Snail and Slug Symbolism; Snail's Messages for You

The snail's shell is a beautiful representation of the life, death, and rebirth cycle.
The snail's shell is a beautiful representation of the life, death, and rebirth cycle. | Source

The Humble Snail

The snail is one of those creatures that not everyone finds pleasant. Children usually find them entertaining or curious, but adults are often displeased to find a snail in their yard or garden. With the use of pesticides and other chemicals, many adults are happy to rid their property of the humble, slow snail. While snails and slugs can be a "pest" to certain plant-life, their presence on one's property usually brings a message of some kind to the inhabitants. Do you know what those messages are?

Let's learn a little about the humble snail and it's history as we look through the ages passed. While the snail might be considered a nuisance in modern times to those who don't pay attention, there are those of us who are ready to learn of the snail's deep spiritual symbolism and beginnings and how these can be applied to our lives today.

Snail Symbolism

Snails symbolize many deep and powerful things that most of us might not realize. These little crawlers are more in-depth than ever imagined. Keep in mind that not only are there land snails, but there are also sea snails so in this regard this species bridges the gap between elements. And any animal that bridges the gap between two elements bridges the gap between the mundane and the spiritual worlds.

A snail symbolizes:

  • bridging the gap between the element of Earth and Water
  • the spiral or cycle of life, death, and rebirth
  • the earth's rotation around the sun
  • carrying one's home with them
  • taking one's time and enjoying life at a slower pace
  • Amun - ancient Egyptian ram-god
  • Tecciztecatl - ancient Aztec god
  • Fertility, abundance, things coming to fruition

First, if we look at the snail, what do we notice first? It's shell, of course! Most snails have a spiral shell that in itself holds much symbolism. The spiral to many ancient cultures represented the cycle of life, death, and rebirth...the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. In the spiral one could see the very essence of the Universe...of time itself.

The snail is a rather slow creature, taking its time going where he pleases. While some see the snail as being lazy, there is a positive trait behind taking one's time. If we are to rush everything in life, how will we be able to appreciate the small things? The snail is slow and steady and appreciates the path that he is on...not solely focused on where he is going.

At closer look and thought, we realize that the snail carries his defense mechanism on his back...his home, if you will. The snail's spiral shell acts as a mobile home to the ever-moving snail. It also acts as a protector in times of danger. The snail knows how to employ his own body's resources in order to defend himself against predators and dangerous species.

Before Christianity used the snail as a symbol of the deadly sin of sloth, other ancient cultures saw the snail as sacred. To the ancient Greeks, the snails keyed them in as to when the crops were ready to harvest. They represented fertility and fruition of hard work. The snail was also a symbol used frequently in ancient Mesoamerican cultures.

Tecciztecatl, Quetzalcoatl & Snails in Ancient Aztec Culture

The ancient Aztecs of Mesoamerica saw the snail as a sacred being in that its shell represented the cycle of life. This belief is supported by artwork, paintings, drawings, and carvings in ancient places that include the spiral shell of the snail. The snail's shell can also be seen carried on the god Tecciztecatl's back. Tecciztecatl was a lunar deity (a god of the moon), and he carried a shell on his back because the Aztecs associated the snail with the moon. Just as the snail retreats into its shell, the moon retreats into the depths of the ocean.

Quetzalcoatl is another Aztec god closely associated with the sacred snail. He wore the spiral shell as a symbol on his chest, and therefore knew the secrets of reincarnation and the cycles of the Universe and of the gods.

In the picture below, you can see the panthers are holding the spiral snail shell and using it as a horn.

Each jaguar is holding a trumpet made of a snail's shell on this ancient Mesoamerican wall.
Each jaguar is holding a trumpet made of a snail's shell on this ancient Mesoamerican wall. | Source
Slugs are the homeless version of the snail, and as such hold much symbolism.
Slugs are the homeless version of the snail, and as such hold much symbolism. | Source

Slug Symbolism

Some find the humble snail as a kind of cute being, but mention slugs and they might go running for the hills...or go running for the pesticides! To many gardeners and to the general public, slugs are slimey nasty pests. But to those of us who know better, we see the slug as an important symbol...

Looking at the symbolism of the slug in various cultures, we can see that the slug was not always considered a nuisance but actually an ethereal being with healing powers. Some of the Native Americans used slugs to heal a toothache by allowing them to squirm around in their mouths. Apparently they believed that the trail the slug leaves behind has healing properties to it.

The slug is also considered a hermaphroditic animal and is therefore considered to embody both the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine. Because of this, the slug is more a spiritual being than an earthly being. Great balance and strength is also a message that the slug can bring to its beholder. They are able to mate with any other slug and produce hundreds of offspring, and therefore also represent great fertility.

I used to see slugs as being snails that are "between homes" (shells) but I realized that slugs are actually different species than snails...they don't need a mobile home. They are strong without it. The slug is also connected to shamans of certain cultures because during mating the slug sometimes loses a part of its body, just as the shaman loses a part of himself in order to transition into the spiritual world.

This snail has a sense of humor!
This snail has a sense of humor! | Source

The Snail or Slug's Messages For You

What the snail and the slug have to say will differ for each person they come to. For me, the snail represents me in a way. I am slow to do things, but I am steady and stable. I also have a hard shell that I tend to retreat into when I feel the need to defend myself. When snails come to us with a message, we have to examine the situation in which he is coming to us. Are we finding a new path in life? Does the snail's presence tell us we are ready to "come out of our shell"?

How about the slug? The slug appears to some as lesser than the snail, but if we see the slug's strength and extraordinary physical abilities we know better. Is the slug appearing to you to encourage you to be strong and steady in your path? Or is the slug appearing to you to tell you its time to start a family? To be fertile and spread your seed over the earth? Perhaps the slug is prompting you to become one with your spirituality, to embrace the masculine and feminine within yourself and within everyone else.

Participate in a poll:

Which of the two have appeared to you with a message?

  • The snail.
  • The slug.
  • Both.
See results without voting

© 2013 Author Nicole Canfield

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Comments 8 comments

anniegolightly 2 weeks ago

Wonderful article - thank you so much for posting!

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 11 months ago from the Ether Author

Snakesmum - That's awesome! I'd love to hear what you learn from these little creatures. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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Snakesmum 11 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Very interesting article - I've never thought about slugs and snails in this way before. There are plenty of snails in my garden, so perhaps I'd better study them a little more closely. I may learn something!

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kittythedreamer 15 months ago from the Ether Author

Kate - Yes, the snail can be a very unique means of bringing someone a message from Spirit. I love snails!

Kate Nelson profile image

Kate Nelson 15 months ago

Hi Kittythedreamer, I came across this article when "googling" the meaning of snails after I saw a formation of clouds shaped like a snail and then sat watching a bird beat a snail out of its shell and fly off with it. The previous day I had read an article about summoning angels and although I did not actively summon an angel, I did ask for a sign. I believe that the snail was given to me as a sign and does relate to things that I am experiencing in my life. Thank you for a well written article.

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WiccanSage 2 years ago

Interesting! Not animals that are often covered, this is great. As much as I love wolves, big cats, birds of prey and dolphins, I do get tired of hearing of the same popular animals over and over. Next time I see one of these critters in the garden I'm going to give it some consideration.

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kittythedreamer 2 years ago from the Ether Author

Hello, FlourishAnyway. Thank you for reading!

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FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

This is clever and different, and I liked it.

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    Author Nicole Canfield (kittythedreamer)1,887 Followers
    440 Articles

    Kitty has been communicating with her spirit guides for over a decade. She uses the lessons she's learned through them to write about them.

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