Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spiritual Properties of Gems and Crystals

Exodus 28:15-21 (NIV)
(Concerning the Ephod of the High Priest)
15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 16 It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 17 Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; 18 the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 19 the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; 20 the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.

 Revelation 21:18-21 (NIV)
(Description of the New Jerusalem)
18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

1 Enoch 14:8-9 (R.H. Charles)
8. And the vision was shown to me thus: Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven. 9. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was of crystal.

Throughout the history of man, he has utilized the many gifts of God presented in His creation for many diverse reasons and purposes.  Animals, plants, and the very elements themselves of earth, air, fire and water have been used for many purposes both mundane and sanctified; for purposes both righteous and wicked.  Stones have been used to kill and to build temples, water has been used to both purify and drown, fire has been used to offer warmth and prayers and also to destroy people and places. The gifts of the mineral kingom are no exception.  Metals, stones, gems and crystals are mentioned many times in scripture and today I will be talking a bit about some of the gem stones mentioned in the Bible and some of their spiritual uses and properties.

As mentioned in Exodus 28 above, the Breastplate of the Ephod was commanded to be created to be used by the High Priest of Israel "for making decisions".  The knowledge of how exactly this was done is now lost to the ages and is a matter of much debate.  It is known that "inside" the Ephod were kept the "Urim and Thummim", which are conjectured to have been two flat stones of a sort used in some way by the High Priest to refceive a "yes" or "no" answer from God concerning a specific question.  Rabbinical theories concerning the twelve stones of the Ephod breastplate and how they functioned to transmit the information "for making decisions" varies very widely.  Conjecture has been made that they "lit up" in some order and represented particular letters of the alphabet, that they acted some way in conjunction with the Urim and Thummim, and even that they moved about into different configurations to spell out words!  There really is no way of knowing the truth behind how this communication was accomplished exactly, but it is certain that the objects were used for some sort of revelatory discernment of Divine will.

Even the coming of the New Jerusalem, the firm establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in all it's fullness, is described  in Revelation 21 as constructed of specific gem stones in a specific array and structure.  In Enoch's vision of Heaven in the apocryphal "Book of Enoch" he describes a great wall and castle made completely of crystals.  It is clear from these, and many other, references in the literature that gems and crystals hold great spiritual power and they are even commanded to be used for specific purposes of prayer and divination in certain specific circumstances.

The gems mentioned by name in the Bible comprise quite an extensive list, and the actual names vary widely from translation to translation.  In the ancient world, gems were often named only by description, e.g. the color, hardness, place of origin, etc.  This has led to much confusion and conjecture about which stones are indicated in texts of that era.  For our purposes today we will list the stones mentioned in the Bible as Agate, Amethyst, Beryl, Carbuncle, Carnelian, Chalcedony, "Chodchod", Chrysolite, "Chrsophrasus", Coral, "Crystal", "Diamond", "Emerald", Hyacinth/Jasper, "Ligurus", Onyx, "Sardonyx", Pearl, Ruby, Sapphire and Topaz.  It ought to be noted that this by no means implies that other gems and crystals are never to be used in prayer and meditation, but only that these gems are mentioned specifically.  There is no prohibition mentioned in the scriptures of the use of other gems or crystals.  As in all examinations of scripture, there is much to be said and many differing opinions and interpretations extant on this subject.  Please consider what follows here as a mere surface exploration of the matter and please feel free to delve further as your interest leads you.  Let it suffice for now to note that gems and crystals were held by the Israelites and others of their era to hold great powers of healing and spiritual use and that the Hebrew God encouraged and even commanded their use.

That being said, it is clear that twelve particular stones were very important to the Israelites, as the same stones comprised both the constituents making up the breastplate of the Ephod and the New Jerusalem.  As noted, the names vary widely from translation to translation, but the Ephod stones are listed in the following order: "Sardonyx" (perhaps red jasper or red carnelian), Chrysolite (sometimes translated as "topaz"), Beryl (sometimes translated as "emerald" but probably aquamarine), Carbuncle (sometimes translated "Ruby"), "Saphire" (probably Lapis Lazuli), "Diamond", "Jacinth/Hyacinth" (perhaps amber), Agate, Amethyst, Topaz (sometimes translated Chrysolite), Onyx (perhaps Malachite), and Jasper.  Much of the confusion concerning the true nature of these stones is due to the archaic nature of many of the original Hebrew words.  Many of them refer simply to a description of the color of the stone.  Because of what we know concerning which stones would probably have been available in that place and time and what would have been able to be engraved, it is extremely doubtful that the modern translations referring to rubies, emeralds and diamonds are at all accurate.  The same twelve stones are listed in a completely different order in the description of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelations (which may have some numerological purpose) but there is no commonly held belief about the meaning of this.  There is certainly a lot of mystery regarding these stones, but again what is clear is that they were considered rather important.

