by Judy Hall
Of mighty force my mystic science shows… this potent stone, by sages old extolled. Restless Adamant [quartz] is right called, for that it bends the powers who rule the sky…with influence bland, it soothes the soul to rest. And rouses pleasant thoughts in the human breast.
— Orpheus on Gems: The Lithika
In the ancient Egyptian Songs of Isis and Nephthys, the two goddesses address their brother Osiris: ‘your hair is lapis lazuli… your vertebrae are made of turquoise.’ The ancient Egyptians, whilst poetic in utterance, were also literal. In their view, the god in the heavens is made of lapis lazuli and turquoise, and the stone carries the qualities of the god on earth. ‘As above, so below,’ the ancient hermetic dictum. It is no wonder, therefore, that crystals such as lapis lazuli and turquoise have traditionally been used to ascertain the will of the gods. That is, they were used for divination. In ancient Greece, for instance, Axinomancers placed a piece of agate or jet onto a red hot axe to ascertain the guilty party in a crime – the crystal jumped to point at the person. I still use crystals for divination today.
Photo copyright Michael Illas
The magical crystal past
Eight and a half thousand years ago a young shaman was laid to rest on a bed of red hematite at Bad Dürrenberg, her magical grave goods beside her. They included numerous bones, thirty one tiny flint blades which she kept in a crane’s bone box, and a carefully fashioned stone ball that, I would suggest, could be rolled rather like a dice. Five thousand years ago in Mesopotamia a woman was respectfully interred with twelve pebbles beside her, her only grave goods. In a land where pebbles are extremely rare these were collected from two hundred miles away. It is tempting to think, along with the professor who uncovered the grave, that these pebbles had a specific purpose: divination. Many similar discoveries have been made but most archaeologists tend to overlook ‘mere pebbles’ so their significance has not been realised.
In the ancient Egyptian story King Cheops and the Magicians, the king, builder of the Great Pyramid, had long sought for hidden chambers in a temple of the wisdom god Thoth – keeper of the Akashic Record. Cheop’s son suggested he seek out a magician named Djedi. Asked if he knew the location of the chambers, the magician replied, “No, but the answer will be found in a basket of flint in a room named ‘investigator’ in Heliopolis.” Heliopolis is the sun or the self. This is profound piece of oracular wisdom that could be interpreted as the answer having to be sought in the inner, not the outer, world. But note that flint held the answer. This ancient portal stone is much underrated in the modern crystal world, but the ancients recognised its oracular value.
Early Mesopotamian sources mention an ‘elmeshu stone’ (often translated as diamond, quite possibly clear quartz) stone that functioned as an oracle, which makes the following few lines in an ancient Assyrian private letter rather intriguing:
To my father say, thus saith Elmeshu: Shamash and Marduk fill with well-being the days of my father perpetually. My father, be thou well, flourish; the God that preserves my father direct my father’s source of grace.
‘Elmeshu’ is usually interpreted by archaeologists as a ‘woman’ but as Shamash (the Sun) and Marduk (Jupiter) are gods of good fortune, perhaps they, through the stone, have been consulted as to the future of the writer’s father.
As far back as the 6th century BCE the Ratnapariksa of Buddhabhatta tells us that the emerald gives knowledge of the future. Diamond then, as now, indicated faithful love. His list is reproduced in the eighth century Arabic stonebook Achametis , which shows the enduring nature of the tradition. The latter includes interpretations of a king’s dream of crystal crowns. Such a dream usually portended increased power and success but the colour and character of the crystal were significant. If the gems were red carbuncles or rubies, it portended great joy and good fortune and indicated that the king would be even more feared by his enemies. Blue crystals however were a bad omen, foreshadowing the loss of part of the kingdom. Leek green stones indicated that the king would gain a reputation throughout the world, ‘both by his good faith and by the greatness of his kingdom’.
Before tea leaves
When Pliny the Elder, the first century Roman geographer, wrote his treatise on stones his intention was to ridicule the beliefs of his time concerning crystals. However, he inadvertently told us just how widespread and wide ranging those beliefs were. He calls it a ‘dreadful lie’ that an Anachitis, Stone of Necessity, could call up water spirits to act as an oracle for the future, for instance. But hydromancy, divination through water, and lithomancy, divination by crystals, had long been part of the mantic arts. And belief in the power of stones continued well into the Middle Ages. The magician Henry Cornelius Agrippa informs us that ‘the stone Anachitis makes the images of the gods appear. The stone Ennectis, put under them that dream, causeth oracles.’ Agrippa also tells us that another stone, synochitis, obliged the spirits to remain while they were interrogated as to the future. The problem is, we don’t know what these stones are. Anachitis is sometimes translated as pearl, at others agate. Martin Ruland the Elder, a German physician, alchemist and follower of the physician Paracelsus rendered it as ‘diamond’. It may well have been a type of clear quartz, which was believed in ancient times to be frozen water and so would contain water spirits.
