Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
The Legend of the Sand Dollar
There are many legends surrounding the Sand Dollar, but my favourite has to be that they are the coins of mermaids, who accidentally drop them, and which are then washed ashore on stormy nights.
These small, round and fragile white discs are very collectable, and beachcombers all over the Gulf Coast can be found searching for them, stooped over the shoreline, seeking these little skeletons. The best places to find sand dollars are on the Gulf Coast, round Captiva.
The Sand Dollar is actually the skeleton of a small marine creature, related to the starfish, the sea cucumber, the sea urchin and the sea lily. It has a fascinating petal pattern on it, which are made by five sets of pores on the upper surface. These are actually pores which sea water moves in and out of, allowing it to move.
Several of the legends tell of 5 little doves, hidden inside the sand dollar. These are often difficult to find as you need to break open the sand dollar. In fact they are the 5 jaws of the sand dollar, joined together in a circle, which, when broken apart, become individual dove-shaped pieces. I have only seen a picture of this, but they are remarkably like little birds.
Another legend is that it is a Christian symbol, and these anonymous poems describe its significance:
There’s a pretty little legend
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of Jesus
Found in this lowly shell.
If you examine closely,
You’ll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one
Made by a Roman’s Spear.
On one side the Easter Lily,
Its centre is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
And led them from afar.
The Christmas poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday
Our Happy Christmastide.
Now break the centre open
And here you will release
The five white doves waiting
To spread Goodwill and Peace.
This simple little symbol,
Christ left for you and me
To help us spread the Gospel
Through all eternity.
Upon this odd-shaped sea shell
A legend grand is told
About the life of Jesus
The wondrous tale of old.
The centre marking plainly shows
The well known Guiding Star
That led to tiny Bethlehem
The Wise Men from afar.
The Christmas flower, Poinsettia
For His Nativity
The Resurrection too is marked
The Easter Lily, see.
Five wounds were suffered by our Lord
From nails and Roman’s spear
When He died for us on the cross
The wounds show plainly here.
Within the shell, should it be broke
Five Doves of Peace are found
To emphasize the legend
So may Love and Peace abound.
It is said that Christ left the sand dollar as a symbol to help the evangelists teach the faith. The five holes commemorate the five wounds of Christ, while at the center on one side blooms the Easter Lily, and at the lily's heart is the Star of Bethlehem. The Christmas poinsettia is etched on the other side, a reminder of Christ's birth. According to this legend, if you break the centre, five white doves will be released to spread goodwill and peace.
If you visit the Gulf Beaches then look out for the Sand Dollar – but you will have to be quick, as they soon get scooped up by eagle eyed beachcombers.
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