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Holisticonline.com

A Pearl of Mythology
By Traci Pederson

Pearls are created by mollusks, which usually have a soft body and a hard shell. They can live in freshwater or saltwater or even on land. Naturally occurring pearls are rare, around 1 in 10,000 animals. Pearls are formed when an irritant gets trapped in the soft body. The mollusk feels this object and begins to coat it with aragonite and conchiolin. This makes for a wide variety of shapes and sizes in natural pearls and perfect round is extremely rare and also a wide range of colors from white to gold to purple or black depending on the species and the environment.

Most pearl oysters live in the ocean deeper than 10 feet making the gathering of them very dangerous to the diver. Sharks, jellyfish and other hazards of deep diving made this a task usually given to slaves. Most pearls were collected from the pearl beds of the Indian Ocean and this area dominated the trade for over 4000 years.

Pearls are rare and therefore precious, some of the myths surrounding the nature of pearls has to do with raindrops, dewdrops and the moon which leads to the association of the pearl with the feminine. The Greeks associated them with love, the Goddess Aphrodite and marriage. In the East, several myths believed that pearls were created from dragons, or were drops of rain that fell into the sea and were caught by the oysters. In India, pearls were also thought to come from dew falling into the sea. Being seen as a dew or teardrop led Indian warriors to place pearls on their swords to symbolize the sorrowful tears that a sword brings. The Norse Goddess of love and procreation is Freya and pearls were seen as her congealed tears.

Pearls being what they are, an organic gem, superstitions have arisen about them. They bring health, wealth, long life and good luck to its wearer. They also ward off evil and are used frequently in love potions and charms. Not all superstitions are good though about pearls. They are also seen as unlucky for brides and that pearls in an engagement ring will bring tears to the marriage. From the earlier myths it is easy to see how the association with love and luck came about. The unlucky association with pearls is a bit harder to work but some of the peoples who gathered pearls in the past felt that the rough or misshapen pearls were bad and maybe it is from that belief the other associations come from.

"Pearls of Wisdom", is a common saying and even shares the title of some books in areas such as medicine, country living, inspiration and wisdom collections and Oriental teachings. One of the Chinese beliefs of pearls being formed in the brain of dragons, henceforth it is a symbol of great wisdom. A lot of images and lore of dragons includes them holding or protecting gems, and in order to acquire the treasure the dragon must be slayed. It is a fact that to obtain a pearl the oyster must be killed, there is a great cost to obtaining this item - a life. In order to obtain knowledge and wisdom, a person sometimes has to go through a trial, physical and/or psychological, that tests them in various ways, sometimes referred to as the "hero's journey". So a pearl of wisdom that a person achieves can come from a death of old ideas or ways and that person obtains something of great value.

We stand over the great sea of our inner selves, trying to look through the dark to see the shimmer of a pearl. Old wounds to ourselves that we have layered with time and love are waiting to be discovered and wisdom gained. Will we brave the cold sea, the dangers that lurk unseen in order to achieve this treasure?

Article written by Traci Pederson of http://www.jilloftrades.com, author and ebook reviewer. Copyright 2003.

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