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Paua / Abalone shell

Pua  Abalone shell
Abalone

The Pua / Abalone shell is the name for a shellfish (molluscs) from the Haliotidae family. The inside of their shell consists of iridescent, silvery white to green and red. The meat of abalone is used for food, and the shells of abalone are used as decorative items and as a source of mother of pearl for jewellery, buttons, buckles, and inlay.


Abalone shells have been found in archaeological sites around the world, from 100,000-year-old deposits at Blombos Cave in South Africa abalones were harvested by Native Americans for at least 12,000 years, the size of red abalone shells found in middens declines significantly after about 4,000 years ago, probably due to human predation. Worldwide, abalone pearls have also been collected for centuries.


As you can imagine for shells that have been harvested for thousands of years, many stories exist around their history.

Māori People, New Zealand

The Māori call abalone Paua. The Māori use shells in warrior artwork to create the eyes.

The Māori tell us that once the Paua had no shell and that Tangaroa the god of the sea saw the difficulties that this created for Paua and decided to create something special for him. He decreed:

“I will take from my domain the coolest blues of the ocean. And ask of my brother Tane the freshest greens of the forest. From the dawn you shall have a tinge of violet. From the sunset a blush of pink. And overall, there will be a shimmer of mother of pearl.”

With this, Tangaroa fashioned for Paua a wonderful coat that sparkled and dazzled with its beauty. But it was fragile and soon broken by those sea creatures who were envious of Paua’s new appearance. Tangaroa saw this and strengthened the shell with many layers of the coolest blues of the ocean, the freshest greens of the forest, the violet of the dawn and the pink of the sunset. Finally, he added a camouflage coat to enable Paua to blend in with the drab greys and browns of the rocks. Tangaroa then charged Paua with the life-long task of adding layer upon delicate layer, each a different hue and blend.

So it was that Paua got his shell and hides the secret of his inner beauty to himself. Only revealing it at the end of his life when his empty shell washes ashore, is his artistry revealed.

Native American Cultures

In some Native American cultures, the shell of the abalone is an asset to burn sage where the combined spiritual power of abalone and sage take their messages to their Gods.

The smoke of the sage cleanses evil spirits and is a popular practice all over the world today.

The Apache nation believes there is a connection between the shell and the first woman (Esdzanadehe, White Painted Woman. or Changing Woman) who survives a flood in the shell of an abalone. The floodwaters recede and she travels the land. She is impregnated by the sun and has a son who becomes the Killer of Enemies, protecting her from evil.

Later she is impregnated by the rain and births the Son of Water. At the end of her life, she walks east until she finds her young self. The two merge and she is born repeatedly over generations.

The coming of age ceremony for Apache girls (Sunrise Ceremony) involves the shell of the abalone worn on the forehead. It is a symbol of their spiritual power as women, their ability to heal with new womanhood fusing with previous generations of the White Painted Woman.

Metaphysical

It is believed that Abalone shells stimulate psychic development such as intuition, our ability to express emotions with clarity encouraging cooperation with those around you at work and in your personal life.

Connecting to Chakra

The chakras linked to the shell of abalone are the third eye, the crown and the heart. which are concerned with intuition.

Cleansing Rituals

Smudging with Pua Abalone shell

Rituals involve the burning of sage to clear negative energies from within or from a specific space. The smoke from the sage is thought to clear the bad energies and bless areas with a positive light and holding onto the iridescent shell of the abalone increases feelings of purity.

Many cultures think of the abalone as a symbol of water with its calmness and tranquillity protect us from life’s unsettling passions.

A Way to Heal and Protect

A shell by definition protects, naturally the Abalone shell has protective and healing qualities. It has protected the soft core of the mollusc. It can protect the more sensitive aspects in us. Projecting an image of strength and beauty to the outside world.

Abalone can bring safety from harm, emotional balance protecting the heart – in the physical and metaphysical aspects. It also is said to have anti-inflammatory properties boosting the immune system, assist digestion and joint disorders, cases of arthritis and even skin flare-ups.

