For several months now, nay, almost a year, I have been plagued by turtle omens. It started innocently enough, with coming across turtles only three or four times a day, maybe two days a week, but quickly escalated to six or seven turtles a day, nearly every day. Everywhere I turned, there was a turtle. Pop on twitter, images of turtles filled my timeline; walk through a room where a tv is on and surely there would be a turtle; browse through a magazine while waiting in an office, an article on turtles; my eldest daughter even received a pair of socks with turtles on them as a gift.
Of course, I began researching the meanings of these omens. Most of the information I came across repeated the same things: “slow down” or “it’s time to come out of your shell.” Neither of these was right, and for obvious reasons. The notion of “slowing down” is relative, a turtle goes just fast enough for itself –it is neither too fast nor too slow (it is only slow from our perspective.) And a turtle also cannot “come out” of its shell –it is a part of its body, who it is. These would later become necessary pieces in figuring out the puzzle of the turtle omens, but I wouldn’t figure it out for many more months.
It was near Samhain that another piece to the puzzle was uncovered. The energy of the thinning veil was affecting me strongly. It was near this time that I began working with a couple of new spirits, the Deity to Whom I am dedicated presented a new side of Herself for me to learn and work with, and a third spirit appeared that merely wanted to chat from time to time. The presence of gatekeeper spirits also became quite strong to me, those occupying the liminal spaces, and I tried my best not to slam doors or approach limited access areas without a key clearly visible in my hand. I also took to announcing my presence and intentions, so as to better appease them, as a few of these were rather… feisty. The appearance of turtles continued, and it was then that I began to consider them as liminal beings, to see the archetype of Turtle as the gatekeeper it is.
But this was not the meaning of the omens, though it was important.
The turtles continued.
Months passed, and life kept me busy, as life often does, but what the meaning of these omens could be stayed in the back of my mind (as if I could push them out.) As things calmed down some, there were certain messages that came through strong from my Lady. She made it obvious of a certain direction in which I was to further take my studies and practice as a witch, building off of the information She shared with me at Samhain. It was at this time that I decided I wanted a turtle shell, but not just any turtle shell –the shell of a painted turtle that would fit in my hand. I felt that embracing these omens would help me to uncover their meaning, and working with a tangible piece of Turtle could certainly help in that regard.
There were many wonderful bits of synchronicity filling my life at this time, as well as gifts. One of the most precious to me was the finding of just the right piece of White Birch with which to make a stang. It is taller than I am, has three prongs, and already speaks with a voice that resonates strongly with me. Of course, an ongoing project now is to finish it, much of that entails listening in order to find out how it should look. For sure, I will be keeping the beautiful mottled white bark on.
Several attempts to find a turtle shell proved fruitless. The turtle pond on my grandparents’ farm was a natural starting point, but any shells were lost to the muck. Trips to the river also proved unsuccessful and I was beginning to feel this was a more difficult task than I had originally thought. Several weeks passed and my family and I went on our annual camping trip. It was exciting and filled with surprises (and we managed to have all seven kids with us, too!) A large turtle pond lay directly behind our campsite and the children were all excited about how easy it would be for them to go fishing. I stood atop a tree stump, baby on my hip, watching as my husband and stepson walked up the hill and back to our campsite from an hour spent by the pond. My husband’s face lit up when he saw me; he had a surprise. A turtle shell -the exact species and size as I had wanted. My joy was immense.
And still the turtle omens came, only slower now, as if they were reminding me that just as I had not forgotten about Turtle, Turtle had not forgotten about me, either.
Several more weeks pass. My family and I were fishing at one of our favorite places. The water is shallow, with a deep channel in the middle, and flanked by lush, hanging trees. It is spot where Earth, Water, and Sky meet seamlessly and I can’t help but fall into a light trance every time we are there. The baby was getting antsy, so we went for a walk along the tree line, the other children trailing along and jabbering on about everything they saw. We stopped beneath a small Apple tree, taking notice that the apples are nearly ripe. It grows in the shade of a proud and stately Oak tree and is always a happy sight. A bit further down, we came across a surprising find. Just on the edge of the grass that separates the parking area from the forest was a very large turtle shell. It was a Snapping Turtle, its shell smashed, its bones picked clean.
I peered over the remains, not touching but feeling, my eyes taking in everything. The children and I walked away and back toward my husband, who, thankfully, then wrangled the children and a handful of fishing poles, allowing me a few moments to steal away and approach the remains again, alone, with my senses more devoted to the task.
Snapping Turtle lingered near the remains, defensive. It is very likely that the turtle had been captured by someone fishing, killed because snapping turtles are “mean.” Yes, that sort of logic runs rampant here. I stood close to Snapping Turtle, yet at a respectful distance, my body turned sideways in a non-combative posture. Snapping Turtle listened as I stated my intent: a bone for me and one for my bone kit that I use for divination. S/he consented, and I approached the bones and carefully picked through them, caressing the shell, and choosing a small bone for my kit and a larger leg bone to work with. As I walked away, I heard Snapping Turtle hiss, as snapping turtles are wont to do. Turning back, I again expressed my gratitude and invited Snapping Turtle to come with me, to reside within one of its bones, and work with me. The shift of energy from near the remains to about me and within the bone was unmistakable. Walking back to my family, I couldn’t help but smile at the wonderful turn of events, and the auspicious Full Moon timing of it all.
A few days passed. The Moon waned, strongly, and the turtle bones had been cleaned and lay wrapped, resting, until the Dark Moon. With the culmination of all of these events, and aided by a night spent with a few glasses of Merlot, the message of Turtle suddenly became clearer.
Turtles carry their shell with them, it is a part of who they are and cannot be tossed aside. But, if necessary, turtle can go within, can go inside, for protection, for safety, and for solace. Turtle has all it needs to that end. Turtle is whole and complete.
I rested with this knowledge for a few days, formulating a plan of action, while internally reeling from the news of a death in the family –on the day of the Feast of Hecate, no less. The Moon continued to wane strongly, and the day of the wake, I was emotionally a bit of mess, my head fuzzy, and my thoughts largely wandering. And then it happened. Turtle made another appearance. Twice, there was the image of turtles at the wake, and twice more once back home. Swimming in the echoes of my dear great-aunts passing, the message finally made complete sense.
Psychopomp, Traveller, Gatekeeper.
Turtle, I hear you. I hear you.
Throwing the Bones