Crystal Culture & The Resurgence Of Healing Stones

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My parents live in a rural New Hampshire town of about 4,000 inhabitants - what it lacks in restaurants, entertainment, and secondary education is made up for by a beloved state park, a nudist camp, and a natural health store. After having left behind a much richer pool of resources in urban Central America to come and stay here for the summer, I was thankful to be assigned a topic to write about that could prove the usefulness of one of these institutions and didn’t involve getting naked in the woods and reminiscing about the Summer of Love.

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The Mustard Seed houses an eclectic collection of ayurvedic herbs, medicinal teas, lotions, dream catchers, superfoods, tinctures, incense, and crystals; I have only passed through occasionally for the loose-leaf herbal tea, and admit to habitually skimming over the rest. Once, my dad impulse bought a Himalayan crystal salt lamp that now occupies a tiny corner of his meditation room and faithfully combats the positive ions of our desktop computer when he can be bothered to turn either of them on. But this time, on a cloudy Saturday morning, I set out in a truck large enough to redirect the energy fields of a hundred crystals, armed with a pen, a notebook and a list of questions.

So what exactly is it that sets crystals apart from the hundreds of stones that pass under our feet each day? They are defined differently by geological science and spirituality, but perhaps can be best understood through the lens of both form and function. Crystals are scientifically characterized by a symmetrically patterned arrangement of atoms and a balanced electrical charge; in other words, their structures are highly organized. These properties, in turn, influence the energy vibration emitted by the crystal, which directly influences its use for healing purposes depending on a crystal’s geographic origin, state (raw or polished), and the manner in which it is harvested. A central tenet of crystal healing revolves around the stability of a crystal’s energy field and its capacity to correct imbalances in our own energy fields when this energy is intentionally directed. While the invisible and touchy-feely methodology of this practice makes it a ripe target for claims of a placebo effect, it is worth questioning if the placebo effect itself is not a powerful tool in healing the human mind and body.

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During my time at the Mustard Seed, I inquired about why people are drawn to crystals, and if there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years. I was told that there has been and that many come seeking to ground themselves, to find in a physical form some psychic barrier against the tension and negativity of the wider world. Some crystals exist as a raw jumble of points, edges, and planes - the thrust of their growth structure directs the movement of the energy they channel. Some take the subtler form of a polished pendant and earring set. Many customers usually first connect with a compelling color or shape and the smooth weight of it. When drawn to a specific stone or crystal, it is suggested that they carry it around the store for a while (a sales ploy? Maybe). For others, the process is driven by function rather than form, and they browse informational cards touting properties such as “the grounding of Hematite”, “the protection against a psychic attack of Limonite”, or “the intuition-building of Kaolinite”, molding their needs to the solutions at hand. Hematite, Limonite, and Kaolinite are three minerals that makeup Angel Phantom Quartz, which honors its name by enhancing one’s “connection to the Angelic realm” and Guardian Angels, as well as facilitating an awareness of “the spiritual realm, past-life recall, and lucid dreaming”. This variety of crystal is especially attuned to the Third Eye and Crown chakras and is valued for its high vibration.

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While the sheer range of crystal names, forms, and purposes is enough to make any nonenthusiast’s head spin, there is no need to dismiss more recognizable crystals in favor of lengthy names and remote origins. One example of crystals that are commonly known and widely available are those we identify as birthstones. According to poly faith minister and spiritual author Shelly Strauss, amethyst is said to promote “wisdom, humility, and deeper insight”. Garnet allows us to channel our spirit forces into material creativity, while rubies are said to open up a path for one’s creative energy to be directed toward enhancing the “highest aspects of self”. And just as our birth months are said to predispose us to the effects of the changing cycles of the moon, so too are crystals subject to these fluctuations. A new moon particularly stands out, not only as a symbolic rebirth, but as an opportunity to clean out accumulated energy and recharge the crystal with new energy provided by the beginning of a cycle.