In the wonderful crystal odyssey that is the Lithica, a fourth century Orphic poem describes in great detail the properties of crystals and the initiation steps needed to become a crystal worker. A magical black stone sphere is described. According to Helenus, a Trojan soothsayer, this sphere foretold the downfall of his city. The tale describes in graphic detail how the soothsayer fasts for twenty-one days, tenderly wraps the sphere in soft garments and makes offerings to it until through the magic of his prayers ‘a living soul warmed the precious substance.’ Sadly the news that the communicator had to offer was not good and the city fell.
Crystals were cast onto board, used as a kind of dice, or held to invoke assistance of the spirits. A beautiful rock crystal dodecahedron with symbols on each of its facets was found in an ancient Greek cave. It could be rolled to give an answer and many of the ‘board games’ and crystals found in early graves could well be oracles, as could the polished rock crystal mirrors. Crystal balls were consulted throughout history.
Dr John Dee, consultant to Queen Elizabeth the First paid Edward Kelly £50 a year (an enormous amount in those days) to scry with a crystal ball or ‘shewestone’ and Dee’s diaries are full of references to this ‘big, bright clere and glorious’ egg-shaped stone which was accompanied by angels and their messages. Dee also owned a smoky quartz ball. The English politician and antiquarian Horace Walpole writes of Dee’s ‘magic speculum’ a highly polished black mirror half an inch in thickness and seven and a quarter inches in diameter – which sounds like obsidian. These items are now in the British Museum although many years ago I visited a minor English stately home and was handed what was purported to be one of Dee’s scrying stones. It was an incredibly powerful object! My hand still tingles at the memory. Such things seem to have been commonplace. In the 16th century James Thomson wrote ‘one great amusement of our household was in a huge crystal magic globe to spy as you turned it all things that do pass upon this Ant-Hill Earth.’
The Breastplate of the High Priest
But we can go back much further in history than this to explore crystal divination. In Exodus 28, 15-30 we are told by Moses that: ‘the people come to me to enquire of God’ (18:15). This was by means of the Breastplate fashioned for his brother Aaron which had twelve crystals set within it. Hearsay evidence about the use of the Breastplate as an oracle comes from Josephus, the Roman historian, writing many years later:
From the stones which the High Priest wore (these were sardonyxes and I hold it superfluous to describe their nature, since it is known to all), there emanated a light… which was worn on the right shoulder instead of a clasp emitting a radiance sufficient to give light even to those far away, although the stone previously lacked this splendour. And certainly, this in itself merits the wonder of all those who do not, out of contempt for religion, allow themselves to be led away by a pretence of wisdom. However, I am about to relate something still more wonderful, namely that God announced victory by means of the twelve stones worn by the High Priest on his breast.
The breastplate contained the Urim and Thumin and the Bible also relates their use as an oracle. Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis says the Talmud describes it as functioning ‘as a kind of ouija board with messages being spelled out for the High Priest.’ And the Breastplate has been described as ‘a distinctive symbol of the priest in his capacity as the giver of oracles’. Who said crystals are ungodly?
When the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel had his call to prophesy, it involved crystal and astrological imagery:
As I looked a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually, and in the middle of the fire, .. gleaming amber [also translated as ‘awesome crystal]. In the middle of it .. four living creatures… As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle… [the fixed cross of astrology]
… I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction, their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl… over the heads of the living creatures there was… a dome, shining like crystal… When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty… Above the dome [was] a throne, in appearance like sapphire… Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendour all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. [Ezekiel 1]
This is the famous ‘chariot of fire’ that so many people today interpret as a spaceship coming down to land. Powered by crystals perhaps?
When crystals were respectable
In the 19th century, Sir John Aubrey, a British politician, gave an eye witness account of a scrying ball in use with the blessing of the church for at least two hundred years:
… a miller had it and he did work great cures with it (if curable), and in the Beryl they did see, either the receipt in writing, or else the herb. [A minister had it] the spirits or angels would appear openly, and because the miller (who was his familiar friend) one day happened to see them, he gave him the aforesaid Beryl… Afterwards this Beryl came into somebody’s hand in London who did tell strange things by it; insomuch that at last he was questioned for it, and it was taken away by authority (it was about 1645). This Beryl is a perfect sphere, the diameter of it I guess to be something more than an inch; it is set in a ring, or circle, of silver, resembling the meredian of a globe; the stem of it is about ten inches high, all gilt. At the four quarters of it are the names of four angels, viz: Uriel, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel.”
John Aubrey, “Miscellanies,” London, 1890.
