Pecten, I’m just a mollusk…

Pecten is a genus of large scallops, marine bivalve mollusks in the family Pectinidae. 

Pecten shells or scallops are among the most popular group of mollusks for seashell collectors because of their wide variety of forms and colors. There are nearly 500 different recent species known, divided in 4 families. They all conform to the general pattern of 2 valves with an almost round outline, ribs radiating like a Roman comb and two ears on each side of the shell.

Throughout antiquity, scallops and other hinged shells have symbolized the feminine principle. 

Outwardly, the shell can symbolize the protective and nurturing principle. 

Inwardly, the “life-force slumbering within the Earth”, an emblem of the vulva. 

Many paintings of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and fertility, included a scallop shell in the painting to identify her. This is evident in Botticelli’s classically inspired 15th century painting, ‘The Birth of Venus’. One of my top favorite paintings. 

One legend of the Way of St. James, holds that the route was seen as a sort of fertility pilgrimage, undertaken when a young couple desired to bear offspring. The scallop shell is believed to have originally been carried, therefore, by pagans as a symbol of fertility.

Alternatively, the scallop resembles the rising/setting sun, which was the focus of the pre-Christian Celtic rituals of the area. 

Hope you enjoyed these tidbits about scalloped shells. See you next time!