I will discuss these twelve stones briefly and, for the sake of brevity, I will leave the discussion of the other Biblical stones for a later article.

SARDONYX was probably Sard or Red Carnelian; either that or Red Jasper.  The stones are associated with each other at any rate.  Revelation 4:2-3 (NIV1984) reads "At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of Jasper and Carnelian..."  Both stones are considered "power" stones that lead to action and actualization, which makes sense in the first position of the Ephod.  Sardonyx was said to be a stone of protection and strength, promoting virtuous conduct and integrity. Sardonyx attracts friends and good fortune, bringing lasting happiness and stability to partnerships. It is said to supplement willpower and strengthen character. Sardonyx increases stamina, vigor and self-control, alleviates depression and overcomes hesitancy.  It improves perception.  It is associated with the tribe of Reuben and the astrological sign of Aquarius.

CHRYSOLITE is in the second position of the Ephod.  There is much confusion regarding the identities of Chrysolite and Topaz in the Bible literature, and each is translated as the other amongst many versions of scripture!  Although it is called "Topazion" in the Greek, it most likely refers to what we now know as Chrysolite.  This is likely because topazion is named for the island, Topazios, located in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt, where the gemstone Peridot (known as Chrysolite) was mined.  Chysolite is another "power stone" that brings emotional healing to the heart.  The Chrysolite stone was believed to be a powerful cleanser. It releases and neutralises toxins on all levels; alleviating jealousy, resentment, spite, bitterness, irritation, hatred and greed. It therefore reduces stress, anger and guilt. Chrysolite opens our hearts to joy and new relationships. It enhances confidence and assertion, motivating growth and change. It sharpens and opens the mind to new levels of awareness and banishes lethargy, apathy and exhaustion.  It is associated with the tribe of Simeon and the sign of Pisces. 

BERYL means "greenish" and is sometimes translated as "Emerald".  The Septuagint Greek word "Smaragdos" means "sparkling or shiny".  It could mean either Emerald or Aquamarine, but the Aquamarine was much more common in that time and place.  Aquamarine is a stone said to bring forth inner peace and healing (both physical and mental).  Aquamarine is a stone of courage. Its calming energies reduce stress and quiet the mind. Aquamarine has an affinity with sensitive people. It can invoke tolerance of others and overcome judgmentalism, giving support to those overwhelmed by responsibility. It clarifies perception, sharpens the intellect and clears confusion. It is useful for closure on all levels. It promotes self-expression, soothes fears and increases sensitivity. It sharpens intuition and opens clairvoyance and is wonderful for meditation. It shields the aura and aligns the chakras.  It is associated with the tribe of Levi and the sign of Libra. 

CARBUNCLE is a deep red stone found in the East Indies. When held up to the sun, it loses its deep tinge and becomes the color of a burning coal.  The Latin translation of the Septuagint's Greek term "Anthrax" ("coal") refers to the color of burning coal.  The translation as "Ruby" is considered spurious, as it would not be found in that time and place.  At any rate, the name Carbubcle comes from a time when gemstones were named by their color, so any red stone (a garnet, red sapphire, red garnet, etc.) could be referred to as a Carbuncle.  The red garnet is perhaps the best guess due to it's commonality in the region.  Red Garnet has qualities of physical healing, especially of wounds.  Garnet cleanses and re-energises the chakras. It revitalises, purifies and balances energy, bringing serenity or passion as appropriate. It inspires love and devotion, balances the sex drive and alleviates emotional disharmony. It activates and strengthens the survival instinct, bringing courage and hope and it opens the heart and bestows self-confidence.  It is associated with the tribe of Judah and the sign of Leo.

