Shells as ancient symbols of power of female sexuality


Shells have been present in aquatic cosmology and sexual symbolism for centuries. They are participants in secret powers of water, the Moon and the female spirit — Mother Earth— creator of all things. The similarity with female reproductive organ is obvious, so shell has always been associated with sexual power. The formation of Pearls in the wombs of oysters has supported this symbolic parallel since prehistoric times, in most of societies connected with the sea. Today, we have almost forgotten what powerful symbols shells and Pearl were considered to be in the old ages, and we now look to them for purely aesthetic reasons. We have reduced their life-giving symbols to merely a shiny bead or decor. But it was once much more. The painting: "Red Hill And White Shell", 1938 by Georgia O'Keeffe






A relief created by the Aztecs in Tula features shells surrounded by deity in deep waters., We are still trying to fully understand this ancient and mysterious site. The Mexican God of Storm wears a chain made out of shells, while the God of the Moon’s symbol was a great snail.




In the third century BC in Ancient China, this citation was written, “The Moon is the essence of all Jin; during full Moon oysters PAN and KO are full, and Jin is present everywhere; when the Moon is dark, oysters are empty and Jin disappears.” Jin represents mild, soft female energy in the Universe. Have we forgotten the meaning and power of female energy in this world?



Shells were considered to represent female fertility in many cultures, and to protect girls from harmful influences and dark magic. Thus, in certain tribes in southern  India, girls wear necklaces made of oyster shells which they remove only after the birth of their first child. The cosmological function of shells has been known since Vedean times in India. Atharva Vedas (IV, 10) speaks about shells and Pearls: Born of the wind, the air, of lightning, and of the light, may this Pearl shell born of gold, protect us from fright! With this shell, born in sea, at the head of bright substances, we slay the Rakshas and conquer the Atrins (devouring demons). With this shell we conquer illness and poverty; with the shell, too, the Saânvâs. The shell is our universal remedy; the pearl shall protect us from frights! Born in the heavens, born in the sea, brought on from the river Sindhu, this shell, born of gold, is our life-prolonging amulet…The bone of the gods turned into Pearl; that, animated, dwells in the waters. That do I fasten upon thee unto life, luster, strength, longevity, unto a life lasting a hundred autumns, may the (amulet) of Pearl protect thee!




In Ancient Greece, shells were a symbol of the great love goddess. Aphrodite was covered by oysters when she was brought to Cyprus after her birth, and she was born from a triton seashell. The statue of Kāmadeva, also called Māra — the Hindu god of human love and desire — is ornamented with seashells. In India, marriage is declared by seashell horning, which is also one of the two main symbols of the God Vishnu. Vishnu is represented holding a shell, a disk, a lotus, and a scepter in his hands. The shell symbolises Vishnu's connection with the creation waters; on the other hand, the shell represents the five elements. A prayer to Vishnu is a prayer to a holy shell as well, the Turbinella pyrum. In addition to marriage rituals, shells were used to declare the start of agricultural works, and matrimonial and funeral ceremonies. Aztecs used shells in the similar rituals too. Painting on the left: Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (c. 1486). Tempera on canvas. 172.5 cm × 278.9 cm (67.9 in × 109.6 in). Uffizi, Florence

On the right: image of Matsya - the fish avatar of Vishnu, holding the shankha in his right lower hand: He kills a demon called Shankhasura, who emerges from another shankha (shell).





Shells and Pearls can symbolise resurrection and spiritual rebirth, since they represent birth itself. In their magic rituals, Native Americans often used the magic of shells to obtain resurrection from ritual death. Shells were found in many excavations of burial grounds, in Paleolithic caves, and even drawn on the walls of pyramids in Egypt, supposedly helping in the afterlife. In Japan, rubbing shell powder on the skin should bring to one the gift of rebirth after natural death. Shells from prehistoric ages were found by archeologists in Laos, on mountain Kavkaz, in Ukraine, in Bosnia, France England and Germany.