Sea Turtle Tattoo Meaning, Designs & Ideas

Sea turtle tattoos can have several meanings, including good luck, wisdom, and endurance. A tattoo of a sea turtle can also be symbolic of the Native American name for North America: Turtle Island. Tattoos of sea turtles can also express an individual’s interest in conservation practices and their dedication to protecting the environment.

In the following article, we’ll examine the symbolism of sea turtle tattoos.

All About Sea Turtles

There are seven different species of sea turtles in the world, including the green sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, and leatherback sea turtle. These creatures are found in all of the oceans but not in the North or South polar regions. 

Many of the sea turtle species are threatened or endangered due to habitat destruction and hunting. Although it is against the law in most countries to hunt sea turtles, many people still harvest these animals for their meat and eggs.

Many conservation efforts have occurred in recent years in an attempt to protect sea turtles. There are now protected areas for sea turtles in many parts of the world, including the United States, Costa Rica, and India.

Sea Turtle Tattoos

There is a great variety of sea turtle tattoos, including those done in black and gray and many done in color. Artists often use the shell of the sea turtle to illustrate great detail and design. Many sea turtle tattoos use blues and greens for much of the coloring.

The majority of sea turtle tattoos are realistic depictions of the animal, though some have a tribal design or an animated appearance. Usually, just a single sea turtle is illustrated in the tattoo and they can vary in size. Some sea turtle tattoos show the ocean in the background but most just feature the turtle itself.

Native American Culture

In many Native American cultures, the North American continent is referred to as Turtle Island. In others, it is not just the continent but the whole world. There are different stories about where the name Turtle Island originated.

One of these stories tells of a sky woman who fell from the sky and was caught by two birds. In an effort to prevent her from drowning in the sea, many animals tried to help. They brought mud from the bottom of the sea and placed it upon the back of a turtle. As the mud grew, it created the earth for the people to live on.

People who are Native American may decide to get a sea turtle tattoo to represent this story of the creation of their land. The image of the sea turtle is symbolic of mother earth and can illustrate a person’s dedication to caring for the environment.

Nature and Conservation

For those who are interested in conservation efforts and protecting the environment, the sea turtle is a suitable choice for a tattoo. Even those who simply appreciate nature and all of its creatures may choose the sea turtle tattoo to express this. 

Particularly if someone has participated in efforts related to protecting breeding areas for sea turtles, this might be a good option for a tattoo. Similarly, a person who lives or has traveled to an area that has a large population of sea turtles might like this tattoo idea.

Ancient Peruvian Culture

In ancient Peru, specifically the Moche culture, people worshiped animals that lived in the ocean, including the sea turtle. The Moche lived along the coast of Peru by the Pacific Ocean. 

Some believe that the Moche regarded the sea turtle so highly because it was a source of food for their people. Others think that they were devoted to the sea turtle because it ate jellyfish that could cause harm to humans if stung.

Modern-day descendants of the Moche people may choose to get a sea turtle tattoo to represent this part of their heritage. It can act as a visual representation of their connection to their culture and ancestors. 

Good Luck

Sea turtles are often seen as a symbol of good luck. When sea turtles first hatch, they face the threat of predatory birds and other animals. Many young do not survive long–for those that do, it is usually a matter of luck.

In Hawaii especially, sea turtles are viewed as good luck symbols. These creatures are the only reptile that is indigenous to the state. Many Hawaiians believe that the spirits of loved ones reside within sea turtles, and thus these animals are viewed as sacred beings.

A person may get a sea turtle tattoo because they feel that it would help bring more luck to them. Perhaps they have had a rough go of things and are looking for a way to increase their chances of a good future. 

Residents of Hawaii–or people who enjoy visiting there–might pick a tattoo of a sea turtle to represent the culture of the area.

Patience, Endurance, and Wisdom

Sea turtles have a long life span, with many living over 50 years and some as long as 100 years. During this time, sea turtles must show perseverance and endure many challenges, including predators and environmental destruction.

Compared to most other animals that live in the ocean, sea turtles are slow swimmers. Not being as speedy as the other creatures means they must develop patience and learn to have persistence when it comes to things like finding food.

Sea turtles also represent intelligence and understanding. The ancient Chinese, in particular, believed that sea turtles symbolize wisdom. Because these animals live to such a long age, they are considered to have accumulated a great deal of knowledge over that time.

An individual who gets a sea turtle tattoo might choose this image to display these qualities. Perhaps they wish to develop more patience or learn to persevere through difficult times. The person might get the tattoo to represent the idea that good things come to those who wait. The image may speak to a person’s regard for elders and the accumulation of wisdom.

Featured image by mytat_2s, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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