The Mystery of Shells



The winkle is a mollusk that lives in deep sea waters. In Portuguese, the name comes from “buzina (horn), because they were played to attract the wind, and to call people for the selling of fish, when the boats arrived from sea.

People use them to hold doors open, and many believe they protect against bad luck. In some places, people hang them around in children’s necks, for good teething. The fishermen collect them to make whitewash. The shell is rich in magnesium, iron, calcium, and copper, having several uses in pharmacology.

Carmen Guimarães tells the case of a tourist who, listening to the story that starfish was commonly used behind the doors to attract good luck, brought her whole supply. Surprised, Carmen asked if the woman was intending to sell them, and she said no, “I will put all them behind my front door”.

Brazilian ambassador and folklorist Osvaldo Orico (1) wrote that, in the past, shells were used as a decorative item in the houses. It was a sign of good taste to have colorful shells over the furniture. The children used to listen, from its concaves, to the sound of waves and if the tides were up or down. However, this fashion soon was over, and they were removed from the houses. The transition was quick, due to the spread of a belief that all objects taken from the sea bring bad luck.

(1) Osvaldo Orico (1900-1981) - Member of the Academia Brasileira de Letras. Text from his book, “Vocabulário de Crendices Amazônicas”- Cia. Editora Nacional. Rio de Janeiro, 1937.