Puns in Animalia, the Cowrie Laughs and Shows Teeth

I had this deck out on the weekend, cross-referencing the shells in my book Wildlife of Chile, with those in this deck. In order to cross-check them I had to put all 200 cards from the Ocean Oracle in alphabetical order by Latin name. That was a lot of fun.

There are many cowries in this deck and I was telling my husband this as I put them all in order (Cypraea this and that) and a while later I was blathering on about some other shell and he made a joke about how it might be a Cypraea. I laughed and laughed. My husband has that quiet, wry U.K. sense of humour and manages to zing me subtly. Whenever I get irritated because he hasn’t heard me and won’t admit it because of his hearing loss, he replies “Pardon?” And that makes me laugh and laugh until I cry.

Hey, I don’t get out much.

Idol’s Eye Cowrie
(Cypraea asellus)
“Seeing things that other people don’t; intuition.”


Indiana Jones and I found this on the ocean floor near east Africa while diving. These can grow up to 31 mm but are typically 15 mm. Underneath they have teeth. As a symbol in Africa, the folded vulva-shape of the shell underneath represents female strength and fertility. I thought that might tie nicely into intuition similar to the High Priestess in tarot. Watch out for the teeth of the fertile female.

The more accepted name today is Palmadusta asellus or Palmadusta asellus asellus.

These are commonly called sea snails and are used as jewellery, and were used as currency in Africa, China and probably elsewhere. Interestingly, the Chinese character for money is said to have some from a cowrie shell because of this ancient shell-money.


Obviously the stripes inside the main shape represent the stripes in a cowrie shell. I was a bit puzzled by the little legs on the character until one site I was looking at said if you turn the ancient Chinese symbol for this upside down, it looks like a shell on a rope; they used to drill holes in the shells and hang them on necklaces, so that could be where the stylized dashes at the bottom come from. Another site said the dashes at the bottom represent the feelers of the live cowrie, which is probably more likely—we could say these interpretations are two sides of the coin!

That fits in well with intuition doesn’t it? What you see and what is really there sometimes has to be intuited. I love that extra information about the Chinese character with this.

So, I shall keep my intuitive senses alert today.


Lots of fun today in the Animalia Kingdom.




2 thoughts on “Puns in Animalia, the Cowrie Laughs and Shows Teeth

  1. Ha ha, having just spent a couple of weeks unpacking and cataloguing all my tarot and oracle decks, I can see the fun in alphabetising those ocean cards. Love all the extra info you pulled in – fascinating stuff 🙂

    • Thanks Chloe, I’ve been keeping a visual database for several years–it makes a difference to have this kind of catalogue, especially when you get a few.

      Not that you and I would have a lot of decks mind you. (huge guffaw)

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