Pagan appreciation of jewellery differs from the average because all who follow earth based spirituality have a relationship and appreciation of our planet. Lithics whether precious or just rocks are gifts from Mother earth,. Hence pagan appreciation of gemstones is for their healing virtues rather than vanity; in short we wear our jewellery to heal and enhance, not to follow fashion.
I have always questioned the ‘New Age’ label given to ‘ Crystal healing’ when it was in fact humanity’s earliest embrace of medicine. Archaeological study perpetuated this notion then I wrote my MA thesis about the use of lithics as amulets from the Early Neolithic until the Roman occupation. By amalgamating aspects of spirituality and human appreciation of a Divine, plus aspects of ancestry and inheritance, together with the encoded significance of symbolism and colour appreciation my research established a plausible biography of lithic appreciation from huge communal static monolith to tiny personal portable amulet.
A great volume of lapidarium evidence comes from the archaeological enquiry and appreciation of intaglios, the partnership of gemstone and engraved symbolism to make an amulet, usually set in a ring and worn on the finger. Previous enquiry by Martin Henig, focused upon the Roman occupation of Britain , established a common association of particular topics with particular gemstones. Close examination of detail provided him with plausible evidence of home production here in Britain , hitherto intaglios were thought to have been imported, a direct result of the invasion. This evidence of native British intaglios strengthened the enquiry because it demonstrated the powerful influence of fashion within behavior, and an indicator of the success of Romanization. Although acknowledging a possible mystical intent Henig’s research substantiated culturally shared preferences regarding symbolism and gemstones, and did not examine the amulet value therein.
By establishing a credible argument that substantiates the healing abilities of lithics 'Crystal Healing' is rightly elevated from ‘Hippie’ ‘New Age’ fad, to universal primordial wisdom. However to understand our inheritance and appreciate how lithics heal is hard for the modern mind, taught from childhood to appraise things logically and scientifically. Thus to understand the concept of 'amulet' we need to deconstruct its meaning from its ancient origins starting well over 5,000 years ago when there was a multicultural evolutionary embrace of minerals globally shared (Reinbacher 2003,v). When researching this time bracket it is necessary to incorporate ethnology, anthropology, archaeology, etymology, geology and natural history (ibid), and logic dictates that the breadth of material gathered is greatly simplified if the term amulet and talisman are treated synonymously, for clearly they have evolved to the same meaning despite the controversy as to the origin of the ancient practice, (Dickie 2003, 24). As the use of the word talisman is not seen initially in ancient Classical Greek, etymological speculation suggests that it has origins in Arabic, telesma meaning incantation (Luck 1955, 19) which was so often an integral part of amulet creation and hamalat signifying ‘something that hangs’ (ibid). In Greek early amulets were referred to as periapta and periammata , ‘things tied around’ (Gager 1992, 220). Theophrastus in the fourth century BC writing his lapidarian discusses stones with, “certain powers”, and “for this reason people carry seals made of it” (Theo. OS,.24); providing proof that the ancient Greeks had faith in the use of amulets. Within his short ‘On Stones’ many named minerals are mentioned as “remarkable in powers” (ibid.), such attributions obviously being more than mere visible physicalities would imply, although unrecorded, knowledge of medical and magical application.
All surviving ancient literature bears testimony to the global exchange of early information verifying the use of amulets as universal (Gager 1992, 220), and place of origin as Alexandria, arguably the most important medical centre in the ancient world (King 2001, 26). It was a busy cosmopolitan port where all manner of peoples precipitated multilateral exchange, equating in a mixed citizenry with indefinable cultural identity (Rauh 2003, 85). Within this buoyant multiracial environment the concept of amulet was adopted, becoming a derivative of amalgamated magical, medical and religious beliefs (Kent 2004); first within oral tradition then later reflected within written literature (Betz 1992, xlviii).
