, you must be mindful of returning to the Earth what she has given you. Honor the creative source within you. Use water and earth energies to create a harmonious flow in your life. Ask the Earth for assistance and her riches will pour forth.

If a Turtle totem shows up in your life, slow down the pace of your life. Bigger, stronger, faster are not always the best ways to reach your goals.

Turtle is fine teacher of the art of grounding. When you learn to ground yourself to Earth's power and strength, you place focus on your thoughts and actions and use the Earth's limitless energies rather than your own to accomplish your will.

Green Sea Turtle, Sipidan, Malaysia

Buy at AllPosters.com

Addendum: Orion7 emailed me with a link to a posting on a blog called, appropriately enough, Waking Up on Turtle Island:

“In the Mayan Myth of Creation, the paddler gods transported the Maize gods in a huge canoe that corresponded to the Milky Way until they arrived at the place of creation that we know as the belt of the constellation Orion. The Maya saw Orion's belt as a huge cosmic turtle. The god Chak cracked open the back of the cosmic turtle with a lightning stone. Watered and nurtured by the Hero Twins, the Maize Gods grew from the crack in the back of the turtle, which is now represented by the Ballcourt all across the Yucatan.
This structure is a representation and hommage to the great cosmic turtle.”
In addition, the Maya used three stars in the constellation Orion: The great blue giant, Rigel, Kappa Orionis, the star Saiph and the belt star, Alnitak. These three stars form an equilateral triangle called, “The Three Stones of the Hearth”. They represent the Maya hearth, made of three stones placed in a triangular pattern.

No comments: