Cowry Shells: Their History And Uses

Cowry Shells: Their History And Uses
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on telegram
Telegram
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on print
Print
Listen to article

This is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Cypraeidae, the cowries. Cowries are generally seen on rocky areas of the sea bed.

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Mollusca

Class: Gastropoda

Caenogastropoda subclass

Order: Littorinimorpha

Superfamily: Cypraeoidea

Family: Cypraeidae.

Read Also: Powerful Spiritual Trees In Igboland

Shells of certain species have historically been used as currency in several parts of the world, as well as being used, in the past and present, very extensively in jewelry and for other decorative and ceremonial purposes. The cowrie was widely used worldwide as shell money. It is abundant in the Indian Ocean and has been collected in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, along India’s Malabar Coast, Borneo and other East Indian islands, and along the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. Cowrie shell money was important in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia.

Cowrie shells are also worn as jewelry or otherwise used as ornaments or charms. In Mende culture, cowrie shells are viewed as symbols of womanhood, fertility, birth, and wealth. Its underside is supposed, by one modern ethnographic author, to represent a vulva or an eye. Cowrie shells were among the devices used for divination by the Kaniyar Panicker astrologers of Kerala, India, and Africa. In certain parts of Africa, cowries were prized charms, and they were associated with fecundity, sexual pleasure, and good luck.

Spiritual Meaning

In African legend, a love of cowrie shells shows that you could be related to an ocean spirit of wealth and earth. It represents the ocean’s Goddess of protection. In Africa and in America, the cowrie symbolizes destiny and prosperity. It is thought of as the mouth of Orisha, which is believed to have taught stories of humility and respect. For many people today, cowrie shells make fascinating jewelry and decorations. Whether in jewelry or in crafts, cowrie shells add the exotic feel of Africa.

Ritual use

The Ojibway aboriginal people in North America use cowrie shells, which are called sacred Miigis shells or white shells, in Midewiwin ceremonies, and the white shell Provincial Park in Manitoba, Canada is named after this type of shell. The shells were discovered in the ground or washed up on the shores of lakes or rivers, according to oral histories and birch bark scrolls. Cowrie shells that have been found inland could mean that they were used by an earlier tribe or group in the area, and they may have come from an ancient trade network in the past.

Monetary use

Cowrie has been used for centuries. Shells, especially Monetaria moneta, were used as currency by native Africans. After the 1500s, however, it became even more common. Western nations, chiefly through the slave trade, introduced huge numbers of Maldivian cowries to Africa. The Ghanaian cedi was named after cowrie shells.

Starting over three thousand years ago, cowrie shells, or copies of the shells, were used as Chinese currency.

They were also used as a means of exchange in India.

The cowrie shell was the shell most widely used worldwide as shell money. It is most abundant in the Indian Ocean and has been collected in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, along India’s Malabar coast, in Borneo and other East Indian islands, and along the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique.

Cowrie shell money was important in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and the East.

Gambling and games

Cowrie shells are sometimes used in a way similar to dice, e.g., in board games like Pachisi, Ashta Chamma, or in divination (Ifá and the annual customs of Dahomey of Benin). A number of shells (6 or 7 in Pachisi) are thrown, with those landing apertures upwards indicating the actual number rolled.

Uses of cowries

1. It is a necessary and compulsory accessory for marine sacrifice during waterworks.

2. In the olden days, it was used as a medium of exchange for buying and selling.

3. Some herbalists use it to predict events, fortification, decorations, etc.

4. It has medicinal values, i.e., for curing goiter.

5. They are used spiritually for money drawing purposes.

6. It is used in spiritual work to send witches away.

7. Cowries are used in divination to check spiritual things about life as an Afa medium or tool.

8. Cowries are used for protection if they are fortified, especially when embarking on a journey.

9. If you see cowries in your dream, it means great wealth is coming or your lost wealth is going to be restored.

10. In the 1940s and 1950s, small cowry shells were used as a teaching aid in infant schools, e.g., counting, adding, and subtracting.

11. Nowadays, we have plastic cowries that are used in bead making, beautifying braids, traditional caps, or as hair accessories.

©️Dibịa Nwangwu Uchendu.

PGD; M.Ed (Educational Management); BA (French)

[email protected]

+2348132412687.

WhatsApp MSGs Only.

Africa Daily News, New York

Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on telegram
Telegram
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on print
Print