Cowrie shells, beautiful as they are, are not just for decoration. They are a symbol of traditional spirituality, a gift from the goddess of the water (Mami Wata), a currency that dates back 1000’s of years, a medium for divination (spiritual readings) and a tool to help increase fertility.
"The cowrie shell is perhaps the most recognisable of African cultural and spiritual symbols. It is an item that we wear when we wish to portray the message that we are conscious, spiritual and fighting for the upliftment of Africans worldwide. They are used to make statements: social, cultural, spiritual and political. The intended symbolism of the cowrie depends on the context in which it is used. But regardless of its use, the cowrie always inspires admiration, respect and awe." *1
"There is a Goddess who lives in the water called Mote or more affectionately, ‘Mami Wata'. This Goddess lives in the sea, and because the sea surrounds all of the lands and is connected to all water on Earth, she is accessible through any body of water. This Goddess is a powerful Goddess who affects the lives of people on Earth as well as other Deities. Mote often adopts people as a husband, brother, sister, mother, friend, child, etc., and she can become very jealous when a human that she has adopted becomes close with another human being because she fears that her adopted human might pay more attention to the other human being than to her. There are certain things spiritual practices that should take place before you enter into a partnership with another human. Mami Wata has the ability to reward those who please her and to punish those who do not. The rewards that Mami Wata gives when she is pleased is the cowrie shell, and this is where the notion of money comes from," *2
"Mami Wata is a very powerful Deity in that she can affect human life and personality drastically. While she is not part of an Ennead of Gods and is seen as a 'lesser' Goddess, her direct contact with humans makes her popular and powerful. Her counterpart on land is the Goddess Sekhmet, a very powerful Goddess on Earth. "Her gift of the cowrie shell is one that is not taken lightly, as it symbolises one of the four elements of life: 'mooey', or water. Gods of the other three elements also give important gifts"*3
Often, people who are drawn to these shells have a connection to the divinity, Mami Wata. If you find yourself destined to be a servant of Mami Wata there are certain rituals that need to take place. For this you need a reputable and trustworthy diviner/ priest/ healer. In modern societies we are lead to believe that we can simply make up our spirituality as we go along. However, ancestors who lived a more humble life understood that there are certain things, done in certain orders, that give certain results. You can not just "become a servant of Mami Wata" You need to know what to do and how to do it.
"The cowrie shell has often been associated with the female sexual organ. This association has no basis in spiritual fact or tradition and is a modern concept. The aperture, or opening, is in the form of a toothy slit. Historically, the association of this part of the cowrie began with Europeans, who associated it with the genital tract of their female pigs. In Pompeii., women connected cowries with the womb and Goddess energy (which is not entirely incorrect, as the cowrie is associated with Mami Wata) and wore them as necklaces to ensure their fertility. In traditional Japan, women hold cowries during childbirth to help the progress. It is to be noted that the association between female sexual organs and the cowrie shell is a modern concept and has no basis in spirituality or African culture."*4
*1&4 Latranei Gaibole The untold history of the Cowrie shell
*2 &3 Naba Lamoussa Morodenibig interviwed by Latranei Gaibole in The untold history of the Cowrie shell