In all of the Polynesian islands, the Pu shell or Conch shell is a very sacred instrument used to begin ceremonies, ward off unwanted spirits, bless unions and was also used for important communication between islands in ancient times.
Particularly in Hawaii, the conch shell is a very intimate part of every ceremony, beginning the tone of the event-majestic, deep, resonant and a part of the ever-changing seas, which nourish and surround these islands.
We managed to trade old rope (a villager in Tonga had just gotten a cow!) while we were sailing the South Pacific for a beautiful huge Queen conch shell and it traveled thousands of miles with us across the sea to our final destination (for now)-Maui.
I was a bit reluctant to start drilling a hole in our fantastic, unmarred Pu shell, but I really wanted to make my own horn-making it that much more special and intimate of an instrument for our wedding ceremonies. So I researched how to drill a conch shell horn and found a very helpful video on the process.
Basically you start with a VERY small drill to make the first hole and you drill where the spiral starts on the shell. It can be a very pronounced point, or in our case a somewhat small nub where the spiral starts on the closed and largest part of the shell. Only go in about a ¼ of an inch-you don’t want to compromise the inner spiral which gives the horn it’s unique sound. Then you just keep changing the drill bit to a larger bit until you get about a ½ inch hole. I kept trying to blow a sound, and finally got the sound I wished for, stopping with about ½ inch hole (again only ¼ inch deep). Once I got the desired hole size, I carefully filed the edges of the hole until it became smooth.
Blowing the Pu shell in Hawaii is a very sacred moment; it is done with reverence, respect and the deepest of connections with the spirits of Aloha and Pono. We blow the shell to say goodbye to the setting sun; we blow the shell to begin a special ceremony or bless a union. In ancient days, the Pu shell was also used as a communication device between islands-allowing passage, permission to come ashore and sending important messages. To blow the conch shell, one must allow the spirit to flow and your intent must be very clear, making your personal connection with the spirits that guide you in such an important and ceremonial tradition.