Learning the meaning of the Santiago shell is neither easy nor conclusive, since there is a wide diversity of opinions on its origins related to the pilgrimage to Santiago.
What is certain is that the scallop shell was renamed as the Santiago Shell because, when pilgrims arrived to Santiago, they were given a certificate which confirmed their pilgrimage. In addition, the scallop shell has been worn by pilgrims to show proof of their stay in Santiago. Back in their hometown there was no doubt of their achievements and personal merits. This is how the scallop shell became the “pilgrim’s shell”, and it started to signify the culmination of the pilgrimage to Santiago.
In fact, a huge market for the sales of the scallop shell existed in the city of Santiago during ancient times. And all sales outside the walls of the city were totally forbidden under penalty of excommunication for the Catholic Church.
All sorts of the scallop shell, brought from the beaches of Galicia, were sold in different stores in Santiago. But also, a wide diversity of small shells, made from different materials was sold as souvenirs and lucky charms for the pilgrims’ friends and family.
From the religious point of view, shells are said to mean good actions, therefore, since the pilgrims wear the shell, they must comply with god’s commandments.
There is another possible meaning; the scallop shell could be seen as a symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory. Meaning the rebirth and transformation of a person, his resurrection or overcoming his selfishness and egocentricity.