Similarly, an esteemed clergyman and president of a Victorian psychical research society Andrew Lang recorded the following story at the beginning of the 20th century:
“I had given a crystal ball to a young lady, Miss Baillie, who had scarcely any success with it. She lent it to Miss Leslie, who saw a large, square, old-fashioned, red sofa, covered with muslin (which she afterward found in the next country-house she visited). Miss Baillie’s brother laughed at these experiments but took the ball into his study, and came back looking ‘gey gash.’ He admitted that he had seen a vision -somebody he knew, under a lamp. He said he would discover during the week whether he saw right or not. This was at 5.30 on a Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday Mr Baillie was at a dance in a town 40 miles from his house, and met a Miss Preston. ‘On Sunday,’ he said, ‘about half-past five, you were sitting under a standard lamp, in a dress I never saw you wear, a blue blouse with lace over the shoulders, pouring out tea for a man in blue serge, whose back was towards me, so that I only saw the tip of his moustache.’ ‘Why, the blinds must have been up,’ said Miss Preston. ‘I was at Dulby.’
A horoscope set out in stones
Oral tradition tells us that crystal talismans were used not only ascertain but also to influence the future. From Babylonian times, many crystals were astrological in nature, intrinsically linked to the planets and zodiac. They were part of a complex system of forecasting and petitioning favour from the gods. Iron-rich Hematite, which is red when raw and silver when polished, was linked to the red planet Mars, for instance, a correspondence that continues up to the present day.
My own personal favourite account of a crystal oracle is the board used by the Egyptian Pharaoh Nectanebo to foretell the birth of Alexander the Great. Nectanebo is not exactly a disinterested observer – nor sadly can it be seen as historical fact as he wasn’t exiled to Greece until after Alexander’s birth. But The Alexander Romance is a good tale nonethless. Later in the story he disguises himself as Ammon and impregnates Olympias after prophesying that she would be visited by the god in the night. As an astrologer, it was the means by which Nectanebo cast the synastry (interaction) between the Queen and her husband that caught my attention:
He placed his hand in a fold of his garment and took out an extraordinary little writing tablet, constructed from gold, ivory, ebony and silver, and engraved with three zones. On the first circle were the thirty-six decans, on the second the twelve signs of the zodiac, and on the inner one the Sun and Moon. He put it on a chair. Then he opened a small ivory box, revealing the seven stars and the ascendant made of eight precious stones, which lit up the pictured miniature heaven. The Sun was of crystal, the Moon of diamond, the Mars of haemetite, the Mercury of emerald, the Jupiter of air-stone, the Venus of sapphire, the Saturn of orphite (Serpentine) and the pointer of white marble.
The Alexander Romance
Similar boards have indeed been found and the association between crystals and the zodiac goes way back to Mesopotamia (see my MA dissertation ‘The Stone Horoscope’ on www.judyhall.co.uk).
Are oracles still relevant today?
I would answer a resounding yes to this question. My work with crystals has shown me that they are eager to help us forge a new way forward, a path of expanded awareness that takes us beyond the everyday into the multidimensions of consciousness. They show us what is necessary to bring a new understanding into play, to create a ‘new age.’ I call this the path of the soul. The crystals led me to create my own oracle. My Crystal Wisdom Oracle was the fruit of extensive research into the crystal past – and the soul’s future. The superb photographs were specially taken to help you connect to the energies of the mineral kingdom and develop your own intuition. Each card has a self understanding insight and a divinatory meaning to assist in navigating your soul path. But you can also use stones tumbled onto a board, gaze into a crystal ball or the eyes of a crystal skull, or simply sit quietly tuning into the energies of any crystal you happen to have to hand. The crystal will speak.
You need: crystal ball, crystal skull or large clear crystal point.
- Settle yourself comfortably where you will not be disturbed.
- Open your palm chakras by rubbing your hands together briskly and hold your crystal in your lap.
- Breathe gently letting each out-breath be longer than the in.
- As you breathe out let go of any stress or tension you may feel.
- As you breathe in draw the energy of the crystal up your arms to calm and centre you.
- Allow your breathing to settle into a steady rhythm.
- With softly focused eyes look into your crystal.
- Notice its shape, its weight, its colour.
- Allow yourself to wander through the inner planes and landscape.
- Notice any impressions you receive.
- When your gazing session is complete, take two deep breaths.
- Put your crystal down and stand up with your feet firmly on the floor. Stamp your foot to ground you.
(Extracted from Hay House Basics: Crystals)
Crystal skull photo copyright Jeni Campbell/angeladditions
Ancient divinatory meanings
Agate: worldly success
Amber: good health
Carnelian: a new friend
Diamond: enduring love
Hematite: success in lawsuits
Lapis Lazuli: divine favour
Sapphire: the past will catch up with you
Tiger’s Eye: all is not as it seems
Author of The Crystal Wisdom Oracle and Good Vibrations: psychic protection, energy enhancement and space clearing, Judy Hall has a B.Ed in Religious Studies, a Masters in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and an extensive knowledge of world religions and mythology. Crystals, including Bluestones, attuned by Judy can be obtained from www.angeladditions.co.uk. For details of Judy Hall’s workshops and karmic readings see www.judyhall.co.uk