Although to us seemingly indistinguishable from magic and sorcery, to the ancient Greeks amulets were acceptable medical practice from the fifth century BC (Dickie 2001, 25), used for everything from issues of health, though to response to curses and the course of fate (Flint 1999, 51). Through time and human progress their form has evolved, ever fulfilling cultural demands, yet whether beads , pendant, or ring, their ethos remains constant, perceived as Goddess gifts of positivity, bestowed to combat life’s negativities (Dickie 2001, 25).
A vast array of beliefs exists regarding earth magic, emanating from the once primordial universal embrace of Earth Mother, the Goddess present within all of creation (Gimbutas 1999, 45), placed magic and wisdom firmly in woman.. Residue of these beliefs, combined with cultural changes from matriarchy to patriarchy explains the inevitable conflict of old ideas clashing with new and offers explanation regarding gender confrontation. Within the polytheistic societies of ancient Greece and Rome, belief in the supernatural changed to many gods, combined also with heroes, witches and demons, heralding condemnation of female intellect (Phillips 2002, 378) abundantly evident in surviving myths. The gender encumbrances of ancient Greece did greatly lessened by Roman times, evidence suggests Roman culture was not so misogynous, and magic was perceived as an art based upon medicine, astrology and religion (Tavenner 1916, 7). Amulets were accredited with spiritual, magical and medical virtues, but it is impossible to draw clear distinction between the three, since the wearers and craftsmen made no clear distinction themselves (Scarisbrick & Henig 2003,8).
Having established the ancient use of lithics for well being, right through to modern times it is now high time we accredited it proper status within holistic healing.
Having expounded the why and wherefore it is now time to answer the question ‘how’. There are many methods of crystal healing, just as there are many ways to use herbs, but the fundamental requisite is that the lithics chosen are well suited for aiding the alleviation of the wearer's health requisites. This is not as simple as it sounds because often there are several that could do the job; in order to find the best lithic the recipient should allow their vision to influence, for one’s eyes instinctively know what one’s body instinctively.
But how do they work? I hear you ask impatiently. Pagan belief teaches that we are wrought of this earth, part of the vast circle of life, destined to return back into the cauldron, where we are healed and rejuvenated, until the next time. All physical matter has a crystalline molecular pattern, the physicalities of the human body are no exception, and can be best observed through pathology, where decomposition has occurred. With this information matching organs can be aligned to the care of matching lithics. Items of jewellery should reflect the wearer’s personal preferences, it really doesn’t matter, however physical contact is a necessity and specific location on the body does help maximize the healing abilities.
Dickie M, 2001, Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World, London, Routledge.
Gager J, 1992, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from he Ancient World, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
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Gimbutas M, 2001, The Living Goddesses, London, University of California Press.
Gurudas, 1995, Gem Elixirs and Vibrational healing, Vol.1, San Rafael,, CA, Cassandra Press
Henig M, 1971, Gemstones and other Jewellery’ in Cunliffe 1971, 83-92.
Henig M, ‘Intaglios from Castlesteads and the Roman fort at Kirkbridge’, Transactions of Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society Vol. LXXII, 1972.
Henig M, 1874, A Corpus of Roman Engraved Gemstones from British Sites ,BAR 8 (i)
Henig M, 1986, ‘A Roman Intaglio from London’, London & Middlesex Archaeology 37, 1986.
Henig M, 1978, A Corpus of Roman Engraved gemstones from British sites, BAR 8; revised 1987, Oxford, Banbury.
King, H, 2003, Greek and Roman Medicine, Bristol, Bristol Classical Press.
Rauh N, 2003, Merchants, Sailors and Pirates in the Roman World, Stroud, Tempus Publishing’s
Reinbacher W, 2003, Healing Earths: The Third Leg of Medicine, A History of Minerals in Medicine, Toronto, 1stBooks.
Scarisbrick D, & Henig M, 2003, Finger Rings, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum.
Theophrastus c.315 BC ‘On Stones’ ;Trans. 2nd nd. Caley & Richards, 1956, Columbus, Ohio State University Press
Written by Allison Beldon-Smith