A lot of us don’t know the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. Even when we can tell them apart, we can’t help thinking of them as deep, wise, and spiritual. Indigenous tales are full of tortoise tricksters. And even Hollywood gave us Oogway (tortoise) and Crush (turtle).
Questions about the spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams have fascinated scholars for centuries. Awake, we interpret turtles as symbols of life cycles, purpose, protection, and endless knowledge (due to their age). While we’re asleep, well, let’s check out some theories.
Keep in mind dream interpretation is specific and cultural. Just as an example, in some cultures, turtles are food while in others, they’re pets. Always start by writing down what you consciously know about turtles. This helps you put your turtle dreams in the right context.
Then, think about your emotions during the dream and how you felt when you woke up. Who or what was happening? Were you watching turtles and/or were you the turtle itself? How was the turtle reacting to the things/people/events around it? Here are a few interpretations.
What does it mean when you dream about turtles
If you ask anyone about the spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams, they’ll mention change. Turtles are amphibians, and even tortoises like to float along the water sometimes. They need both land and water to survive though, and they adjust themselves accordingly. So they’re often used as shorthand for milestones and crossroads. Especially big adult ones.
It could be starting a job or wondering whether you should leave an old one. Going into or out of lockdown during a global pandemic. Watching your child graduate high school or leave for college. Losing your lifetime partner to old age or young lovers. Investing in a new house, car, or luxury item. The dream means change is coming and you’re unsure what to do.
Many of us talk casually about our spirit animals (though some think we shouldn’t). And for true spiritual leaders and elders, a dream can help you find your spiritual path or your life’s purpose. According to research, when turtles are ready to start a family, they come back to the place their parents met and bred. But turtles never see their parents when they hatch.
Instead, they instinctively clamber to the ocean and mature at 10 to 50 years. Those years in-between are foggy because they’re hard to track. It’s also not clear how adult make their way back to the exact same beach decades later. It’s often the very beach where they hatched. So dreaming of turtles may mean you’re homesick, out of place, or yearning for a sense of home.
You may have heard of the ‘lost turtle years’ between birth and childbirth. And female sea turtles are rarely seen on land except when they come to lay eggs. That’s one spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams – you might be ready for kids. If your turtle dream has a lot of water in it, you (or your partner) may already be pregnant. But the age of the turtle matters.
Unless you’re a reptile pro, you won’t know how old the reptile in your dream is. But if it’s a small turtle swimming in a large ocean, you could be feeling ‘lost at sea’. You may be unsure of what to do with your life career-wise. Was the turtle amazed at everything around it or scared and looking for its mommy? Try to remember those fishy emotions – they’re all clues.
We often assume turtles (and tortoises) are wise because they move slowly. We project patience and deliberation onto that. It’s a quality that matters when we look into the spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams. Despite this soothing and persuasive CGI of hi-speed tortoises by Vernon James Manlapaz, these reptile cousins (tortoise, turtle, and terrapin) never rush.
So the spirit of the turtle is seen as a patient, enduring one that builds up over time and lasts for eons, leaving a tangible legacy. If you grew up hearing stories of the tortoise and the hare, dreaming of a turtle could be a symptom of your frustration. Or it could be a sign to keep going. You’ll get there in the end and the results will be seen for decades, maybe centuries.
Fun fact – did you know one late NBA Star has a tortoise on all his ID? His parents saw the word on a menu – Japanese Kobe Beef. In Swahili, this word is pronounced as ko-bay and it means tortoise. But the beef itself – and the basketballer named after it – is pronounced ko-bee. Also, while we think a turtle’s wisdom comes from age, they spend a lifetime migrating.
To our human minds, all that travel helps turtles see the world and learn endless lessons. Then every two or three years, they come back to their birthing beach before setting off again. This explains a popular spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams. It could imply you want trot the globe, seeking knowledge – or maybe spreading it. Get those shots and visas!
