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Turtles: Myths Across Cultures: Turtles are one of the oldest animals on Earth. They originate from the Permian cotilosaurs and reached their greatest flourishing in the Mesozoic era. A distinctive feature of land turtles is slowness, freshwater ones move equally easily and dexterously in water and on land, and sea turtles on land are clumsy, but in water, their speed and ease of movement can be compared with the flight of birds. All turtles lay their eggs on land, in dug holes. However, the most notable feature of turtles is their shell. In terms of hardness and strength, and even in appearance, it resembles a stone, so the turtle has become a symbol of a solid foundation. The myths of many peoples tell about the turtle, as the support of the earth. However, the meaning of the turtle in mythological views is much broader – it not only “holds” the earth on itself, but also serves as a symbol of fertility given a large number of eggs it lays. In ancient Europe, such a symbol of fertility was widespread. In addition, the tortoiseshell was also used in magical rites – to protect against hail and witchcraft, and “the eyes of a turtle in a gold frame served as an amulet against the evil eye.”

In the cosmogonic myths of America and Eurasia, the turtle is the main character, and its counterpart is often a frog or toad. “In various European and Asian languages,” turtle” and “frog”(“toad”) are cognate words or one is formed through the other … In those areas where the turtle is not found due to the cold climate, in the corresponding episodes it is logically replaced frog”. The same interchangeability of frog/toad images with a turtle is noted in Indo-European representations.

Turtle: Greek MythologyTurtles: Myths Across Cultures

In the mythological representations of the ancient Greeks, the turtle was associated with the Lower World. In the three-member universe, Tartarus was associated with the underworld of the ancient gods, whose name comes from the word “tartaruga” (“turtle”).

In the cycle of myths about the heroic deeds of Theseus, his fourth deed was the murder of the Corinthian Skiron, the son of Pelops or Poseidon. “Skiron lived on Megara land among the rocks, which are called Skironids by his name, and forced passers-by to wash his feet; when they started washing, he pushed them into the abyss to be eaten by a huge turtle.” Theseus refused to wash Skiron’s feet, picked him up, and threw him into the sea. However, the Megarians remembered Skiron as an honest and generous king’s son from Megara and held the Isthmian Games in his honor under the leadership of Poseidon.

One of the most popular gods of Ancient Greece was Hermes – the messenger between the worlds. It was he who made the first seven-stringed lyre from a tortoiseshell he accidentally found, which is why the tortoise was considered his sacred animal. It was a magic lyre that could repeat the basic harmonies of the spheres. Amphion, having received a lyre from Hermes, with its help erected the walls of Thebes. Apollo persuaded Hermes to give him this lyre in exchange for cows. Hermes also gave him a flute in addition, for which he received from Apollo “a goldenrod and was taught by him the art of fortune-telling.” Apollo himself turned into a turtle to marry Dryopa. However, in the Arcadian version of the myth, Dryopa is the beloved of Hermes. Hermes turned the nymph Egelona into a turtle for joking about the alliance of Jupiter with Juno.

Finally, the turtle appears with Aphrodite in her incarnation of Urania: the statue in Olympia depicts Aphrodite Urania with one foot resting on the turtle. Plutarch explains such a neighborhood by the fact that “the virgins need protection, and married women are stuck with domesticity and silence.”

Turtle: Iranian MythologyTurtles: Myths Across Cultures 7

In Southwestern Iran, in Susa, the famous residence of Darius I, in a 4th-millennium burial, among painted cups and bowls, a bowl was found, at the bottom of which “a turtle is painted with” scallop teeth “directed at it from the back and front. The turtle is still considered in East Asia, a symbol of fertility and water, and at the same time – the underworld and death. “Comb” in ancient Chinese writing meant rain. ” Thus, “the skull placed in such a bowl rested on an animal that personified the underworld and rebirth, which was facilitated by the rain falling from both sides. The snakes and water birds depicted on the goblets are also associated with water, death, and rebirth.”

However, “Avesta” is extremely negative about the image of the turtle. So, in the 13th Fravgarda Videvdata, the turtle is called an evil creature, the creation of the Evil Spirit, which from midnight to sunrise “goes out to kill the creatures of the Holy Spirit by thousands.” The name of this deva is “Zairimyanura-tortoise … whom they slander [that is, those who speak another language] is called by the name of Zairimyak. The one who killed this deva will be forgiven the sin of an evil thought, an evil word, an evil deed. ”

Turtle: Indian MythologyTurtles: Myths Across Cultures 8

In the mythological concepts of Ancient India, the base of the earth is associated with the turtle. It was believed that “the earth’s disk, together with Mount Meru, rests on the backs of four elephants: strong, reliable and unchanging holders of the world. Elephants stand on the shell of a huge turtle, and the turtle itself lies on a folded ring – the body of a gigantic cobra.” In another version, the snake Shesha rests on the turtle, and the world rests on it. However, the inviolability of the earth resting on a turtle is subject to destruction at the end of the current cosmic cycle – kali yuga. The Puranas describe in different ways the destruction of the world at the end of the Kaliyuga. In one of the Puranas, it is stated that when Vishnu appears in the avatar of Kalki – riding on a white-winged horse – all the evil inhabitants of the earth will be destroyed, and the earth will be thrown into the abyss. The horse Vishnu is depicted with a raised right leg. “When he hits the ground with it, the turtle supporting the snake Shesha, on whose cowl the world rests, will fall into the abyss and thereby be freed from its burden.”

