The notion that rocks, stones and crystals might have
healing properties or mystical powers is either met with wonder or wrath. For some they are merely hunks of something
dead and inanimate, yet for others they are a living thing, whether still
connected to or disconnected from Mother Earth.
Many argue that crystal healing or the influence of the power of stones only works by the power of suggestion or the placebo effect, that the actual crystals and rocks of the earth have no beneficial powers at all. Such blanket dismissal is little more than blind ignorance, for the rocks of the earth have supplied us with substances used to promote well being, not just in the past when some ‘cures’ were quite mad and even deadly, but also substances still used today in modern medicine. Iron and calcium, for example, are elements that come from the earth (either directly or via the plants we eat) that we need to sustain our health, while other substances like lithium have found uses as medication for chemical imbalances that affect mental health. That said, whether or not crystals and rocks can ‘cure’ or ‘heal’ ailments is a hot topic of debate, and rightly so. Rocks, and the elements that they are made up of, can also be toxic to humans, as can things that seep through them. Radon gas, which seeps through granite, uranium, aluminium (found in many crystals) and lead (found in vanadinite) are all highly toxic.
People have been adorning themselves with jewellery made from stones and shells for something like 75,000 years (1). The exact purpose behind this is not known absolutely, although there are several theories; perhaps they were simply decoration to attract or keep a partner, or perhaps it was more symbolic and spiritual. It is possible that they thought those stones had powers, or could imbue their wearer with magical abilities…
The Ancient Egyptians made beads and tools from Iron that
had fallen to earth as meteorites. This
was deeply symbolic for this sky iron was thought to have magico-religious significance
and indeed many of the items shaped from it were used for religious purposes,
such as the opening of the mouth ritual, performed so that a mummified
individual could still breathe, talk and even eat after death (2).
There are several ancient
and mediaeval texts which discuss the alleged powers of stones and crystals. From
Ancient Egypt comes the Ebers Papyrus,
dated to 1550 BC, which lists a myriad of magical formulas and remedies, some
making use of gemstones and ochre clay from the earth. Some of the formulas are still in use
today. The Vedas, sacred Hindu texts that are over 5,000 years old, also
discuss similar uses for crystals. Both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine promote
various crystals, such as jade for health and emerald for luck. The Mediaeval Sefer Gematriaot discusses some properties awarded to well known
gemstones, such as emerald said to help insomnia and increase wealth, topaz for
affairs of the heart and sapphire, said to be able to cure ailments (3).
Even in the last century, during the First World War, crystals found use. Some soldiers carried gemstones or stones into war as good luck charms and bloodstone, as well as sphagnum moss, was supposedly used in dire emergencies to staunch blood flowing from wounds (don’t try that at home).
Stonehenge and other stone circles have long been associated with healing,
it is not some New Age idea, it dates back almost a thousand years. Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing in the 12th
century, stated that the stones were used for healing in Ireland, before Merlin
had them brought to Britain as a memorial for dead warriors (4). Although
modern Archaeologists have dismissed the more magical elements of the tale,
several current theories focus on Stonehenge as a centre for healing, perhaps
even a kind of Ancient ‘Healing Spa’ (5).
There is also evidence from other places of healing and fertility
rituals associated with stone monuments; children with rickets would be passed
through the holed stone at Mên-an-Tol in Cornwall in the hope of being cured (6).
Talisman and amulets were, and are, are frequently made from stones or crystals, some lovely examples are the Ancient Egyptian carved scarabs, the Jewish ‘preserving stone’ and the holed or ‘hag’ stones of traditional witchcraft. Stones can also indicate status, as the giving and receiving of an engagement ring, usually set with a gemstone, implies. Modern jewellery really isn’t that different from ancient amulets; they still have their ‘charms’ in all senses of the word. We still have the idea of birthstones, stones which are thought to bring luck to people born in a particular month or under a particular star sign.
The spiritual significance of rocks is not just limited to particular standing stones or those small, tumbled crystals sold en masse in New Age stores. Massive rocks, and even entire areas of land, also have their sacredness. The Enchanted Rock, a huge 260 hectare pink granite hill in Texas, was believed to have spiritual and magical powers by the nearby Apache and Comanche nations. In Australia, Uluru, the gigantic sandstone rock formation, is held sacred by the local Aṉangu people and has a wealth of legends associated with it. In Tibet, Mount Kailash, also known as ‘Crystal Mountain’ is considered sacred by no less than four different religions.
The whole earth, its land formations, such as mountains and valleys and its
substance such as the varied rocks all over the world are all, in their own
way, sacred. It’s down to us to rediscover,
realise and respect this.
(1) The Human Journey: A Concise Introduction to World History, by Kevin Reilly. P. 9.
(2) The Midnight Sun: The Death and Rebirth of God in Ancient Egypt, by Alan F. Alford. Pp. 209-228.
(3) Jewish Magic and Superstition, by Joshua Trachtenberg. Pp. 136-7.
(4) Historia Regum Britanniae ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’, by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Pp. 196-198.
(6) Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, by Edwin & Mona Radford. P. 200.