When we talk about turtles, we mostly mean sea turtles, and we only see their females at nesting time. That’s why context matters. If you live in a marine area, your turtle dreams probably have smaller freshwater turtles, or sometimes terrapins, because that’s what you’re used to seeing. But sea turtles have a specific significance based on their observed habits.
We already mentioned dreaming of turtles hints at pregnancy or bio-clocks. But it could also mean you have a secret project hatching, pun intended. Dreaming of baby turtles breaking out of the nest and dashing for the ocean implies a project launch. Are the babies excited and enthusiastic to explore … or frantically running from seagulls and seeking the ocean’s safety?
We all know at least three things about turtles – they live a long time, they retract their heads when threatened, and they’re maddeningly slow. All these factors could contribute to the spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams. If you’re unwell and dreaming of large swimming turtles, it may mean you have a lot of living left to do. Baby turtles could mean hope or fear.
To be sure, focus on what you felt during the dream. Even if you can’t get specific, you can probably tell if the emotions were positive, negative, or neutral. If someone you know is sick and you’re dreaming of turtles, chances are you’re not ready to let them go and are wishing them a longer life. Scared baby turtle dreams are common as your (grand)parents get older.
Dream interpretation is a lot like real estate – the zip code matters! So as you puzzle through the spiritual meaning of your turtle dream, zoom into these three words – location, location, location! Both sea turtles and land turtles are safest in the water, so if the turtle is on land, your dream is likely to be a warning. Hone into the overall emotion to find further clues.
The turtle might be coming out of the water or running into it. Clambering out of the ocean suggests the crisis is over, so check for feelings of relief, victory, exhaustion, or purpose. We assume a mother turtle heading to the ocean is both sad and hopeful. And if your ninja turtle (or tortoise) retracts their head, your spirit guides are shining a spotlight on hidden fears.
9. Shell Matters
While we may assign mystical meaning to the 13 + 28 on a turtle’s back, those shells are an extension of their ribs and are permanently attached to their bodies. A damaged shell could mean there’s a chink in your spiritual armour or an invisible leak in your lifestyle. You may be unintentionally draining your own life force and stunting progress by martyring yourself.
Dreams often show us things we’re not actively aware of. A heavy, cracked, or broken shell might mean you should look for hidden flaws or unknown enemies. They could be unseen challenges, or that ‘free trial’ subscription you forgot cancel. It’s now chipping away at your credit card! It may even be undiagnosed illness, since many cultures use turtles medicinally.
If you’re stressed out and worrying about turtles, your soul might be frustrated by the lack of progress. Or you may be seeking to slow down so you can regroup and recharge. So if you’re suddenly seeing turtles while you sleep, it may be time for a vacation. What if your turtles are chilling with butterflies? Well, that could mean you fell asleep watching Kung-Fu Panda.
Or David Attenborough. In dreams, turtles suggest long life and caution. Butterflies indicate hope and living in the moment. So turtles with butterflies represent rest. Butterflies often lick reptile ‘tears’ because they like the salt. You may be carrying the weight of your world in your shell, but those pretty butterflies think you’re cool and they want to help you lighten up.
Near the top of this list, we mentioned a longing for home. Dreaming of a turtle that’s in a strange place (e.g. an office desk)? You currently feel like you don’t fit where you are. And the spiritual significance goes deeper. Avatar, Hitch-hiker’s Guide, and many indigenous creation stories feature worlds that are literally anchored on the back of a turtle or a tortoise.
So if you have that knowledge in your latent memory, these turtle dreams could mean you feel overwhelmed but unnoticed. You quietly slog and keep everyone sane and supported. But you’re yearning for a sense of safety and belonging, whether that’s a physical space or a feeling of appreciation and acceptance. You want to be seen and thanked for your service.
The bulk of us associate turtles with ostriches. We think they hide their heads moment things get tough. But in reality, an ostrich has enough leg power for 7-foot vertical jumps. Straight up! Its devastating kicks can maim or kill. So why do ostriches ‘bury’ their heads? They lay their eggs in holes, so they need to check on the babies by turning the eggs for even hatching.
