Turtles are some of the most beautiful creatures that we share our planet with and have deep cultural links around the world.
Many countries and cultures hold turtles in some form of significance. With their habitats spanning practically every continent on the globe, there are some very diverse ways that turtles are seen by various cultures.
If you’ve ever wondered how turtles are seen around the globe, then look no further! This guide contains everything you need to know about how turtles are seen in other cultures.
We’ll take a look at the different symbolism and beliefs regarding turtles in cultures from around the world and find out how this beloved animal is viewed by different people.
So let’s get started and find out how turtles are seen in other cultures!
What Cultures Feature Turtles?
As mentioned before, different species of turtle inhabit all corners of the Earth, and turtles can be found on almost every continent (with Antarctica being the exception).
As a result, many cultures worldwide have some association or belief surrounding these aquatic animals.
For example, Ancient Egyptians used the turtle to symbolize stability and fortitude, while the Ancient Romans saw it as a symbol of fertility.
One of the most common things that turtles are associated with is longevity and endurance, with these traits featuring in many cultures, such as Japan, China, and several North American Indigenous groups.
The long lifespan of a turtle (which can reach up to 150 years for some species) and their slow-but-steady movement makes it easy to see why turtles and tortoises represent the long-lasting and ever-present in so many different cultures.
Another interesting, consistent symbol in multiple cultures and religions is the image of the world being carried on the back of a huge turtle.
Some Indigenous groups in North America have a shared story of the ‘World Turtle’ that carries the Earth on its back. In Hindu Mythology, the Earth is carried on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the shell of the giant turtle Kurma.
Turtles also represent several other things in Hinduism – the God Vishnu has a turtle form, which is also the North Star.
The Hindu symbolism of the Earth balanced on elephants standing on a turtle’s back is also featured in the Discworld series of books written by Terry Pratchett, where the titular Discworld lies flat on the back of four elephants who ride the great turtle A’tuin.
In modern cultures, turtles are still seen for many of the same reasons. Longevity, security, and stability are among the most common associations for turtles and tortoises around the world. At the same time, many modern cultures also use the turtle to represent good fortune (but we’ll get to that in a minute!).
While their significance and meaning can differ between the many different cultures they feature in, it’s interesting to see how turtles are seen in cultures and religions around the world.
Are Turtles Lucky Or Unlucky?
Another commonly shared belief surrounding turtles is their association with luck and good fortune. Turtles are frequently used to represent and manifest good luck; however, there are also several cultures that view turtles as a bad omen that brings poor fortune.
With such a large divide, are turtles supposed to bring good or bad luck? Here’s a breakdown of which cultures see turtles as lucky and which ones hold the opposite opinion.
Overall, turtles are seen more positively among the world’s various cultures. Most of their association with luck posits them as bringers of prosperity and felicity, overshadowing the few that see them as bad omens and harbingers of ill fortune.
Several early Ancient Egyptian cultures used turtle symbology to ward off evil and manifest good health, while Japanese culture features the minogame – ancient turtles that represent longevity and felicity.
Other cultures that view turtles as symbols of good luck include Taiwan, where turtle-shaped cakes are used to usher in prosperity and security, and in many Indigenous South American cultures, in which the turtle is a beloved animal that is attributed to luck, endurance, and well-being.
The turtle also plays a large part in the traditional Chinese practice of Feng Shui, although good luck isn’t their main role here.
The Black Tortoise, one of the four Celestial Animals of Feng Shui, represents stability, structure, and peace throughout the home. Turtles and tortoises are also considered lucky in other aspects of Chinese mythology due to their relation to the celestial Black Tortoise.
However, turtles aren’t universally liked, and several cultures see them as a bad omen that brings bad luck and misfortune. The Ancient Greeks saw turtles as creatures of hell, who brought the ill fortune of the underworld with them.
Many religions also see turtles in a bad light; for example, in Judaism, the Torah instructs that turtles are ‘treif’ (which means that they are seen as unclean and can’t be eaten as a result).
Early Christian scholars have a particularly poor view of turtles, claiming that they are slow because of the weight of their sins and being symbolic of impure spirits and even the embodiment of evil itself.
While some cultures don’t have the best relationship with turtles, most cultures around the world hold a particular fondness or significance for this wonderful animal.
