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Curious Lore of Precious Stones - notes, part 2

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

This is a continuation of Curious Lore of Precious Stones - notes, part 1, which covered chapters one through four. The book can be read here.

None of this is a replacement for professional medical or psychological advice. Don't put strange rocks in your mouth.

This section is about stones that are thought to carry especially ill omens. It starts with opals, explaining that many people think they are unlucky.

A diamond would bring death to anyone who swallowed it. Specifically, putting one in your mouth would fracture your teeth, and swallowing one would rupture your intestines. Not sure how many times I'll need to say this, but don't put rocks in your mouth. Diamond dust was used as an attempt at poisoning food.

In India, the natural shape of the diamond would suggest its qualities. A triangular stone was said to cause quarrels, a square diamond inspired the wearer with vague terrors; a five-cornered stone had the worst effect of all, for it brought death; only the six-cornered diamond was productive of good.

Emeralds were thought to blind snakes.

Color changes in various stones are thought to be a bad omen. It could be that a lover is being unfaithful (diamond) or that some illness or accident will happen to the owner or the owner's loved ones (ruby and others).

Regarding the onyx, Aristotle said: Those who are in the land of China fear this stone so much that they dread to go into the mines where it occurs; hence none but slaves and menials, who have no other means of gaining a livelihood, take the stone from the mines. When it has been extracted, it is carried out of the country and sold in other lands. Those men of the Magreb also who are gifted with any wisdom will not wear an onyx or place it in their treasuries. Indeed, no one is willing to wear it, unless he be bereft of his senses; for whosoever wears it, either set in a ring or in any other way, will have fearful dreams and be tormented by a multitude of doubts and apprehensions; he will also have many disputes and lawsuits. Lastly, whoever keeps an onyx in his house, or places it in a vessel, or puts it in food or drink, will suffer loss of energy and capacity.

Red coral, if worn directly on the skin, would become pale when the wearer was ill or poisoned.

Rubies were thought to be formed when lightning struck a place, due to their brilliant red color (lightning being "fire from heaven.")

Many luminous stones are brought up from legends, but the exact types of stones are not named. Glowing stones have been symbols of divinity, gratitude, and other such positive qualities. While the types of stones are not stated, we do know now that some stones are luminescent and phosphorescent. Rubies do seem to be mentioned often in this regard, but it's uncertain if even these stones were actually rubies.

Scrying is a form of divination that uses polished/reflective surfaces. The gazer will stare at the surface until "the [surface] seems to disappear and a mist rises before the gazer’s eye," after which the gazer will see a vision of sorts. The text explains that this is likely a result of the optic nerve becoming fatigued.

The author goes on to describe mirrors that show the future or different locations during the present. In the English-speaking world, we're very familiar with these items from fairytales, but magic mirrors and similar items have been in folklore from various places all over the world.

In today's world, the "crystal ball" we think of tends to be clear quartz. However, older societies seemed to prefer polished spheres of beryl. An excerpt from the text:

That the beryl produced a greater number of these visions than any other mineral was the old belief which is still upheld in some quarters to-day; one scryer, indeed, asserts that his clearest and most satisfactory visions were seen in a cube of blue beryl, the beautiful color appearing to dispose the soul to a harmonious unfolding of its latent aptitudes.

("Blue beryl" could indicate aquamarine, and I would assume a gemmy variety would be used for its translucency. However, that is my own speculation and not something mentioned in the book.)

On how the images are perceived in the scrying surface:

Some believe that the image perceived in this way takes form on the surface of the mirror, but they are mistaken. The diviner looks at this surface fixedly until it disappears, and a curtain, like a mist, is interposed between him and the mirror. Upon this curtain are designed the forms he wishes to see, and this permits him to give indications, either affirmative or negative, concerning the matter on which he is questioned. He then describes his perceptions as he has received them. The diviners, while in this state, do not see what is really to be seen (in the mirror); it is another kind of perception, which is born in them and which is realized not by sight but by the soul.

- Ibn Kaldoun

Instructions for creating a specific type of scrying stone:

Procure of a lapidary a good, clear, pellucid crystal of the bigness of a small orange,—i.e., about one inch and a half in diameter; let it be globular, or round each way alike; then you have got this crystal fair and clear, without any clouds or specks. Get a small plate of pure gold to encompass the crystal round one-half; let this be fitted on an ivory or ebony pedestal. Let there be engraved a circle round the crystal; afterwards the name: Tetragrammaton. On the other side of the plate let there be engraved, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, which are the four principal angels ruling over the Sun, Moon, Venus, and Mercury.

- Abbot Tritheim, master of Cornelius Agrippa

John of Salisbury claimed to have been taught by a priest to gaze into his fingernails, which the priest would polish with a consecrated oil or ointment. John stated that he never saw anything there, but another boy with him often did see shadowy figures.

In many cases discussed in this section of the book, young boys are used as the seer. It was (and still is today) thought that children are more receptive to such messages than adults.

Using crystals to scry seems to be a fairly universal concept. Several different cultures are cited in this section.

The book then lists some recommendations for would-be scryers.

Among the instructions given to a would-be crystal gazer, the question of a proper and wholesome diet is not overlooked, as anything which tends to disturb the serenity of the organism will also interfere with the due exercise of the special clairvoyant faculty that expresses itself in crystal visions. A curious special recommendation made by one of the exponents of the art is that good results can be had by drinking an infusion of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), or of chicory (Cichorium intybus), because of their tonic and antibilious qualities. Moreover, we are told that these herbs are under the influence of the zodiacal sign Libra, the sign controlling the virtues of the beryl. Above all the portion of the lunar month when the moon is on the increase is said to be far the best season for scrying, as the old astrologers recognized an affinity between the moon and rock-crystal.

The author adds:

The proper use of the crystal is the prime factor in the art of scrying and great attention is paid to this point by all those who treat seriously of the subject. Among other things they recognize that freedom from pain, or even from a sense of physical discomfort, is quite essential, for the mind must assume a purely passive and receptive attitude, and not be forced to take cognizance of bodily discomfort. Moreover the nervous system must be in repose, for which reason a reasonable time should be allowed to lapse after taking a meal, before trying for crystal visions.

Here are some further instructions for crystal-gazing.

A method that has been recommended to crystal-gazers is to place the crystal on a table, protect it from the reflections of surrounding objects by means of a velvet screen, and set seven candlesticks with wax tapers in front of the screen. The tapers are then to be lighted, the room being otherwise in perfect darkness, and the would-be scryer is to seat himself comfortably before the table, laying his hands flat upon it, and to gaze fixedly upon the crystal for half an hour or longer. The light from the tapers will certainly ensure a multitude of light points in the crystal. That the molecules forming the sphere may always remain en rapport with the gazer, he is advised to put it beneath his pillow when retiring to rest.

The crystal gazer is strongly advised by some to limit the duration of his experiment at first to five minutes, during which he is to avoid thinking of anything in particular while keeping his eyes fixed intently upon the ball, but without any undue straining of attention.

That section was pretty long, so I think this is where I'll stop for part 2. I'll have part 3 up soon, probably next Sunday.

Stay safe!

- me

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