Turtle Medicine

bigmeat cherokee turtle pipe black potteryBigmeat Cherokee turtle pipe, black pottery, North Carolina

This past winter I watched the movie The New World, which is an amazing visual poem re-imagining the legend of Pocahontas and John Smith. I'm guessing this movie didn't hit it big at the box office because my husband nodded off halfway through, but for me I was feasting on gorgeous scenery and the delicate nuance of language.

One scene in particular fascinated me, and I have kept it safely tucked away waiting to be inspired by its poetry. The moment happened so fast that took my breath away, but I was able to find it on YouTube (fast forward to 2:46 on the video counter to find it). A young warrior is dying from a battle wound, and Pocahontas places a small turtle on his belly where it walks all the way across his chest while the spirit leaves the body in death.

bigmeat cherokee turtle pipe black potteryBigmeat Cherokee turtle pipe, black pottery, North Carolina

I'm not familiar with tribal rituals of Native Americans and even wonder if this scene represented an authentic experience, but I was drawn in by the image of this sturdy, little turtle, completely full of life, walking head strong across this man's chest. It felt so comforting to imagine a frightening death greeted by an such a small and enduring creature.

One of the things I connected with as I thought about this turtle medicine was the concept of non-attachment. Because turtles carry their homes on their backs, they can be anywhere. They are not attached to place. Home is wherever they are.

Perhaps this turtle medicine could also be interpreted as being unattached to this worldly place. Meaning that at the moment of this man's death, this tiny turtle is the remembrance that there is nothing on this earth we are able to remain attached to.

This is a concept I struggle with daily and probably hourly, so I'm looking forward to exploring some new turtle medicine this summer through jewelry. What themes are inspiring your designs this summer?


  1. It seems I am being influenced by two things this summer....travel, or distant locations, and language, in particular, statements of affirmation.

    I think the former is because I am particularly tied to home at this time in my life, but feel restless and want to go other places.

    The latter...is probably more about my love for language and words and meaning.

  2. That movie had Colin Ferrell in it!. I'll Netflix it...As far as designs, I'm finding myself going towards a more Asian theme.. Still have part of my garden to fix up and I told Sara I want an Asian theme... I've so far gotten a female buddha as well as other asian symbols...She will work her magic w/ adding abutillons, spider lilies... In fact my whole yard seems to be taking on a 'less is more' attitude...Its funny how designs alter our way of thinking isn't it?

  3. Hmm, I wish I could say my jewelry was being inspired by something profound! But it's really just leather. I found some really nice deerskin lacing at MagpieGemstones.com, and now I'm wanting to use things that look nice with leather--simple, natural-feeling stuff, with sort of a southwest/desert flavor. I kind of have a desert thing. Love the spareness, the dry air and the extreme heat. The kinds of creatures and plants that can thrive in that environment fascinate me. Like living on air almost.

  4. I love what you have written about turtles... Sea turtles are so amazing in how they move through realms... They are there when out imagination is opening up and we are feeling the blessings of creativity in abundance... It's so magical to hear your ideas and feelings about turtles... They are an ancient creature with so much wisdom and strength... I love your sea turtle charm... It's on my wishlist... This summer I have felt my imagination and focus fusing as I explore my brushstrokes with painting... I have been able to get into a zone more with meditation and visualizations... My jewelry has been simmering but I have one necklace I'm working on for a mama-to-be... I feel drawn to mothers right now... and I'm mos def kinda going in my shell as I do some internal work... I am excited about the sea... I want to keep returning to the shores for inspiration... I have always had reoccuring dreams of living deep in the ocean... It is calm and comforting... just like your sea turtle charm... it vibrates that way... Much love...

  5. Even though I don't live near the ocean, the water and seashells are inspiring a lot of what I've been creating so far. I also have found myself using my watercolor glazes for my stoneware a lot more because they remind me of the blue sky and all the flowers in bloom. BTW, love the little turtle charm...so very sweet.

  6. this is a beautiful post beth... and such a significant topic for many - non attachment, also the idea of 'home'... maya angelou has that wonderful quote about it... i now want to see that movie - currently engulfed with 'reading lolita in tehran'... i use any free, quiet time for it...

  7. Oh what fun, Christine! To be inspired by distant locations. I love your solution to being an armchair traveler.

    Chrissy your garden sounds so beautiful, and wonderful that you found a female buddha to inspire some magic this summer. I'm completely drawn to Asian imagery too!

    Lauren, I love your belief that sea turtles are there when our imagination is opening up. I'm going to hold onto that image :) oceans and mothers seems like a wonderful place to be in while creating!

    Keirsten, leather and deserts sounds so wonderful together! It's simple and earthy but filled with the stories of the animal it was connected too.

    Diana, the sea seems to be a part of us wherever we are, no? I'm drawn to those images but rarely see the ocean anymore like you. Have fun painting blue skies on your stoneware!

    Mary Jane, I must go look up this quote on home by Maya Angelou. I'm not sure I remember it. So glad you loved how I connected non-attachment to this turtle :)


I'd love for you to share your ideas and stories on my blog! Please know that I may not always be able to e-mail you a direct response, so be sure to check back to my blog and continue the dialogue. Many blessings for connecting with me through word and image :)