Was there ever a time when humans were not drawn to the sparkle of naturally occurring gemstones? We have evidence from both texts and archaeology to show us that civilisations across the world have made use of crystals in a variety of ways, and through several millennia, from adorning the symbols of power of authority figures, to healing and protecting the physical body from harm. Crystals carry their own history within their structure. Clear Quartz is said to function like a cosmic library, containing the wisdom and knowledge of the whole of creation within it, ready to be accessed by those who wish to learn.
Shungite is a truly ancient stone, at least two billion years old. It formed before organic life was established on earth and may have been instrumental in creating life on earth, it contains virtually all of the minerals within the periodic table and has remarkable life-enhancing properties such as the ability to render polluted water pure and drinkable. Shungite is found only in Keralia in Northern Russia and there is evidence to suggest that the peoples who lived near to Lake Onega in this region were aware of its health giving properties and used the purified water of the lake as a healing spa for many centuries.
The Ancient Sumerians used gemstones and crystals to make sacred artifacts and jewellery and also as part of their healing rituals. The Sumerian Goddess of love, Inanna, is depicted carrying a rod of Lapis Lazuli and wearing a necklace of these blue stones as she travelled into the underworld. It seems that the Sumerians believed that Lapis Lazuli was a protective crystal and was the preferred stone of their deities.
The Sumerian princess Puabi was buried with Carnelian and Lapis Lazuli beads covering her upper body to protect her soul on its journey to the afterlife and to invite positive energies in to counteract the forces of darkness.
We know from archaeological digs that The Ancient Romans used crystals and gemstones prolifically in their culture. Amethyst was a much prized stone because it was believed to have gained its purple color from the wine spilled by Bacchus, the Greek God associated with excessive drinking and eating. The Romans appropriated this myth, as they did with many Ancient Greek legends, and Amethyst became known as the "sobriety stone" as it was believed to guard against drunkenness and encourage abstinence. Many Roman drinking vessels are decorated with Amethysts around the rim and the base.
The Ancient Romans were also fond of Amber. They used it to adorn their weapon hilts and to afford protection to soldiers in battle. Amber was also believed to draw impurities from the body and to speed up the healing process. It was used to treat conditions of the throat, stomach, spleen and liver. It was also used as a rubbing stone to alleviate joint problems.
There is evidence that the Chinese used crystals quite extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with plants, herbs and animal parts. Jade is the obvious candidate for Chinese healing, and we know that it is used to promote kidney health in TCM. Green Jade is the best known variety, said to bring health, wealth, prosperity, abundance and happiness. However, Blue Jade is also used to promote healing of the organs of the throat and to instill peace and serenity. Brown Jade is strongly grounding and is used in TCM to help with anxiety, depression, obsessions and compulsive behavior.
How The Egyptians used Crystals
Crystals played a significant role in the traditions and culture of Ancient Egypt. They were used as cosmetics, in elixirs to increase potency and to heal various ailments, in rituals for burying the dead and, it is possible that the famous Pyramids were originally capped with Clear Quartz to encourage the channeling of cosmic energy down from the heavens and into the tombs of the pharaohs.
Clear Quartz was popular in Ancient Egypt for a variety of reasons. Pieces of this stone were often placed on the forehead of the deceased before burial in order to illuminate their path into the afterlife. Priests and royalty often carried cylinders of Clear Quartz, or placed them nearby, to balance the energies of the etheric body and keep the aura clear.
Topaz and Peridot were considered to be crystals of protection and were made into talismans and amulets to guard the wearer against the forces of darkness. It was believed that a Topaz necklace would deflect curses and ill wishes from enemies.
Lapis Lazuli was used by female royals in their cosmetics. The bright blue stones were ground into powder to use as eyeshadow, and because of the affinity of Lapis Lazuli with the Third Eye, it was believed to sharpen intuition and encourage clear thinking. Galena was also ground into powder to produce the distinctive black Kohl powder that is synonymous with an ancient Egyptian face.
Rubies were often used as navel jewellery, both by the aristocracy and by the dancing girls who performed at the pharaoh's courts in what we term belly dancing. Rubies were seen as a stone of passion and sexuality. They were, therefore, a logical choice to adorn the bodies of the sexually provocative dancing girls!