In the myth of the churning of the milk ocean, the turtle occupies a prominent place, being that solid foundation upon which the elements of the universe are created. The myth tells how one day the gods and asuras decided to churn the milk ocean to extract from it, on the advice of Vishnu, amrita. To do this, they wrapped Vasuki’s serpent around the mountain like a rope to use as a whorl. The gods took hold of Vasuki’s tail, the asuras stood in the heads of this “rope” and with joint efforts began to churn the ocean. However, the mountain began to sink into the liquid bottom, and then Vishnu saved the enterprise by turning into a giant turtle (this incarnation is called kurma-avatara). who dived and put her back downhill. In the process of churning, fourteen precious objects and creatures emerged from the waters, the last to appear was the great healer Dhanvantari with a vessel containing amrita. In a fight, the asuras managed to take possession of the amrita, but Vishnu again saved the situation, turning this time into a beautiful maiden named Mohini. At the sight of her extraordinary beauty, the asuras forgot everything in the world and gave her a vessel with amrita. And Mohini, resorting to cunning, gave the whole drink to the gods.

In Hindu mythology, one of the seven great rishis (sages) who participated in the creation of the world is Kashyapa, whose name is letter means “turtle”. It is curious that in ancient Iranian the name of the frog is also kasyapa, which once again confirms the interchangeability of the frog/toad and turtle images. Kasyapa was considered either the son of Brahma or an emanation of the spirit of Brahma – Prajapati. According to the cosmogonic myth outlined in the Shatapatha Brahmana, Prajapati created all living things, incarnating in a cosmic turtle: “the turtle is Kashyapa; therefore it is said that all living entities are the descendants of Kasyapa. ” The famous sons of the Turtle-Father, Kashyapa, were Vivasvat, the sun deity, and Garuda, the “snake-eater.” Kasyapa’s grandson was Manu, the progenitor of humans. “As the father of gods and asuras, people and demons, snakes and birds, Kashyapa, as it were, symbolizes the original unity that precedes the dualism of creation.” In one of the ancient Indian writings, the entire universe is likened to a turtle: “the upper convex shell is the sky, and the lower one is flat – the earth.”

In the late Hindu tradition, four elephants standing on a giant tortoise were added to the concept of the ground support in the form of a turtle and a snake. resting in turn on the snake that wraps around the entire universe. In the center of the earth’s ocean is a continent inhabited by people – Jambudvipa with the mythical Mount Meru, also resting on the backs of cosmic elephants. In this picture of the world, along with the turtle, an important place is given to the snake, which, as it is said in the Vishnu Purana, is worshiped by all spiritual beings.

The turtle is connected with the Cosmos through the night and the Moon with its phases. In the Indian tradition, the connection with the moon is emphasized by the fact that the shadows cast by turtles and fish were seen in the moon spots. They “floated” in the Moon, as in a crystal ball filled with silvery water. Of the three great rivers of India, Jamna was depicted standing on a turtle, the Ganges on a crocodile, and Saraswati sitting on a peacock.

The turtle also appears in the cosmogonies of the non-Aryan peoples – the Dravid’s and especially the Munda, in whom the earth is usually thought of as fixed on the turtle’s back. In the myths of bhuya and santal, the earth also rests on a turtle. In the Santalas it was chained for this by four legs, bhuya believed that when the turtle moves, earthquakes occur. The Bhils have a myth about a turtle that created the world from its egg. She clings to the tail of the primordial serpent that lives in the primordial ocean.

According to the myth of the Gondians, the people of the Dravidian tribe of central India, the creator, floating on the surface of the waters on a lotus flower, sent a raven to search for land. Six months later, the raven met a turtle standing with one foot in the water, reaching out to the sky with its head. She told the crow that the earth was swallowed by an underwater worm. The turtle and the raven came to Logandi Raja, who ordered his brother to make a boat. The turtle and the raven dived from it, the turtle grabbed the worm by the neck, which began to regurgitate the earth of various varieties. The raven took all the earth in its beak, pulled the rope, Logandi Raja pulled the divers up, the Creator rolled a ball out of the ground and placed it on the water, creating dry land.

Turtle: Egyptian MythologyTurtles: Myths Across Cultures 9

In ancient times, in place of the zodiacal sign of Libra, the claws of Scorpio were depicted; The Egyptians depicted here two turtles. “The Egyptians,” wrote J. Massey in The Typology of the Flood and the Ark, “placed two turtles in the sign of Libra, a flood meter. This indicated the exact time of the year in the fixed Zodiac when the water rose above everything, and then again began to subside and the earth was shown again. They were two flood turtles. ”

In many myths, the turtle acts as an ark, a place of salvation among the waves; that’s why she often carries the whole world on her back. … in ancient Egyptian “ark” and “turtle” sound the same – sheta … underwater.

The same “world turtle” sometimes seemed to be the Big Dipper – “the constellation on which the world rests.” In the tomb of Senmut in Upper Egypt, next to the figures of two turtles, the constellation Orion is depicted, the three stars of the belt of which the Maya associated with rebirth. It is all the more surprising that the Nile turtle is mentioned in religious and mythological texts as a creature hostile to the god Ra. During the New Kingdom, this antagonism was expressed by the formula: “May [God] Ra live, may the turtle perish.” The reason for such a negative attitude towards the harmless turtle is still not clear.