Fertility and Motherhood

The abalone is very fertile for its species and people trying to conceive or wanting to guarantee the health of a new child or grandchild wear the abalone shell. For new mothers, mother-of-pearl can provide much needed emotional, physical, and mental support. It can remind a new mother of the extraordinary act she conducted by creating and nurturing of an individual spirit.

The fertility aspects can bring wealth, abundance, or new opportunities at work and has been used as a form of currency in many native cultures.

To Calm Us

The relaxing sound of the ocean waves has surrounded the abalone during its entire life. It is believed that these waves of relaxation transit to the wearer of the abalone shell calming the mind and relaxing the spirit.

The abalone stone can remind us of the uniqueness of each of us. It can help us to tolerate the imperfectness in each of us, and in each of our personal relationships.

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Seahorses, still cute 2,000 years later

Golden sea horse

Until you see one for yourself in real life, it’s easy to believe that seahorses are mythical creatures out of a fairy tales and sagas. Even the dead, dried up seahorses seem to hold a magical power, half dragon half reptile.  Indeed, they are called Hippocampus from the Ancient Greek hippókampos “horse” and kámpos meaning “sea monster”.

Legend has it that Poseidon, the Greek sea god rode through the oceans on a golden chariot pulled by Seahorses Ancient Greek fishermen believed that when they found Sea horses tangled in their nets, they were the offspring of Poseidon’s steeds.

Throughout the Mediterranean, art and objects depict the Sea horse. Phoenicians and Etruscans often painted these on the walls of burial chambers so that they could carry the dead on their voyage across the seas and into the afterlife.

Scottish “kelpies” dwell in the lochs and come onto dry land to graze with land horses. However, should you try and ride one you will be dragged out to sea and drowned. Further north in the Orkneys they are called “tangies” and “shoopiltrees” in the Shetlands.

Scandinavian legends tell of the “havhest”, a huge sea serpent, half horse and half fish that could breathe fire and sink ships.

An ancient Mexican tribe called the Seri has a seahorse legend.  A Long ago, when the animals talked and wore clothes, there was a fat seahorse who lived on Tiburon Island. The seahorse was a known trickster Having a wrongdoing, all the other animals who chased the seahorse by throwing rocks and stones. He fled to the seashore and, with nowhere to run, tucked his sandals into his belt and dived into the sea, never to return. This is why seahorses are scrawny and thin and covered in armour where his shoes once were is now a little fin.

On the Indian Ocean Island of Zanzibar, fishermen sometimes burn seahorses and sprinkle the ashes overfishing nets to bring good fortune and lure in more fishes. Whilst Malaysia and the Philippines fishermen hang dried seahorses about their homes as talismans to dispel evil spirits. Seahorses protect money and bring prosperity in Mexico and Indonesia.

Medicinal beliefs

 Roman writer Dioscorides, In the first century CE, compiled a book of herbal medicines. Among the ingredients were seahorses which he claimed, can be mixed with goose fat and smeared on a balding scalp to restore a full head of hair!

Pliny the Elder also advocated the use of seahorses as cures for leprosy, urinary incontinence and fever.

Roman writer, Aelian, claimed that seahorses could cure a bite from a rabid dog by counteracting the hydrophobia induced by rabies “eat a seahorse and you’ll spend the rest of your life drawn inexorably to the soothing sound of babbling rivers and streams” He also wrote that a seahorse boiled in wine is a deadly poison

Whilst in the west we can disbelieve the medicinal claims of Seahorse. However, in Chinese medicine seahorse are still an essential component despite any supporting clinical evidence.  The practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine promote its benefits to ease impotence, wheezing, nocturnal enuresis, and pain, as well as inducing labour. 20 million seahorses are caught each year to the extent that Seahorse populations are endangered because of overfishing and habitat destruction.