The Egyptians were fond of Turquoise and carved it into talismans, statues and exquisite pieces of jewellery. They believed that Turquoise was a supreme healer stone, providing solace for the spirit as well as healing for physical ailments. It was believed that a Turquoise ring would change colour to warn the wearer of imminent infidelity in a partner. Turquoise jewellery was often fashioned into headbands and necklaces. When worn as a headband over the forehead, the Turquoise stone was believed to enhance the intuition of the wearer and to facilitate their communication with their ancestors and other worldly entities. When Turquoise was worn as a necklace, the Egyptians believed that it cleared away the remnants of old vows and commitments that were no longer valid. They also prized it for its ability to show the wearer the path their soul would take both in this life and the hereafter.
Carnelian was used in Ancient Egypt to combat lethargy and melancholy or "world weariness". It was made into gem elixirs and also into healing stones or as decoration for belts. Carnelian was said to re-ignite an individual's passion for life and to bring joy and happiness. It was also used to combat the effects of physical exhaustion and depleted energy levels.
The Ancient Egyptians used Obsidian as a scrying stone. This highly reflective stone was believed to uncover truths hidden deep within an individual's psyche and to bring about a state of enlightenment and spiritual growth. It is a highly effective meditation stone and was used in rituals and ceremonies to connect with the hidden wisdom of the Gods. Obsidian is known to be merciless when it comes to showing an individual their own flaws, and it is likely that it was used to "purge" evil spirits from luckless individuals during a trial for crimes committed or as punishment once the verdict was delivered.
How The Incas used Crystals
The ways in which crystals have been used by different civilisations throughout history are remarkably similar, especially when we consider that there was little or no communication or crossover between the different cultures.
Common themes emerge time and again amongst indigenous peoples' use of crystals. For example, the idea that certain stones provide protection for the user on both a physical and a spiritual level seems to be universal in all societies and groupings of humans.
The Incas used several stones as protective talismans. Ruby was used by warriors to protect them from harm during battle, and Turquoise is found carved into protective amulets to guard against the influence of dark forces. Protection from evil spirits, curses and the ill wishes of jealous enemies was afforded by the wearing of a Tiger's Eye pendant or necklace.
The spirit, as much as the physical body, was deemed to be vulnerable to the forces of negativity and protection from these negative vibrations was found in a wide variety of stones, including Clear Quartz, Amethyst, Red Jasper, Citrine and Calcite.
In physical healing it is believed that the Incas, along with other indigenous peoples, ground up certain stones to be used as a kind of poultice for healing wounds and to guard against infection. They also made gem elixirs to be taken internally, from Turquoise, Rose Quartz and Jade. Jade was used to heal conditions of the kidneys and bladder and Lapis Lazuli to treat eye infections or weakness of sight.
Jasper occurs in many forms and is acknowledged as a nurturing stone. There is evidence that the Incas used Jasper to promote feelings of serenity and calm. Jasper is a "social" stone and was used in rituals and ceremonies designed to foster solidarity, support and a feeling of community between the individuals of a tribe. Jasper was made into gem elixirs to soothe and calm the mind because of its gentle action and its ability to balance the mineral content of the body.
No article about the Incas would be complete without a reference to the "Ancestor Stones" that played such a huge part in their tradition and culture. These stones formed part of every Inca settlement, and were venerated by the Inca who invested them with symbolic significance representing their deities, the ancestors and also the sun.
Three such stones were discovered by archaeologists working in Peru in 2016. the stones are conical in shape, composed of red and white Andesite, a hard rock very similar to granite, and were excavated beneath an Inca stone platform known as an ushnu. An ushnu is a sacred site, built high up in the mountains because of their vistas of snow-capped mountain peaks. These peaks were worshiped as mountain deities, and the placing of Ancestor Stones near to these sacred platforms gives us a glimpse into the veneration and awe with which the Inca regarded their ancestors. Offerings of maize beer were sometimes poured into the vertical openings in these platforms, and sometimes a child sacrifice was also made to appease angry gods when disasters, such as earthquake, drought, or disease threatened.