Turtles can represent many things – luck, stability, protection, and even evil – but their overwhelmingly positive influence is felt by cultures from all across the globe.
Which Turtle Is The Luckiest?
So now that we’ve established that many different cultures see turtles as symbols of good fortune, which species of turtle is the luckiest? As it turns out, that’s kind of a hard question to answer.
There isn’t a specific species of turtle that is known for being ‘the luckiest’ since each has its own unique characteristics, and not every culture will have encountered the same varieties of turtles.
However, some turtles seem to be more associated with luck than others.
For instance, the Green Sea Turtle is often thought to bring good luck to those who encounter it (and were prayed to by sailors to ensure safe travels), and many different species of tortoise are seen as being especially linked to luck with the most prominent species encountered by each culture typically being seen as the luckiest.
While it may not actually be a real animal, the Dragon or Snake Turtle is seen as the luckiest type of turtle by several cultures.
Mostly linked to Chinese mythology (particularly when it comes to the beliefs used in Feng Shui), the Dragon Turtle is – as the name suggests – a dragon-headed turtle that is most commonly associated with strength, prosperity, and good fortune.
Most of the time, turtle symbolism comes in the form of icons and statues. Like the Dragon Turtle, these might not be real turtles, but the powers and symbolism they hold are just as potent as the real animal.
Materials matter here, and what the turtle statue is made out of can influence the amount of luck it brings.
Stone turtles are associated with security; crystal turtles have links with success, and metal turtle figures energize your home and protect against negative energies.
When it comes to luck, the best turtle statue is a gold or silver one; these are typically surrounded by coins to further increase the turtle’s powers of prosperity and fortune.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Use Turtles For Good Luck?
Many cultures, both ancient and modern, use turtle and tortoise imagery to manifest good luck. If you are looking to use turtles to try and improve your fortune, there are several ways you can go about it.
Turtle statues, typically made of stone or glass, are used in Feng Shui as a physical representation of protection, stability, and prosperity; placing a stone turtle at the back of your house facing the north is the ideal method in Feng Shui for keeping out negative energies and fostering positive ones.
Another way you can use turtles for good luck is by keeping symbols of turtles around your house or on your person through things such as art, sculptures, and other similar iconography.
This is a part of several cultures, with Japanese, Hindu, and many coastal cultures that treat turtles as bearers of good fortune and safety.
Is Having A Pet Turtle Lucky?
There isn’t any specific belief that says that keeping a pet turtle or tortoise will improve your luck, but with the number of cultures that link turtles to good fortune, then it’s easy to see why having a pet turtle can be lucky.
On top of being related to luck, they are also linked to protection and security in your home, which makes them ideal pets if you’re looking to increase your home’s spiritual fortitude.
Regardless of whether you believe in the fortune-bearing powers of turtles, you’ll have such a wonderful animal as a pet!
What Else Do Turtles Symbolize?
As mentioned earlier, turtles represent a lot more than just being lucky! Turtles are significant for a variety of different reasons across the many cultures of the world.
In addition to being seen as representing stability and protection, turtles can also be seen as symbols of longevity, strength, and steadfast courage.
In Chinese mythology, the Black Tortoise is one of the Celestial Animals – four constellations that make up the cardinal directions – which comes with many different spiritual connotations. Seen as celestial beings, turtles are symbolic of water and winter and represent the north.
And there you have it – now you know a bit more about the many ways the multitude of different cultures around the world see turtles and tortoises.
No two interpretations of the turtle are exactly the same, and opinions of the turtle can be quite diverse between the various cultures and religions of the globe, both past and present.
While many cultures have a positive view of turtles, linking them to protection, longevity, and (perhaps most notably) luck, several cultures have less favorable opinions of these shelled reptiles.
However, it’s undeniable that whatever the culture, turtles have a big role to play.
So whether you’re looking at the Black Tortoise of Chinese mythology, the fortune-bringing sea turtles worshiped by sailors, or even the evil tortoises shunned by early Christian scholars, there are countless interpretations and symbols regarding these animals.
Some people may not believe in the powers and energies embodied by turtles, and those that do might have different opinions on what turtles represent and how they are viewed from a cultural and religious standpoint.
No matter what you believe, turtles are some of the most incredible creatures we share our world with, and their impact is clear in the many cultures around the globe.