The Practical and Spiritual Significance of the Lightning Whelk

William Marquardt, Laura Kozuch

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


We describe the biology of the left-handed lightning whelk (Busycon sinistrum) and some of the practical uses to which its shells were applied among coastal societies along the Gulf of Mexico. Then we explore the symbolic significance of sinistral snails, focusing on the lightning whelk as a metaphor of spiral/circle, fire/sun, and purification/continuity among Native Americans of the eastern North America. This particular whelk has had special spiritual value—and hence economic importance—for several millennia, particularly in the eastern United States, but its ritual importance as cultural metaphor resonates with cultures around the globe.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2015


  • ISAS


Dive into the research topics of 'The Practical and Spiritual Significance of the Lightning Whelk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this