Garnet is the traditional birthstone of the month of January. Largely invented by the 19th-century jewelry industry, the system of birthstones as we popularly know it today is based on a poem published by Tiffany & Co. in 1870. While I have never given much credence to this notion of birthstones due to its history in the early roots of modern consumerism, garnet kept coming through as I was meditating on a stone for January.
The tradition of birthstones in general terms has a long and developed history. Some credit the idea to the twelve magic stones adorning the breastplates of the Israelite high priests as outlined in the Book of Exodus. Other ancient mystical traditions, including those of India and Mesopotamia, attribute stones to each of the zodiacal signs, roughly corresponding to the twelve months of the Gregorian calendar. While many birthstones have been changed or added throughout the centuries due to fashionable trends, garnet has been steadfast as the sole stone associated with the month of January since the 1500s. Garnet also has strong magical associations with the planet Saturn, the ruling planetary influence of Capricorn. As Chronos—the ruler of time—Saturn focuses an, albeit sometimes somber, energy of maturity through garnet. A very rooted, pragmatic energy emanates from this crystal. The deep burgundy coloured almandine garnet naturally forms in beautiful dodecahedrons on a rock matrix. The sacred geometry of the number 12 links us with perfect completion—the solar and zodiacal cycle of the year. The rough nodules, once removed from the matrix, can be cut and polished to showcase this stunning natural geometry.
Some of the interesting characteristics of the garnet family are its myriad forms and colours. Most of us think of a blood-red stone when it comes to garnet, and that certainly is the most common variety of the crystal on the market, especially in jewelry. The word garnet originates from Middle French and refers to the pomegranate’s red colour— grenade. However, garnet occurs in a variety of other colours: notably green, orange, and black. Uvarovite is an especially intriguing green variety of garnet from Russia that forms aggregations of very finely sized crystals. The black form of garnet is known as melanite. Another, called spessartite is an orange garnet that forms usually in dense crystalline clusters on smoky quartz. Almandine garnet, the red dodecahedral variety, is the one associated with the month of January and the one I wish to explore further for the purposes of this entry.
Just as in my previous post about citrine—and its associations with fire and sunlight—all crystals and stones can be associated with an elemental power—one of Earth, Air, Fire, or Water. Ancient cultures from Greece to China had a system of elements, the raw forces of nature as perceived in the day-to-day lives of the people. Each element developed its own mythologies, magical folklore, and personifications. The four classical elements listed above, as most commonly understood in Western Hermeticism, were developed largely by Aristotle, and later Paracelsus. Considering this, I intuitively link garnet with the Earth element—with deep roots and solidity—as heated by Fire. The garnet’s dark crimson speaks of the primordial earth’s molten core, tectonic force, as well as the eternal smouldering flame from which new fires are awoken. I also strongly associate garnet with the Gnomes, the elemental rulers of Earth. Since these mythological creatures are the guardians of all the gems and minerals within the Earth’s surface, one could associate them with all crystals and stones. However, something about the energy of the deep red garnet has always reminded of me these staunch, gentle creatures and their underground kingdoms. The ethereal Fey—the fairy folk—have always been associated with beautiful underground realms where unwitting humans are easily carried away for lustful trysts and luxurious feasts, or for darker, more nefarious purposes. For me, garnet embodies the energy of what is underneath—underneath the earth’s surface like the kingdoms of the Gnomes and Fey, underneath our own skin, and, in the month of January, what is underneath the frosts and snow. In this way garnet is the blood beneath the surface of our skin, the bones giving us strength, the thudding and throbbing pulse of the earth’s core and our hearts of flesh and blood. Garnet represents the hushed breath of the hibernating creatures beneath the blanket of winter, the bulbs and rhizomes of plants slowly and patiently waiting, laying the basis for what will sprout in the spring.
In a similar way, garnet vertically links aspects of our energy bodies—the below with the above. The gentle but confident strength of garnet builds a bridge, connecting Muladhara—the Root Chakra—directly with Anahata—the Heart Chakra. This is a unique pathway between these two energy vortexes. It allows us to anchor into the earth— the sacred womb/tomb— the otherwise boundless energy of love generated by the Immaculate Heart. It facilitates a conduit for an otherwise naturally diffuse energy to ground and manifest. In Qabalistic terms, this pathway joins Malkuth—the three-dimensional kingdom of bone and blood—through the astral, lunar sphere of Yesod—the Sacral Chakra—directly to Tiphereth—the pure realm of unconditional compassion for all sentient beings. Tiphereth is the Sun/Son—the Christ/Buddha consciousness—the place of divine union where we become the anointed ones. In Hebrew Gematria, the link between Yesod and Tiphereth is the energy of the letter Samekh, which in Tarot is Temperance, the reconciler. This sacred pathway between root and heart allows us to explore the polarities of Love and move freely between Agape—spiritual love—and Eros—sexual love. Garnet enables the transition in grace between two aspects of love that seem estranged in our modern state. Too often in our culture we create spaces for only one or the other to exist. Orthodox religious institutions deny sacred sexuality and, in so doing, perpetuate the virgin/whore dichotomy—that we must commit to celibacy to experience the divine, or walk a path of shame and guilt, tarnished by lust. This is the sacred endeavor of Temperance, to unite two opposites to form a tempered whole. By exploring this pathway we combine a lower, base form of reality—which doesn’t mean bad or sinful—with a higher, more spiritual reality. We begin to acquaint the Mundane Self with the Higher Self so they no longer remain estranged or at odds. We blend in the crucible of Temperance our psychic atoms to become a unified whole. Garnet is this crucible—warming and nourishing our hearts through the wintry month of January from its deep roots in the earth.