Symbolism of Snails
Resurrection, the Spiral, & Laziness
In Christian symbolism the snail is a symbol of the lazy or sinful person. It appeared to feed upon the mire of this world, making no effort to hunt or provide decent food for itself. Some people thought that the mud itself gave birth to snails. The psalmist pleaded with God to let the wicked be like snails which, unlike the righteous, appeared to "melt" during droughts (Psa 58:8). To move "at a snail's pace" is to move very slowly indeed. The snail's shell was equated with its house. Since it carried its "house" with it, this mollusc also became a symbol of self-sufficiency.
The shape of the snail's shell associated it with the symbolism of the spiral, the whirlwind, the labyrinth, coiled snakes, winding paths, the orbits of heavenly bodies, the ram's horn, and underground caverns. Spirals are symbols of continuity, evolution, devolution, involution, expansion, contraction, cycles, mysteries, and changes which are the natural result of all that has gone before. Beneficial spirals twirl to the right while destructive ones twirl to the left. Treasures, the self, wisdom, or Minotaurs, other beasts, and nightmares lie at the center of spirals.
As lunar and solar symbols, snails symbolize death and rebirth. Because they seal themselves in their shells during the winter or dry periods and re-emerge in the spring, snails are symbols of the stone being rolled away from the tomb of Christ and of the Resurrection.
Being linked to the cycles of the sun and the moon, the snail became a fertility symbol in many cultures. Its shell was likened to a womb. Its horns and its slimy body were symbols of both male and female sex organs and conception.
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