The most detailed informational cards at The Mustard Seed accompany the crystal salt lamps from the Himalayas and the Andara crystals, housed in a glass case that acknowledges the allure of their small size and coloring. The lamps’ negative ions are touted for their ability to both physically and spiritually purify the air around them, eliminate dust, mold, pollen, and fungus, while also neutralizing positive ions from electronics, and encouraging rejuvenation and healing in a holistic sense. The Andara crystals are collected from within the high energy vortex of the High Sierras in Northern California and promise a similar correction of electromagnetic charges, promoting balance and harmonizing the body’s energy meridians. In doing so these crystals promote creativity and mind-body connection, improving focus and reducing stress.

Just as there are crystals that allow for a more intense spiritual knowledge of oneself, there also exist crystals whose purpose extends beyond the personal realm and promotes a greater connectedness to the universe itself. One such crystal is Lemurian Quartz. Also known as Lemurian Seed Crystals, it is said to have been planted in a specific pattern over the surface of the Earth by an ancient, spiritually advanced civilization known as Lemuria, in the hope that those who came after them would be able to access their wisdom through these vessels. In addition to promoting unification and a heightened connectedness with the wisdom of beings who came before us, Lemurian crystals promote the alignment of all seven chakras and allow for a deeper connection not only with our own spirituality but with a web of energy that extends into the wider universe. Although they can be purchased remotely, crystal enthusiasts and online platforms recommend that individuals who are seriously interested in the spiritual benefits of these crystals base their decisions on direct contact and intuition, a recommendation that reflects the general advice I was given at The Mustard Seed.

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Although Lemurian Quartz traces its origins to Brazil, many residents of Mount Shasta in the High Sierras of California believe that the mountain originally contained a city by the name of Telos, which historically played a pivotal role in sheltering the Lemurian civilization during times of conflict. Whether or not Mount Shasta remains a sanctuary for displaced Lemurians, it has over the years become a mecca for self-seekers and those in search of something bigger than themselves, offering a range of outdoor activities flavored with various approaches to cleansing, meditation, and enlightenment. Residents and visitors-turned-residents describe the mountain itself as a “cathedral” and “the center of the universe”, images that hearken back to the ancient roots of concepts often dismissively (and ironically) labeled as “new age”. Yet before the newly spiritually-awakened set up shop at the mountain’s base, it was Native Americans who traced their origins up the rising slopes that unite the territories of five distinct groups, some believing it to be the origin of humanity itself.

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Ancient cultures spanning Rome, Greece, China, India, and Egypt all incorporated stones and crystals into their spiritual beliefs and practice. Their properties were called upon by everyone from military leaders to royalty to doctors and to seers. Despite the distances between these civilizations, the functions of their practices varied little, with primary intentions of protection, guidance, and clarity that have carried through to the present day. But perhaps the most notable difference between ancient functions of crystals and today’s is the magnitude of technology’s presence in our day to day lives - this is something that hasn’t escaped the authors of the descriptive cards that inhabit the shelves of The Mustard Seed, which make a point to emphasize crystals’ neutralization of the pollutive effects of electronics. It is in this present and future context that crystals’ balancing and protective properties become if anything more relevant, whether for their tangible effects or the mere resonance of the idea of mitigating the effects of technology on our minds and bodies. Maybe we don’t actually notice the positive ions that these devices are said to bombard us with, but is there anyone who doesn’t feel the negative effects of being immersed in them day in and day out?

There is something in the very act of seeking to find balance in this saturation, of reverting back to the most basic and unyielding forms on this planet as a means of anchoring ourselves in a never-ending stream of updates and new models, that feels timeless and novel all at once. And whether or not the crystals themselves offer any sanctuary from the beeping and buzzing that seems to come from within us as much as around us, there’s something to be said for manifesting our intention to divest from all that noise in something concrete.

Even if that looks like impulse buying a lamp made from a lump of pink salt.