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The Shells

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This material has only two unique qualities; diverse, vibrant coloring and the island people's symbolism. Besides these qualities, the material is exactly the same to other shells.  

Vibrate Coloring

Shells and the surrounding reef found at this island are filled with color. There is so much diverse coloring that it can be difficult to find a shell of similar color. Large clam shells hold piles of colorful shells are sold to passing ships, who sell them and trade goods from around the continents with the islanders. Many sailors enjoy spending time here and exchange carved shells with the islanders.  

Islander Symbolism

(More to be added later)

History & Usage

Everyday use


Cowries are the exchange shell, while the Tusk is a rate shell. A small amount of cowries is carried in a pouch, while tusks are strung together and worn for convenience, or to display wealth. Cowries have no equivalent value to a coin  

Tusk to Cowry
Small Tusk, 2-4" 10 Cowries Medium Tusk, 6-8" 100 Cowries Large Tusk, 10-12" 1000 Cowries

Tusk to Tusk
Medium Tusk 10 Small Tusk Large Tusk 10 Medium Tusk

Tusk to Coin
Small Tusk Copper Coin Medium Tusk Silver Coin Large Tusk Gold Coin



Any shell can be used for art and symbolism can be looser in some depictions. The art pieces located at the island's peak and on it's walls use heavy symbolism. An even number of shells used represents the island and unity, while uneven numbers represent the beast and disaster. A carved conch shell is considered art if no holes are present beyond the shell mouth and/or a point hole. It is considered by some to be a taboo to carve through the conch and destroy the ability to hear the ocean.


Every shell can be used as an instrument, however, the conch shell is most popular. It symbolizes the ocean inside oneself and the one resting at the shores as one can hear it if the shell is placed by the ear. The conch shell will have a hole drills near the point and air is blown through the open shell mouth. Smaller conches can be used by anyone, but a conch of great size is given to the Island Protectors. The Island Protectors use the large shells during festivals and only the largest shell is used to ward off the great sea beast, which plagues the island.



Half of a open, wide mouth shell is used for carving wooden canoes, buttons, blades, hooks and utensils. These shells have a variety of uses over the cowry, which is why the cowry is used as currency. Shell blades and utensils will have handles fixed to the shell with twine and drilled holes. Whole shell buttons are purely decorative, instead a button is made by cutting the circular shape from the shell.  


Instrument shells can be used to announce festivals, storms, or signals between fishers. Not all communication with shells make sounds, a shell can mean other things if used in a specific way. The most common subtle shell communication is between couples. The cowry is a common shell thus it is mostly used for subtle communication and to couples is has important meanings.   A partner can signal to another couple the need for advice if the union is having trouble. This is done subtly as unity is important amoung the islanders and a bad union is a terrible sign of non-union amoung other islanders. The signal is started by a unique phrase shared by close couple groups. The phrase doesn't ask the union's state directly; typically, the phrase is about how much cowry an object is. Allowing the asking partner to show their cowry without suspicion; smooth side means the union is good and teeth side means bad. The couple groups will gather in private to council the troubled partner and after the partner can signal in a similar way to their partner the need for discussion.

Cultural Significance and Usage

The Island

It is believed the island itself is a nautilus shell. The island itself and it's top murals are the basis of their beliefs. A half-woman and half-sea creature is depicted in one of these murals being above the island with open arms. This woman is the island creator, who created the island for the people. These shell murals and carved texts upon the shell-island walls tell the people of the island how to live. The island creator is depicted showing the people the way then dying to the great beast. The great beast is depicted wandering the island till the largest conch shell is sounded after the following dawn. There are three rituals performed on the island to reflect these murals and prevent the great beast from killing its inhabitants.  


During these rituals, the participates are only allowed to wear clothing of the ocean to represent the half-nature of the island creator and using only what ocean provides. In the murals, there is no depiction of the ground surround the island with provides the islanders resources of the land.  
Island Creator
Each year the "Creator" gets a new arrangement of shells, however, specific shells can only be used in designated areas. A nautilus shell is commonly placed on the torso, however, it can be used throughout the costume. Unity is important must be visible on the wearer, also placed throughout to symbolize unity is in everything. The cowry is used around the hips and upper legs only, although it can be located at the arms to represent the giving of life to the islanders during the first rural. Conch, wide mouth shells, and other types of small shells with no symbolism can be used through the costumes. Tusks can be woven into the wearer's hair to create noise and keep the hair manageable during performance. The tusks are not allowed near the legs!   The shells are fastened together with seaweed, or sea silk made from fibers of ocean life and it can be transparent. There is no limit on color and number of types used. The amount of shells used is taken into account in the first and second ritual as the wearer must be able to move for dancing. Multiple costumes can be used for a single ritual and old costumes can be remade if necessary. All costumes are released back into the ocean to symbolize the Island Creator's death by returning to the ocean.  
Island Protectors
Nautilus shell is heavily used in the costumes as the protectors represent the islanders together. Also , wide mouth shells are used in large sizes and to form a sort of armor. The Protectors will have blade weapons and carry large conch shells for warding off the beast. (More to be added later)    
Great Beast
Nautilus and conch shells are forbidden from the beast. This is the heaviest costume with many shells fasten by seaweed only. (To be added later)  
(To be added later)

Any & All, a single shell can possess multiple colors

Shell Symbolism

Nautilus Unity & Strength Cowry Plentiful & Fertility Conch Diversity & Ocean Tusk Wealth

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Cover image: by TheExasperatedDM


Author's Notes


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