What Is the Symbolism of Seashells?

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Most commonly, the seashell is associated with love and fertility, but the meaning ascribed to seashells differs depending on the source and type of seashell. For example, medieval Christian tradition associates the seashell with pilgrims. Artists and art movements, such as practitioners of Feng Shui, also have different interpretations of the symbolism of seashells.

The Way of St. James, a traditional pilgrim route through Santiago de Compostela in Spain, is associated with scalloped seashells in the Christian tradition.

In Polynesian cultural traditions, turtle shells are more valuable than other shells and symbolize longevity, fertility and peace.

In New Age spirituality, seashells symbolize the emotions and movement of the unconscious sources of peace and harmony due to their associations with water. For this reason, they are some times utilized as a method of divination.

In Buddhism and Hinduism, the conch shell is used as a musical instrument and as a method of carrying water for rituals. Hindu traditions go so far as to attribute a gender to the conch shell based on its appearance as either slender or bulbous. Conch shells are also believed to be especially sacred in these traditions if the spiral pattern turns to the right as opposed to the left. A conch shell that spirals to the right is believed to follow the path of the sun, and in Buddhist and Hindu art, all of the curls on Buddha’s head turn toward the right, as do his body hairs and the swirl of his navel.