I've wanted a sand dollar for ages, and was recently lucky to find a stall selling them at a crystal fair I visited with friends. I brought two, they were only small samples, but I was happy to finally find some.
I knew they were the remains of a sea creature with a beautiful star pattern on the top, but that was about the extent of my knowledge at the time. One of my friends who was with me is a sea witch and I promised her I would do some research and write a blog about sand dollars. So here it is, I hope you like it Lou.
Scientific name: Echinarachnius parma
Common names: Sand dollar, Northern sand dollar, Sea cookie, Snapper biscuit, Pansy shell
Habitat: Northern parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Element: Water and Earth
Keywords: Protection, transformation, prosperity, connection, balance, wisdom, guidance, strength, ancestors, teamwork, decisions, healing, luck and inspiration.
Sand dollars are a type of flat sea urchin related to star fish, sea cucumbers and other sea urchins. They belong to the Clypeasteroida order and have a rigid skeleton known as a 'test' which consists of calcium carbonate plates aligned in a five fold radial pattern. The test is covered by a skin of spines in a variety of colours - green, blue, brown or purple, depending on the species, these are covered in tiny hairs known as cilia which help the sand dollars to move across the sea floor and eat. The cilia sweeps up small particles of food, and once caught these tiny appendages work together to sweep the food to the mouth, which is located in the centre of the star pattern.
Sand dollars live just below or on top of sandy or muddy areas, which they can burrow into for protection, although they have very few predators. Sand dollars are not thought to be endangered at this time, but bottom trawling fishing and pollution is a danger to them, ocean pouts ( eel like fish) and sunflower starfish are known to eat them.
They tend to live in large groups and can live between 6-10 years. The unusual star design found on sand dollars is actually an arrangement of pores that move sea water and gas in and out to aid movement.
The sand dollars found on beaches are the dried out skeleton of the sea animal, bleached by the sun. They were given their name centuries ago as the resembled coins that were in use at the time. Some beachcombers in the past believed they were mermaids coins or coins from the legendary Atlantis.
Christians associate the star pattern with the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, or the star of Bethlehem. Don't let that put you off though as they make a perfect natural pentacle to go on your altar. Connected with both the elements of earth and water, sand dollars can be used in a variety of magical workings such as: protection, prosperity, strength, emotions, dreams, intuition, decisions, luck and wisdom.
Sources: Wikipedia thoughtco.com natures-blessing.org