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Shells found throughout Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Like many of us, I collect shells. I have bowls and jars full of shells that I have collected along the coasts of California and Costa Rica when I lived there. When I was leaving California in the mid 70’s for the Army, I dragged a friend of mine to Black’s Beach that lies just South of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. I had seen bits and pieces of cowrie shells there along a line of rocks that protruded out of the ocean. We spent about an hour looking for a cowrie shell that was not broken, then we gave up and that’s when I found it.   I have carried it with me ever since.   It reminds me of my childhood, growing up and the value of a great friendship that still continues to this day…Love you Jeffrey.

In Costa Rica in 1992 while pregnant with my daughter my husband and I visited the family ranch in Guanacaste along the Pacific Coast. There I found another cowrie shell. This one joined the first and reminds me of my early adulthood, the man that has become my life partner and motherhood…Love you Guillermo and Geannina you’re the heart and soul of my life.

Cowrie1324_4x3 Cowrie Shells from California and Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Shells are the primordial reminder of where life began. They protect, are beautiful and some hold the sound of the ocean within them.

Throughout Europe the symbol of the scallop shell can be found on doors, windows, walls, statues, and embedded in the roadways. It has become a symbol of the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela.

The scallop shell is found naturally along the coastline and at the end of the Camino in Finisterre. Early pilgrims would collect one to prove that they had walked and finished El Camino to the end of the world. Modern day pilgrims will attach one to their packs. It has both practical as well as symbolic uses in the long history of the Camino. For more information on this please go to www.Followthecamino.com they have a very good article on the legend, history and symbolic use of the scallop shell.


Scallop Shell on pilgrim’s pack

When my husband finished his 500-mile walk to Santiago de Compostela in 2015 we bought each other silver shell charms. He added this to the chain that he wore around his neck throughout his walk and still wears. He added it to a wooden St. Francis of Assisi cross that I bought him at Santa Croce in Florence. When we bought the chain for the cross it was too long so we had it shortened and a bracelet made for me. I placed the shell charm on the bracelet and have worn it almost everyday for the past two years. (Had to take it off for a while when I got my tattoo)

This charm reminds me of the goal that I have set for myself. It reminds me of what I hope to achieve for myself and be a better person. I don’t know if I will be wearing it as I walk but I will have it with me. When I finish and return home I will be adding a new tattoo to my wrist, just under the one I have of a gingko branch and three-legged crow. I will add a scallop shell.



Note: Follow the Camino is the company that we are using to organize our walk.



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