The Cowry Shell:
A Symbol of Wealth and Prosperity

"If you notice, Brian wears that little conch Shell bracelet thing. I never thought anything of it for the whole year... the first day we started shooting again, all the extras showed up, and there was like seven guys that had them, so obviously you can buy them anywhere, and it must be directed from the show. I didn't do that on purpose."
~ Patrick Antosh, Costume Designer for Queer As Folk, speaking with Michel Chantelois of SoGayTV

There are few natural objects which have held the mind and spirit of man as completely as the Cowry. Historically, the cowry shell has been a symbol of wealth, and has had been used as currency, jewelry, and as a religious accessory, in almost every part of the world. In the realm of sympathetic magic and sorcery, the Cowry is a powerful force. The shells represent the eyes of the Gods and the womb of the Goddess.

Originally found in the islands of the Indian Ocean, the cowry shell gained popularity throughout much of ancient Africa. Its influence spread to China, where brass and silver cowry shells were used as a form of currency. The Chinese even used its shape to form their pictograph for money.

According to African legend, if you are attracted to cowry shells you could be related to the Yoruba ocean spirit associated with wealth and mother earth. The Cowry has always been a symbol of the Goddess and connected with the strength of the ocean. It was believed to have the power of conferring fertility and sexual potency. The vessel of life force and regeneration, the Cowry was the insurance of life's continuity. It was the dwelling place for the Goddess who made fertile both woman and crops, and whose voice can be heard whispering her ancient wisdom.

The Cowry was originally called the "concha veneer" - the shell of venus - by the ancients. The scientific name "Cypraea" came from Cyprus or Cyprian, the isle where the worship of Venus Aphrodite began. The women of Pompeii wore the Cowry to prevent sterility. The Aztecs associate the Cowry with pregnancy as do Japanese.

The Cowry is often used to represent the mouth of the Egyptian god Orisis. In Egyptian Mythology, the god Orisis "creates all living creatures by an infinite act of masturbation." This was also seen as the source of the Nile River, and the cause of its annual flooding, which was the backbone of life in Egypt. The ritual developed of pharaohs masturbating before the god's image at the time of their enthronement. This led to public masturbation during religious worship, "to expel evil and honor the gods of generation," and became a part of an ancient Egyptian, Phoenician, Babylonian, and Assyrian sacred ceremonies.

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