There are, probably literally, countless forms of divination throughout the world. While you have undoubtedly at least heard of many, such as Tarot, astrology, crystal gazing and dream interpretation, you may be less familiar with conchomancy – the art of divining with seashells.
Just like the myriad spectral crystals that grow deep in Mother Earth’s flesh and bring us healing vibrations and messages, so too do the similarly composed shells that grow in her blood, the oceans.
Calcium carbonate, the primary compound in seashells and pearls, is also found in its more stable form, calcite, in rocks and crystals.
This scientific fact alone interestingly mirrors the nature and energies of these two different Earth treasures – the broader, original compound comprising the shells that move within the moving element, and its most stable polymorph making up the grounded, much-less-moving crystals.
There are different methods and rituals within conchomancy, depending on the culture. For instance, probably the most commonly known are Obi and Diloggun, originally of West African Yoruba tradition.
These systems, particularly as they have now evolved in Santeria traditions in the Americas, may make use of kola nuts, coconut shell pieces, or cowrie shells.
The modern method of conchomancy that I am currently studying is the Ocean Oracle that has been painstakingly developed over decades of research by Michelle (aka Shelley, most appropriately!) Hanson.
The following excerpts are from the 200-card oracle deck guidebook, “Ocean Oracle: What Seashells Reveal About Our True Nature“.
“The book you hold in your hands is the culmination of a lifelong quest for information, first about shells and then about the depths of awareness. Having never lived near the ocean, my first exposure to seashells came courtesy of my grandparents. Upon returning from a vacation in Florida, they gifted their four-year-old granddaughter with shells that had gathered off the beach. Even at that young age I was famously curious among my family, and these wonders of nature inspired my curiosity with a new intensity.”
“The following pages contain what I call the language of the shells. To help you as you develop your own interpretation skills, I have included snippets of past readings that represent a broad spectrum of what I have witnessed. I hope you will look upon what the shells have taught me as an indicator of what they may hold in store for you.”
Michelle offers an in-depth certification course consisting of five modules of thorough lessons on both the biology and the metaphysics of shells and the creatures that grow them.
I am currently about halfway through the first module and it took no time at all for me to start to tune in to the language of the shells. I found that I intuitively agreed with many of her interpretations, and also received even more (and, sometimes, just different) messages from multiple shells.
One story that Michelle shares early on in the course, is her experience with the book “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Almost every chapter of the book is named for a shell upon which Lindbergh contemplated and meditated while spending a reclusive two weeks on Captiva Island, on Florida’s gulf coast.
Over a long period of time, Michelle Hanson was repeatedly gifted copies of the book, which she hesitated to read for fear that Lindbergh’s interpretations would clash with her own, leaving her to perhaps question the results of her own work and meditations.
However, after receiving a fourth copy (the day after she gave one away, attempting to cull the collection), she finally read it and found that the additional and different meanings presented only reinforced that there indeed is a shell language, and that, of course, different people may receive slightly or even very different messages. This doesn’t mean that any of them are wrong.
I could not have been happier to have discovered, and then much later, acquire, the Ocean Oracle. For a split second I was slightly intimidated by the size of the deck (200 shells strong), but immediately felt much more excited and satisfied once I realized that that only meant how very much there was to learn and enjoy.
But even the 200 are less than half of what Michelle has in her personal collection that she uses for readings, that is still only a fraction of all the shells in the world. Of her “extras”, I was very blessed to be gifted a few when I met Michelle and her husband this past February.
I had been on something of a hiatus from my Ocean Oracle studies, as well as this blog, since before the holidays last year. However, in meeting Michelle and having wonderful discussions about shells, seeing stunning abalones and others from her collection, and even being gifted with a handful of beauties from her “extras”, I felt a renewed sense of motivation and energy to return to studying the shells and sharing what I learn here.
I hope to build on what Michelle has started and not only share tidbits from her work, but to help expand it and share additional and alternative meanings to shells included in the Ocean Oracle, as well as many others not included.
It is not until the third module of lessons (remember, I’m only still in the first!) that Shelley mentions partnering with one shell to create an inner self-portrait, but I feel that I may have found my shell partner already, at least for now. Interestingly enough, it came from among the shells that she gave me.
Just like guardian and power animals, crystals, trees, flowers, etc., everyone can have a personal shell teacher or even multiple shell teachers and guides throughout their lives. At this moment, at least, mine seems to be the humble little Janthina snail.
Ocean Oracle © Michelle Ziff Hanson, originally published 2004
All original material © 2018 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved
featured image: At Low Tide by Sir Edward Poynter 1913