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The Myth and Lore of Amethyst: The Birthstone of February

Mar 28, 2008
Amethyst is said to cure hangovers, bring spiritual wisdom, and even capture wild beasts, all of which may be particularly helpful if you are raising young children or working in the business world. To gain a deeper insight into how these qualities might tie together, let us look at the old stories and dive more deeply into their meaning.

The lore of amethyst is intimately rooted in Bacchus, the ecstatic god of fertility and wine, and the patron of tragedy. In a myth recounted by a sixteenth century French poet dedicated to King Henry the third, Bacchus was walking about with his tiger in one of those bad moods that a god can find himself in from time to time. Feeling unloved and neglected, he vowed to take out his anger on the first person he happened to come across.
The beautiful maiden, Amethyst, who was on her way to Diana's temple, happened to step before Dionysus. As the tiger tore into her with his claws she called to Diana, the virgin huntress, patron of childbirth, goddess of the moon.

Alas, Diana arrived too late. Amethyst's body lay shredded on the earth. She honored Amethyst by turning her into a pillar of white stone, safe from tiger's teeth. Bacchus felt like a schmuck. Her gathered up his finest bottle of wine and poured it over the stone, creating the beautiful violet amethyst we know today.
Let us take a giant leap here into pop psychology and look at the main characters in this story not as figures outside of us, but as symbols of aspects of our own personalities. When Carl Jung said that the ancient gods have become diseases, he was really referring to the notion that we all have many inner characters who follow certain patterns and that ignoring these can be dangerous.

Dionysus, the original Greek name for the Roman god, Bacchus, represents that part of us that needs the ecstatic release, whether that be though a good party of some other sensual means. In the cult of Dionysus, the Maenad were the "frenzied" ones in ecstasy who formed his entourage.

His rites were violent, and included dismembering which can be seen as a metaphor for tearing apart the flesh to bring spirit into the body. Dionysus was also twice born or reborn, representing, therefore, the notion of renewal. The color of Amethyst, being purple and given by Dionysus, could have something to do with transformation.

If we ignore this, our human need to transform ourselves, we can remain as rigid and hard as a stone pillar. Or, we may find ourselves internally angry at the world, walking around unleashing our wild tigers on innocent bystanders. This is particularly dangerous to the innocent and the feminine, as represented by Amethyst.

Egyptians tied amethyst to the zodiac sign of Capricorn, the goat that tore apart vineyards and therefore was the enemy of drunkenness. The cure of hangovers is tied to Bacchus' relationship to wine. Wear an amethyst, they believed, and it would protect you from that breathalyzer when you were pulled off your chariot on your way home from the orgy in the temple.

The Egyptians also held that if you were to tie amethyst around your neck with the hairs of a peacock and feathers of a sparrow, you'd be protected from sorcery and cured of gout.

Amethyst is one of original gems on the breastplate of the Biblical priest, Aaron, representing and inscribed with the name one of the twelve tribes of Israel. John, in Revelations, lists amethyst as one of his twelve "foundation" gems as well. Each of these twelve was inscribed with the name of an apostle.
Amethyst is the last stone, representing Matthias, who took Judas' position. Matthias was said to be filled with celestial fire. John states that the gem represents the humility of the saints who are like burning flame, looking at love. The transformational element of a flame, burning pure violet, again links amethyst's spiritual work.

The color purple has been associated with higher spiritual consciousness and transformation not just among flaky new age practitioners living in Sedona, but also as illustrated by the vestments worn by priests in the Catholic church. The protective concept of amethyst might be tied to the idea that being on a spiritual journey offers some safety from certain worldly influences.

Though Amethyst is placed as February's birthstone in most modern lists, the Hindu mystics in Vedic astrology believes amethyst was the gemstone of Pisces.

Finally, consider that the crystalline structure of amethyst is hexagonal, and therefore its nature is associated with the number six. Two triangles are brought together to form a new shape. According to tradition, the number six is represents Solomon's seal - a way of mediating and coming to resolution and balance after indecision.

Now it may be time for you to experience the energy of amethyst for yourself. First, check in with yourself and see how you are feeling and make a note of it. Then, take a piece of amethyst and hold it gently, in your hand. See how it feels and what thoughts come into your mind or heart. Consider what you learn in light of some of the ancient stories and you may be surprised at what you discover.

References: Most of the historical content, myth and lore referenced in this article came from two books, both of which are in print and available on line:

George Frederick Kunz, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, New York; Dover Publications, Inc. 1913, 1971 edition.

Bruce Knuth, Gems In Myth, Legends And Lore; Parachute, Colorado, Jewelers Press, 2007.
About the Author
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, a designer jewelry company, that sells amethysts and ethically sourced jewelry at www.artisanweddingrings.com. His company produces eco-friendly, conflict free diamond jewelry. Marc also authors www.fairjewelry.org supporting green, fair trade, socially responsible jewelry practices.
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