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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Flying with cowrie shells

I love these shells and often wear them in my hair. I had no idea that there were myths and actual uses for the shells. I do not attach any of the meanings below to them. I just wear them from time to time for no particular reason at all.

The Gift of Cowrie by Latranei Gaibole

The cowrie shell has often been associated with the female sexual organ. This association has no basis in spiritual fact or tradition and is a modern concept. The aperture, or opening, is in the form of a toothy slit. Historically, the association of this part of the cowrie began with Europeans, who associated it with the genital tract of their female pigs. In Pompeii., women connected cowries with the womb and Goddess energy (which is not entirely incorrect, as the cowrie is associated with the Mommy of Water) and wore them as necklaces to ensure their fertility. In traditional Japan, women hold cowries during childbirth to help the progress. It is to be noted that the association between female sexual organs and the cowrie shell is a modern concept and has no basis in spirituality or African culture.

Use of Cowries

Cowrie shells have many uses, both traditional and modern. While they are currently used by many people as decoration and a fashion or social statement, their traditional uses are many.

Gifts - If someone gives you cowrie shells as a gift, they are really offering you wealth and a way to improve yourself. They are giving you a gift from a Goddess, and this carries a deep spiritual significance.

Gambling - Traditional gambling involves the use of cowrie shells in a game similar to craps. The gambler takes four shells in the hand and throws them. If three are open and one is closed, the thrower wins (open means the jagged side faces up); all other combinations means that the thrower loses.

Sympathetic Magic - Cowrie shells are destined to transfer power and good fortune to whoever they are oriented toward. On the other hand, because Mote also punishes, ill fortune and bad luck can also be transferred. Depending on the circumstance and use of the cowries, the affect can be either harsh or rewarding.

Readings - Cowries are often used in readings, such as in Ifa. When they appear face up, this is a positive sign; face down normally means one will not get what one expects.

Ancestral Offering - The cowrie shell plays an important role in ancestral offerings. When one puts cowrie shells inside the grave or coffin, the dead person can use them whenever needed in the World of the Dead for intervention.

Symbol of Fortune - The cowrie shell carries with it good luck and material wealth. It is a gift from a Goddess, so it always carries the concept of good fortune and blessing from the Deity.

While cowrie shells have become a social statement, in reality, they are a highly valued spiritual token of Mote's blessing. They are used in weddings, funerals, traditional ceremonies, art...their uses are countless. We can adorn our bodies and our instruments with cowries...we can tie them in our hair and sew them on our clothes... they can hang from our ears or necks...they can be given as gifts or offerings...the only thing that one should never do with a cowrie shell is to burn it. Regardless how we use the shells, one should always keep in mind the significance of the shell and its true spiritual meaning.

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