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Obsidian: A Stone for November

Tezcatlipoca

Tezcatlipoca – Aztec god of magic

Many of us are familiar with the smooth, glossy black stone called obsidian. Truly, obsidian isn’t a stone at all. Rather, it is a naturally occurring glass that forms when lava from a volcano has cooled under special conditions. Because of its fragile nature, obsidian fractures with sharp edges which is why it was used as a weapon by ancient indigenous peoples who fashioned obsidian shards into arrow and spearheads. Among the Aztec culture, obsidian was sacred to Tezcatlipoca, the god of magic and divination. Large black mirrors were made from obsidian that were used for prophesying during shamanic ceremonies. The black jaguar was sacred to Tezcatlipoca and, because of its colour, was connected with the magical associations of obsidian as the black mirror used to pierce through the illusions of the world to see our true, refined essences. The tectonic crucible from which obsidian originates also links it with Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. Lava was sacred to Pele as the primordial matter that is always regenerating, melted down deep in the earth’s core. As raw, kinetic essence, it bursts forth in grand spectacle, often clearing whatever path is necessary and then shapeshifting once again. Congealing into solid form, it takes on a new identity as a shiny, smooth black glass—the mirror of the magician. The stone of the shaman—the jaguar shapeshifter—obsidian today is especially appropriate and appealing for those who walk the boundary between definitions, refusing categorization—holding a space of openness, one-ness.

Obsidian arrowhead

The mirror-like quality of obsidian draws energy in, much like a black hole, to be devoured by its intense gravity. That’s how I perceive obsidian—a strong, yet gentle magnet that has the ability to dampen and absorb those energies no longer serving positive change. When working with obsidian it becomes impossible to remain stagnant, it doesn’t allow indulgence to linger. This is why I have chosen to discuss obsidian at this time of year. It embodies the type of shadow work I addressed in my previous post regarding the darkening part of the year as experienced in the months of October and November throughout the northern hemisphere. During this time of repose, it is fitting that obsidian offers us a true reflection of self—in its black mirrored surface we are given an unadulterated view of ourselves, a holistic view containing our strengths, glory, failures, and weaknesses. In its reflection we are able to perceive the shadows that hide in daylight. Obsidian allows us to peek behind the curtain of our preferred constructed identities and glimpse those elements that only come out at night, those fears and worries that came out of our closets and from under our beds as children when the bedroom lights were turned off. By working with obsidian we can foster a healthy relationship with these energies. Obsidian allows us to discern through the shadows, bringing them into awareness but while also acting as a sentinel to keep them in check. Just as Cerberus, the three-headed hound guards the realms of Hades, so does obsidian help keep these energies, thoughts, memories, or worries from taking over. Obsidian is, in a sense, dark matter. It represents all the unseen forces at work in the Universe, giving us structure and shape. What, to the eye, we consider empty space, is a vast world of dark energy and dark matter—the stuff of our dreams and nightmares. These ancient myths and fairytales exist in the vast chasms between the churning neutrons, electrons, and protons within the very atoms of everything we see and touch.

Obsidian outcrop

Obsidian outcrop

Obsidian can be readily found in most metaphysical shops. It comes in a wide variety of forms from small tumbled pieces, to raw specimens, to beautifully carved spheres and large mirror discs. I would recommend working with a piece of obsidian around this time of year in the following way: every night before bed sit with the stone in the palm of your hand, preferably by candlelight, firelight, or moonlight. Use the stone as a physical mirror, gaze into the light glinting on its dark surface, as if it were the vast reaches of outer space or the dark still waters of a lake at night. As you are gazing into its depths consider your dark energy. What does it look like? What is its source? When does it emerge? Does it ever get out of control? What do you fear could happen if it did? What holds you back? Keep a journal to answer these questions if you like. The act of writing in itself is sometimes enough to excavate and purge unwanted energy. As you contemplate what you see in the mirror, develop a relationship with the obsidian, it is the gatekeeper for you to acknowledge and contact your shadow self. As the month progresses use the obsidian in different ways: keep it beneath your pillow, place it in your water bottle, bury it in your garden, or place pieces in the corners of your bedroom and note the ways it speaks to you, the dreams you have, shifts in mood, etc.

Obsidian, because of its close ties with deep earth energy, is also extremely grounding. In this way it can send, like a taproot, any residual negativity or unwanted energy deep into the abyss to be broken down and regenerated. If you ever need to access this stabilizing power, reach for a piece of obsidian, carry it in your pocket, and visualize a great root descending from your sacrum and coccyx, down through your legs and the soles of your feet, into the tectonic forces of the earth. Visualize this mighty personal tendril anchoring into the very core of the earth itself. Here you are anchored, empowered by the gravity of the planet on whose surface we walk. This image can be called upon whenever you feel anxious, nervous, distracted, or unsettled. Simply close your eyes for a moment, bring awareness to your breath, stand or sit and bring the above image to mind and hold a meditative intention. Obviously, this type of visualization would be most advantageous if done outside on the ground, at the beach with your feet in the sand, or at the base of a tree.

Apache Tears

Lastly, a particular variety of obsidian, known as Apache tears, are well suited to issues of grief and recovery. Apache tears are small nodules of translucent obsidian found throughout the Arizona desert. So named because of an armed conflict between the Apache nation and the US cavalry in the 1870s during which the Apache were defeated. The tears of the mourning families were said to have turned to stone upon falling to the ground. These stunning specimens carry a very uniquely powerful energy to aid in expressing and transmuting grief and sorrow in both a literal or metaphoric sense.

As with any energy-based work, it is important to remember that crystals and stones are simply tools to be used to aid creative intent. With continued practice, intent is all that’s necessary, however, using objects like crystals and stones is appealing because of their beautiful and unique energies and qualities. Developing relationships with individual crystals and stones is an extremely rewarding experience, an experience I’ve been exploring most of my life.

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