Wandering the beach in search of seashell treasures is a hobby many of all ages can enjoy. However, shells are far more than just pretty decorations. Seashells are the bones of the sea. They have an eternal nature. Beginning as just tiny bits of calcium, they evolve to form protective gear for marine creatures. They range from small and delicate to large and strong. These ‘bones’ offer us a glimpse into ocean life and can also be a wonderful source of meaning and divination.

Just remember that seashell collecting can create an imbalance in the ecosystem, so it’s best not to take more than one or two home with you. Better yet, you can choose to photograph your shell finds, and leave them by the ocean where they might continue to provide for the beach and its creatures.

Here are some common types of seashells you may discover on the shore and what they might indicate:

Conch shells The conch shell was considered a sacred relic in many ancient cultures, including Hindu, Tibetan and pre-Incan. It was used during ceremonies as a trumpet to cleanse the air and invoke the gods. The discovery of a conch shell can be a message for you to work with breath, sacred sounds and music for a deeper connection to divine inspiration.

Cowrie shells Cowries, one of the most popular shells of all time, were once used as currency in Asia, Africa and Oceana. They are also considered a protective amulet and a symbol of feminine fertility. If you find a cowrie shell, recognize it as a talisman that can ward off unwelcome energy, or a sign that good fortune is coming your way.

Nautilus With their pearly wheel-like appearance, nautilus shells may be the most beautiful design you encounter on the beach. Their eternal spirals are lyrical, following the feminine, harmonic growth patterns of the Golden Ratio (Phi), Fibonacci Sequence and Sacred Geometry. The same shape can be found in our DNA, finger prints, and everywhere in nature and invokes the mystery of eternity and creation. When you see a nautilus, it indicates you are on, or ready for, a journey of spiritual growth and evolution.

Sand dollar The round, flat sand dollar with its distinctive five pointed star pattern on top harkens back to a time when ancient Egyptians studied astronomy and used the five pointed star hieroglyph to depict their worship of celestial bodies. To this day, the star is a universal icon symbolizing light emanating from the dark, hope and excellence. If you find a sand dollar on your journey, it can help you connect with a higher source and guide you to greatness.

Scallop shells The fan-like scallop shell is what most people immediately think of when they hear “seashell.” It is the same shell depicted in Botticelli’s iconic renaissance painting, “The Birth of Venus,” and in that context represents the emergence of luminous beauty and love. When you see a scallop shell, take it as an invitation to tap into the Aphrodite archetype.

A walk on a beach or shore is never wasted, especially when you use the opportunity to connect with the wisdom of the sea and pay attention to the bones left behind and what they are trying to tell you. Discovering various seashells is a wonderful way to tune into nature and follow the lessons she is trying to teach.