symbolism and meaning.
The pearl is a lunar symbol, also representing water and woman. These primary meanings are seen on a universal scale, throughout mythology. They are attributes of angelic perfection, which is only achieved by transmutation, and not freely given. Pearls are rare, pure and precious, flawless and white despite being dredged from the mud, coming from a clumsy shell.
In Eastern literature, especially Persia, the pearl symbolizes virginity, and is also endowed with nobility, adorning the crowns of kings. Pearl jewelry, especially earrings, casts a shadow of this holy nobility upon the wearer. A subtle thought is called a 'pearl', 'scattering shining pearls' refers to brilliant thought, and 'threading pearls' is versification.
Pearls strung on a thread symbolize order, and pearl necklaces represent cosmic unity, a spiritual relationship between separate individuals or scattered elements. The broken necklace speaks of the disintegration of personality, universal upheaval and the destruction of unity. Ancestral lineage is sometimes seen as a string of matched pearls.
According to legend, pearls are born from a lightning flash or from a drop of dew falling into the shell; they are, at all statges of being, imprints of celestial action and embryos of physical or spiritual birth, like the bindu in the conch or the Aprhrodite-pearl in its shell. Persian myth associates pearls with primeval manifestation, the pearl in its shell being like the genie in the darkness.
Dragons are thought to keep guard over pearls at the bottom of the sea, and in ancient China, pearls were observed to 'change' with the phases of the Moon, along with other aquatic creatures.
The Ancient Greeks saw pearls as symbols of love and marriage. The Muslims enclose the faithful in Paradise within a pearl. Christianity saw the value of the pearl as representing the Kingdom of Heaven.
Gnostic Christianity saw the pearl as symbolizing the Immaculate Conception, spiritual birth and enlightenment. The pearl also represents knowledge and truth, requiring effort for their attainment and not to be cast heedlessly before those who are not worthy of it.
The pearl can also been seen as the mystical centre, symbolizing sublimation of instinct, spiritualization of matter, transfiguration of the elements and the goal of evolution.
The pearl is like Plato's spherical man, the image of the ideal perfection of human beginnings and ends.
The pearl has been used in medicine worldwide. In traditional Indian medicine, it is thought to cure many ailments, including bleeding, jaundice, madness, poisoning, and eye and lung diseases. In Europe, the pearl was used for melancholy, epilepsy and madness. The East also recognizes aphrodisiacal properties. Pearls were and still are used in burial of the dead, representing the cosmic cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth, reminiscent of lunar phases, and also representing immortality.
(For a really terrific discussion of pearls relating to Usagi, check out The Oracle, under Mythology, etc —> Gemology.)
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