LAPIS LAZULI and Sapphire were both referred to by the same name in ancient times, but as Lapis is more suitable for engraving (and the twelve Ephod stones were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel) Lapis is most likely indicated.  It has been highly prized for a very long time and, in fact, the most famous locality for fine quality Lapis Lazuli is to this day located in the same ancient deposit high in the mountains of Afghanistan where it was originally mined at least 6000 years ago!  It is said to bring forth wisdom and knowledge and protect against dark forces.  A stone of protection that may be worn to guard against psychic attacks, Lapis Lazuli quickly releases stress, bringing deep peace. It brings harmony and deep inner self-knowledge, encourages self-awareness, allows self-expression and reveals inner truth, providing qualities of honesty, compassion and morality to the personality. It stimulates objectivity and clarity and encourages creativity. Lapis Lazuli assists one in confrontation and speaking one’s truth and inspires confidence. It bonds relationships, aiding in expression of feelings and emotions.  It is associated with the tribe of Zebulon and the sign of Virgo.

The true nature of the stone commonly translated as Diamond is very uncertain.  The only thing generally agreed upon by modern scholars is that it was almost certainly not a Diamond.  The word "Yahalom" of the Masoretic text appears to be connected with the Hebrew meaning "strike hard" and possibly with the word "Hallamish" meaning "flint".  Hallamish is in turn connected to the Assyrian word "Elmeshu", referring to a precious stone which was hard, and possibly white, or at least with an insignificant color.  The Septuagint word is "Onychion", the Greek term for Onyx, but onyx was not mined prior to the era of classical Greece. Onyx is derived from the Greek for fingernail, due to it's pink-white veining.  All of this, of course, leads some to translate the words as "Diamond", which is certainly a hard, whitish stone.  However, Diamonds were too hard to be engraved with the tools and knowledge that the Israelites had at their disposal.  In fact, Diamonds were not very well known among the ancients.  There is some etymological similarity between the Egyptian word "Asmir" (meaning "emery") and the Hebrew word "Shmyr" that is often translated as "Diamond".  The "Asmir" stone refers to a type of CORINDON used to polish precious stones, and so perhaps a clear form of CORINDON, possibly from India, is indicated.  This is by no means certain, however it seems to me to be the best guess for a hard, whitish/clear stone that is engravable that might be somewhat commonly found in that time and place.  Whatever the true identity of the "Diamond" stone was, we could imagine that the clarity, brightness and hardness of the stone would exhibit qualities of an elevated spiritual nature, clarity and strength.  We do know that the associated tribe for the stone placed in the sixth position was Issachar and the associated sign was Cancer.

AMBER is perhaps the best guess for the seventh stone.  The words "Leshem" (in the Masoretic text) and "Ligurios" (in the Septuagint) both refer to places (Leshem and Liguria).  The Roman writer Pliny described the Ligurios as having certain electrical properties, which a number of scholars have taken to imply that it referred to Amber because it was one of the first items to have been discovered to have electrical properties.  (The Greek word for amber is in fact "elektron").  Other Jewish scholars indicate Jacinth (or Hyanith), a similarly orange or reddish Zircon.  At any rate, both stones are said to relieve pain and encourage longevity.  Amber is said to provide the wearer with the quality of decisiveness. It strengthens memory and intellect and helps with emotional calming and centering. It is an excellent grounding crystal, and transmutes negative energy to positive.  The position of the stone places it in association with the tribe of Dan and the sign Scorpio.

The AGATE mentioned in the breastplate is almost universally agreed upon to be, in fact, Agate and it is translated thusly in the vast majority of transaltions in all languages.  Agates were common in Egypt and Assyria, and were regarded as potent talismans.  The Exodus Rabbah appears to argue for the jewel in question having been of a sky blue variety.  Agate is a cooling stone and is said to be able to treat a fever.  It is also said to bring the user the ability to see the truth.  Agate is an excellent stone for rebalancing and harmonising body, mind and spirit. It cleanses and stabilises the aura, eliminating and transforming negativity. Agate enhances mental function, improving concentration, perception and analytical abilities. It soothes and calms, healing inner anger or tension and creates a sense of security and safety.  It is associated with the tribe of Gad and the sign Aries.

