A Sea Witch’s Guide to Seashells

A handy guide to properly cleaning shells, when and how to collect them, and a few creative ideas for using them in witchy matters or altar decoration! 

By rainy-day-witchcraft


Seashells, whether inhabited by an organism or abandoned on the beach, almost always have that funky sea smell~ which can only grow as they are dried and left out. When cleaning shells, there are many different techniques. You can:

  • Boil ~ gently drop your shells into a stove-top pot and turn up the heat until the water reaches a boil. After a few minutes, turn it down to about half that heat, and let them simmer for 20-30 minutes. Tips: Shells must be dropped into the water while it is still lukewarm, so they gradually heat and do not break or crack from the cool to hot transfer / Take caution not to let the pot boil over, as the water is salty and will leave a residue that will need to be cleaned afterwards 
  • Bleach~ Soak your shells in a 50/50 water/bleach ratio for an hour or so. There is no set time, but be careful not to leave them in for too long, as the bleach will break them down!
  • Baking Soda scrub~ Mixing a paste-like mixture of water and baking soda, take an old toothbrush and scrub the shell for a few minutes. If you are dealing with a sanddoller, be sure to scrub more gently and in small circular motions
  • Burying~ Because barnacles, tiny organisms, or bits of the previous shell-owner can be left in hard-to-reach areas of the shell, burying a shell 18 inches into the ground for a few weeks is a useful technique to get rid of any stink-inducing sea thing. Because it is buried at this depth, it allows insects, larva, and ants to eat the remains of organism and leave the shell with no reason to smell after cleaning! If using this technique, bury it opening-down; it works especially well to preserve glossy shells, as most of the other methods may cause de-shining

If you are more of a pro-collector, consider using:

  • Muriatic acid~ dipping a shell in this chemical can majorly restore color and finish. However, on OLIVE shells (seashells that already have a shiny finish) this will do the opposite, and dull them

Shell Collecting

The best times to collect shells are during the New Moon and Full Moon, when the tide is at it’s most powerful. Beginning your collecting an hour before and after low tide is also a key time when seashells end up on the sand! While searching near the wet sand usually yields fresher shells, make sure you also do a little digging or check near the high-tide line.

The DON’T’s

  • Fragile shells, such as sand dollar, can crumble if cleaned too harshly or left in the sun
  • Do not clean with any type of vinegar! Vinegar can erode calcium, which is a main component in almost all shells
  • If you find two shells sealed tightly together, or anything that resembles a live clam or shellfish, do not collect these! There is an organism living inside, and it is illegal at many beaches to collect living seashells. Do the little guy a favor (and the environment) and throw it back into the ocean or leave it be ~ 
  • If any trace of sea creature is left inside or outside the shell, it will mostly never loose the fishy smell

Putting Shells to (Magickal) Use

In addition to looking nice or being cleaned/polished and made into decoration, they can also be used as:

  • Offering bowls
  • Talismans or Amulets
  • Representation of ocean or sea related gods/goddesses
  • Various magickal utensils (Magickal tools adorned with seashells, decorated on bowls or cups, hung as ornaments or charms, etc.)

In magick and witchcraft, they represent and are useful in:

  • The element of Water/West direction
  • Rounder, whiter shells can represent the moon, because of it’s influence on the ocean tides
  • Spells for emotion (water=emotion) protection (A shell is the protective covering for an ocean organism) creativity (water also=creative spirit), love (In reference to Aphrodite), and prosperity (Used as currencies around the world long ago) 

Particular shells also have their own meaning, such as these~

Abalone - general use and containment of empowered herbs and stones

Clam shells - purification and love

Conche shell - love

Cone shell - protection

Cowrie shell - prosperity, money - if you look at a cowrie shell is also looks very ‘feminine’)

Whelks - dramatic positive change

Limpets - courage, confidence, strength

Scallops - travel, movement

Sand~doller- prosperity, good luck

(Information gathered here)

Leave a message for Rainy-day-witchcraft if you have any questions, comments, or would like to see similar witchy guides! Rainy

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