So while you may think dreaming of turtles means you need to buckle down and defend your turf, it could be quite the opposite. It could mean you – as the turtle – have laid your eggs, buried them as well as you can, done your best to protect them, and should head back to the water after making the next generation. That ocean represents whole new worlds to explore.
13. Good Fortune
Lucky number thirteen? That entirely depends on who interprets your dreams. And this last spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams is the clearest argument for context. You see, for Feng Shui practitioners, the position of your turtle is everything. So if the turtle in the dream is inside a house or office, its position may explain the secret behind that subconscious text.
Is the turtle at the front or back of the house? It’s warding off bad vibes and negative energy. Maybe it’s chilling towards the rear end of the office? Don’t worry, it’s promulgating profits. Turtle with jade? That’s related to good health. Turtle in the ‘wrong’ place? That area of your life may need decluttering so you can make space for the blessings that are headed your way.
More Meanings for Actions in Turtle Dreams
Sometimes, you (or the turtle) is doing something specific in the dream. This might affect the spiritual meaning, so let’s look at a few examples to give you an idea of possible extensions.
- Feeding a turtle – Relief and appreciation for carrying the burdens of others.
- Playing with a turtle – You’re comfortable with this latest transition in your life.
- Riding a turtle – It’s slow, but you’re on the right path. Go with the flow and trust it.
- Turtle and a clock – You want things to move faster. Or you feel too tired and rushed.
- Pet turtle – You’re starting a (slow) precious project or hobby. Practice patience.
- Turtle sitting in a tank – You may be feeling hemmed in, claustrophobic, or limited.
- Protecting turtle multitudes – You’re overwhelmed and possibly hyper-empathic.
- Turtle chasing you – Subconscious panic about deadlines, goal, or over-eager partner.
- Turtle biting you – Unconsciously weighed down by a passive aggressive person.
- Turtle viciously attacking – You probably have impostor syndrome.
- Turtles fighting each other – Paralysis by analysis. Stuck in a cycle overthinking.
- Sick turtle – You may feel stagnant, like you’re missing out on life
- Dead turtle – If you killed it, that’s procrastination. If you didn’t, that’s transition.
- Drowning turtle – You’re happy and thriving where you are, but you need a break.
- Flying/falling turtles – You feel imbalanced and out of control.
- Talking turtles – You might be high. If it wasn’t intentional, check those expiry dates!
For those familiar enough with turtles, you can tell their species by looking at them. So the spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams like that will differ. A box turtle is about physical protection while a snapping turtle is about psychological boundaries. Red-ears are omens.
Kemp turtles symbolise wanderlust. If any turtle in your dream has paint on it, someone might be gaslighting you. A disoriented turtle lost in the ocean could point to unaddressed emotions. Turtle dreams are generally positive, but check how characters feel in the dream.
Sleepy Lessons from Languid Reptiles
What is the true spiritual meaning of turtles in dreams? Science suggests dreams are how we process the events of the day and make sense of them. They’re a key part of physical growth, and memory formation. Many spiritual mystics say they’re messages from our subconscious.
Dreams could even be warnings or prophecies. And because turtles are so surreal, they seem like natural couriers from those other realities. So whether you’re thinking of flesh and shell turtles or animated reptiles on TV, turtles have a huge significance in the spiritual realm.
Water is also an important symbol in the spiritual space. It’s expressed as a portal between worlds and realms, both physically and metaphorically. So dreaming about turtles could mean you need to spend some time nurturing your soul, mind, and spirit, not just your body.
Also, remember to double-check the context. If you’re terrified of water, a turtle in the ocean could be a warning about an unconscious oncoming fear. But if you like turtle soup, it could be the promise of a surprise feast … or a hint that you should get up and go raid the fridge.
When was the last time you saw turtles in your dreams? Tell us all about it in the comments!