AMETHYST is also fairly universally indicated.  Amethyst was commonly used in Egypt to prevent drunkeness (the name literally means "not intoxicating") and it signifies sobriety and constancy.  Amethyst is a powerful and protective stone. It guards against psychic attack, transmuting the energy into love and protecting the wearer from all types of harm, including ill wishes from others. Amethyst is a natural tranquiliser, it relieves stress and strain, soothes irritability, balances mood swings, dispels anger, rage, fear and anxiety. It alleviates sadness and grief, and dissolves negativity. Amethyst activates spiritual awareness, opens intuition and enhances psychic abilities. It has strong healing and cleansing powers. Amethyst calms and stimulates the mind, helping one become more focused, enhancing memory and improving motivation. Amethyst assists in remembering and understanding dreams and relieves insomnia. It encourages selflessness and spiritual wisdom.  It is associated with the tribe of Asher and the sign of Sagitarius.

The whole Chrysolite/TOPAZ confusion continues with the tenth position stone.  The word "Tharsis" probably points to the origin of the gem in Tharsis.  Topaz was called "Chrysolite" in ancient times.  It is an octangular prism of an orange-yellow color found in Ceylon, Arabia, and Egypt.  Pliny writes of many types known to him at that time.  During the Middle Ages it was believed to possess the power of relieving anxiety at night, driving away devils and to be an excellent cure for eye diseases.  Topaz is a powerful stone in the way that Quartz is; it is a balancing and calming stone that balances emotions, releases tension, balances emotions, and can bring joy. Topaz is also believed to bring success and good fortune, and synchronicity. It is also used for protection, particularly protection from curses and greed. It also is said to bring creativity, individuality, true love, and hope. Spiritually it brings in spiritual love and peace.  Topaz is associated with the tribe of Nepthtali and the sign of Capricorn.

The eleventh stone is commonly translated as "Onyx" but, again, Onyx was note mined at that time.  Jewish tradition generally favours leek-green Beryl (Heliodor) as the likely meaning of "Shoham", though scholars think it is more likely to be MALACHITE, which can be green enough to be compared to Smaragdos and the blue-green colour of the sea (the original meaning of Beryllios) and is cloudy enough to be compared to a cloudy form of Beryl.  Malachite is a very powerful stone to both detect danger and to protect from it.  It is very energizing.  Malachite absorbs negative energies and pollutants, picking them up from the atmosphere and from the body.  Malachite clears and activates the chakras and attunes the system to spiritual guidance. It opens the heart to unconditional love. It releases negative experiences and old traumas and stimulates dreams.  It is associated with the tribes descended of Joseph (including Manassah and Ephraim) and the sign of Taurus.

JASPER is said to have been obtained by the Jews from India and Egypt.  Jasper is a type of Quartz and shares that gems balancing and energizing qualities.  Jasper is a stone of gentleness and relaxation. It enhances one's ability to relax and brings tranquility, comforting, wholeness, healing, and gentle endings. It is sometimes called the nurturing stone for its nurturing and protective energies.  Jasper is said to bring things to completion, to bring one what one needs and to bring joyful life.  It is a fitting final stone for the array of the Ephod.  It is associated with the tribe of Benjamin and the sign of Gemini.

There, of course, is much debate about which tribes are associated with each stone and which signs are associated with each tribe.  I refer above to the list mentioned in Bullinger's "The Witness of the Stars" (1893).  The esoteric and healing qualities of the gems mentioned above are compiled from various sources reaching back toward ancient traditions and knowledge concerning these stones. 

I myself like to use many of these stones (and many others) for prayer and meditation on an almost daily basis.  There are many, many ways to use gems, crystals and stones for healing and meditation.  Stones can be carried in a pocket or pouch or worn in jewelery to bring their vibrations and properties with you throughout the day.  They can be held in the left hand while meditating to receive and integrate the vibration into yourself, and in the right hand to eminate the vibration outward.  They can even be placed on the energy centers ("chakras") while meditating lying down.  Stones generally connect well with chakras represented by the same color.  Gems and crystals can be placed in arrays like they were in the breastplate of the Ephod or on the ground like a medicine wheel; many stones have a natural synergy with eachother in this manner.  I highly recommend Melody's book, Love is in the Earth, as both a fine introduction and an excellent general encyclopedic referrence to the healing and metaphysical qualities of the many diverse stones with which God has graced us.

I hope that this information has been interesting and useful to you!  Peace, Love and Unity!  Jah Bless!

Gems (Jewish Encyclopedia Article)

The Witness to the Stars (Biblical Astrology Text)

John Pratt Article about the 12 Stones

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