Moon Turtle Mandalas

February 18, 2009

The circular turtle shell is a motif that I have used in several drawings, the most detailed of which is the scratchboard Tsunami Turtle.  The first time I used it, I painted the Dark Moon Tortoise Mandala in forest fire charcoal, charred bone, and silver metallic powders.  It’s been holding a collection of white chalcedony “moon pebbles”, though now I’m drilling some of the pebbles for other projects.  Here it is with an old pencil drawing, Coyote Imitates Uroboros.

Coyote Imitates Uroboros

Coyote Imitates Uroboros

The design was modified from a realistic drawing of a box turtle shell:
Box Turtle Outline

Box Turtle Outline

I’ve used box turtle shells for several drawings that are inspired by the infinite variety of yellow and brown designs on the shell.  The one below is a fanciful handprint design painted in realistic colors using handground iron oxide mineral pigments (goethite, limonite, hematite, and Fe-Mn oxide).  I have a collection of more than a dozen shells, all with very different patterns.  One is nearly black with only a small brown patch on each scute.  Another is mostly yellow.  Most are about half brown and half yellow, with concentric, radiating, or irregular glyph-like patterns.
Box Turtle Hands

Box Turtle Hands

Download a large printable version of the Box Turtle Outline template  HERE to decorate with your own “cheloglyphs”!
The Turtle Shell as a Moon Calendar:  In most turtles, the carapace (the top half of the shell) has 13 scutes (thin brownish and/or yellowish plates that are made of keratin, the same material as hair) and the plastron usually has 12 (some species have 10).  The scutes cover and protect the bone underneath, and develop concentric ridges as the turtle grows.  The number of marginal scutes (the small rectangular plates around the edge of the shell) varies depending on the species but their are typically 12 to 14 on each side, sometimes with a tiny scute called the nuchal at the center front.
All these divisions make the turtle shell an interesting way to lay out stones or other natural objects, divination spreads, drawings, and similar projects that are based on the lunar calendar.

This Moon Turtle design is a very stylized and fully reversible circular version that I adapted for use with many different media – paper, fabric, metal, etc. :

Small Circular Turtle Template

Small Circular Turtle Template

Download a large printable version for your own project  HERE.
(Downloadable images are for personal use only, not for resale .)

5 Responses to “Moon Turtle Mandalas”

  1. Hey, that’s it–the one done with forest fire charcoal–the one I remembered when I saw the cat card.

    I don’t do calendar work, but I like the idea of using divisions to put things in. This is a marvelous post Lorena–thanks so much.

    I will definitely draw something in your Box Turtle Outline. It’s very mandala-like, and I occasionally draw mandalas. I’m just finishing up a commission so will have to defer until next week to have a fiddle with your outline.

    Neat idea!!

  2. nanette said

    this looks wonderful, but when I click the site does not come up. Is this a pc/mac struggle?
    Your deck is looking fabulous, and you sure are cranking on it.
    Be well,

  3. ironwing said

    WordPress links can be flaky. If it still doesn’t work, try cutting and pasting this:


  4. dear ironwing,
    as I was looking for a picture of uroboros for my tattoo I found your “Coyote Imitates Uroboros” and I like it very much. would it be a problem for you if I get it tattooed?

  5. ironwing said

    Most people don’t even ask. 🙂
    I’ve had several people use my drawings for tattoo designs over the years, and I’ve even done some custom tattoo designs, but nobody has evern sent a photo of an actual tattoo. So go for it.

    I don’t have any tattoos myself, though I received the blue tiger stripe drawing in a dream as a tattoo on the back of my neck!

    The original Coyote Uroboros is a highly detailed pencil drawing and was done actual size, so the circle is about 13 inches in diameter. I’ve always liked it and thought it was clever (and would like to do a Cat version) but most people don’t seem to “get” it.

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