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World Turtle & The Tree of Life

A turtle braved these raging tides

to carry the world upon his back.

The Gods made a foothold within the impossible,

to carry forth their impossible dream.


Love is impossible,

and yet it happens

in the farthest reaches

of that cold and salty sea,

it finds a fjord

where ragged cliffs cannot contain it.


From this impossible beginning

the Gods take the warp and the weft,

from which all is secreted together

in the bosom of the holy sea.


- Sacred Verses 42: Sacred Marriage/ I Will Light More of Them


My book Sacred Verses: Entering the Labyrinth of the Gods will have (at some as yet to be determined point in the future) a fully illustrated edition containing images drawn from the text itself, and from my dreams and meditations on the layers of meanings within the verses. I've decided to accomplish these illustrations as a series of watercolor paintings that not only pair with specific verses, but can also be understood as individual works of symbolist art with their own life and meaning beyond the context of the book itself.


Among the first three illustrations I've started is World Turtle and the Tree of Life. The turtle signifying the elevation of the material world from the sea of chaos rises to the surface of the primordial waters, his shell representative of the earth. Above the waters the sky is divided into night and day segments giving precedence to the central Numinous sphere in which the Tree of Life flourishes. The snake-like roots of the Tree of Life writhe downwards to draw nourishment from the nimbus radiating from the head of the turtle. It is possible to see the World Turtle as an extension or manifestation of the Tree of Life, which contains within it the blueprint for all things that materialize within creation.


Though mentioned only once in Sacred Verses, the World Turtle is the incarnation of the creative possibilities of the powers of the Gods which challenge the tempestuous sea of chaos, pushing back against the nature of chaos- to detract from and extinguish the divine creation of the Gods. Might not the World Turtle also push back against the devastating consequences inflicted on delicate eco systems by the shortsightedness and greed of human beings? I think so, and this is precisely my meditation as I work out the underdrawing for this painting.