Cowrie Shell Divination

Following in our look at Spirituality, we’re going to dig into the world of Cowrie Shell Divintation. This generally refers to one of the different forms of divination using cowrie shells that are part of the rituals and religious beliefs of certain religions

These sacred shells are said to be the doorway through which we can access the world of the ancestors, the world that holds infinite knowledge and wisdom and a timeless view we cannot otherwise tap into. Whether tossed on a grass mat, laid on a wooden board or spread on a sacred cloth, cowrie shell divination readings are an age-old art, rich in history and tribal tradition.

The ever popular cowrie shell has many uses and meanings. It has shown up in the form of money, jewellery and religious accessories in almost every part of the world. Found in the islands of the Indian Ocean, the cowrie shell soon gained popularity throughout much of ancient Africa. Cowrie shells were indeed the most popular currency within Africa. Pictures of cowrie shells even adorned cave walls. The Egyptians considered the cowrie shell to be magical agents and also used them as currency in foreign exchange transactions. Archaeologists have excavated millions of shells in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Its influence also spread to China, where it was used as a form of currency to such an extent that its shape was used to form the Chinese pictograph for money! Today excavations have found some of the money of ancient China in the form of brass and silver cowrie shells. During the Roman period, cowries were known as Porculi, meaning little pigs. The name was later lengthened to Porceletta. When fine pottery was introduced to European society from the Far East, the shape of these new items reminded people of the Porceletta shells. Thus, the term porcelain was given to the pottery.

In some countries, the cowrie shell represents fertility and is given to brides to guarantee offspring and provide a safe delivery. In other countries, it was believed that the shell protected against the evil eye. Shells were also attached to fishing nets to promise a good catch. The golden cowrie from the Fiji and Solomon Islands is a symbol of power and rank for chieftains. Cowries were also used in many other ways: such as a special-purpose currency for “bridewealth”, payments for fines, divination (“the money of Ifa”), funerals and initiation into secret societies. Cowries have also been used in art, jewelry and as religious symbols since the beginning of man.

Spiritually, according to African legend, if you are attracted to cowrie shells you could be family to an ocean spirit of wealth. They also represent a very powerful Goddess protection that is connected with the strength of the ocean. However you interpret these beautiful shells, they can also be a fascinating and unique addition to any wardrobe. Whether used in jewelry, crafts, clothing, drums, divining chains, headdresses, ritual masks or furniture, these shells are sure to add an exotic feel of Africa. They make an excellent, one of a kind, fashion statement.

Perhaps you may like to give cowrie shell divination a go, or take a look at some other forms of Spirituality and exploration?