crystal healing, Holistic health and wellness

Rhodochrosite: A Stone for October

Tumbled rhodochrosite

Tumbled rhodochrosite

The month of October is certainly one of my favourites. Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, the forests and fields turn into swathes of ochre and gold, and the crisp night air and lack of light pollution reveal even the faintest stars in the dark depths of sky. Taking a lead from September’s post and the theme of Shadow Work, I’ve chosen a stone for October to help foster self-love and deep emotional healing. The “peering behind the veil” that undoubtedly takes place when we address the Shadow in Jungian terms can be a harrowing experience, dredging up emotion and memory we had long forgotten or stifled. The revisiting of past trauma or repressed emotion can be unsettling and unexpected. Key aspects of Shadow Work often reveal the true causes of repetitive negative or self-destructive behaviour. Whether self-harm, substance abuse, or unhealthy relationships, we can find ourselves repeating these negative cycles as a method of masking buried issues, often, but not always, from childhood or adolescence. I’ve learned over the years that journaling is one of the best ways for me to notice these repetitive behaviours, often I’ll find myself in startlingly similar situations from one year to the next, to the point where I must ask myself: “Where is this behaviour coming from?” and “What aspects of myself am I trying to mask or avoid?” I wanted to offer suggestions for a crystal or mineral to work with to aid in the journey down the psychological rabbit hole. If the Shadow Psyche seems too enveloping—sometimes the reins during this type of work can seem to be taken from our control—then fostering a strong sense of self-love is paramount to this undertaking.

Crystalline rhombohedral rhodochrosite

Crystalline rhombohedral rhodochrosite

Rhodochrosite is a mineral that offers this energy of self-love and deep healing. From the Greek word rhodókhros, meaning “rose-coloured”, rhodochrosite gets its magnificently rich pink colouring from the presence of manganese. It most often occurs in massive aggregate formations, rather than crystals. Specimens of rhodochrosite are most commonly identified by their alternating bands of rosy pink and opaque white. This variety is often found in crystal shops in tumbled form and is quite accessible and affordable. Especially sought after are the crystalline specimens of rhodochrosite. These occur much less frequently and form small rhombohedral crystals of deep red and hot pink. Scalenohedral crystals also sometimes form, and are the most rare. The colour of these crystalline formations of rhodochrosite is of such intensity they seem almost unnatural. I have one of these small rhombohedrons and the quality of the energy emanating from it is much more intensified than the more common banded variety. This is not to say the banded variety is inferior. I work more often with the banded massive forms because I feel it is more approachable and conducive to meditative and alignment workings. The crystalline specimens of rhodochrosite simply hold an extremely condensed version of the same energetic signature and may be more appropriate for people with greater experience working with crystal energy. Some people find the energy of certain crystals too intimidating or intense to work with immediately and need to develop a relationship with the crystal in question.

For me, rhodochrosite represents the Heart—not so much romantic or sexual love, but self-love. It is this relationship with the Self that many of us struggle with and attempt to displace by investing in relations with others before taking the time and doing the work to build a strong sense of self-love and respect. The colour of rhodochrosite emits such gentility and warmth—it is both comforting and soothing. I consider self-love as the core of being, only from which can love for those around us emanate. We cannot hope to love others if we cannot first love ourselves. This love for Self is not to be confused with narcissism or vanity. It is our deepest, foundational relationship with Self, without which our actions, words, and thoughts become superficial, seeking meaning and validation only outside ourselves. This denial of Self is largely what contributes to emotional and psychological issues that manifest later as destructive behaviour and nihilistic thought cycles. By holding within ourselves a strong foundational core of self-love, we work with the Law of Causation and send out the same love to the Universe, much like the ripples of a wave in a body of water.

Cross section of rhodochrosite stalactite

Cross section of rhodochrosite stalactite

The concentricity of the banded rhodochrosite speaks strongly to me of the heartwood of trees and growth rings. If we have a solid, steadfast relationship with Self, we can then emanate love to others—to the Universe as a coexisting Macrocosm—and likewise receive emanations of love back. The rosy ringed bands of this stone also remind me of notions of past and future. Often we think that what is past is past and that the future is unknowable. While from certain perspectives this may be true, I feel we can project intention back to our earlier selves to aid the healing process, and likewise send intention to our future selves. We can use rhodochrosite to send emanations of love and wisdom back to our childhood or adolescent selves that perhaps suffered pain or abuse. Within Reiki philosophy, this is what is accomplished by invoking the wisdom of Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen—a symbol that opens a portal through space and time—allowing us to send intentional energy to our younger self, or to another location or time, future or past. This can also allow us access to healing our ancestral lineage and any grief or trauma that may have occurred in eras past. It is said that the emotional and psychological impact of such hardships can carry forward in genetics for up to seven generations.

Reiki symbol Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen

Reiki symbol Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen

For me personally, one of the most evocative symbols embodying this essence of boundless compassion and grace is the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As the most pervasive—yet somewhat disguised—image of the Sacred Feminine throughout the last 1500 years, Mary is a powerful archetype to turn to for the healing of grief. Through her Seven Sorrows—represented by the seven daggers—Mary emanates transcendental compassion and wisdom—represented by the white roses or lilies. The symbol of the rose itself—and, by extension, rhodochrosite—is one steeped in spiritual tradition. In the Middle Ages, the rose as an abstract symbol was a representation of the womb of Mary—the sacred vestibule—the Holy of Holies—sanctified to carry the infant Christ. She is the merciful quality of boundless love in which we can share, be enfolded and embraced. If Christian mythology doesn’t work for you, Quan Yin—the female bodhisattva of mercy from traditional Chinese mythology—holds the same archetypal energy of compassionate wisdom. Her names means “She Who Hears the Cries of the World.”

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Remain mindful that the heart is the meeting place of the lower and upper energy centres. Is it at Anahata Chakra that we synthesize the grounded energies of Earth—pulled up through the soles of our feet—and the celestial energies of Sky—drawn in through the crown of the head. As such our bodies are conduits for universal energy, forming a toroidal field of continual flow about us, linking the Heart with the Above—Kether—the Crown—as well as with the Below—Malkuth—the Root. This energetic circuit completes the Middle Pillar of Qabalistic teaching. In this way we are linked with Source, as well as with the Earth itself. Maintaining this alignment is certainly a challenge since so much of our culture indoctrinates us to emphasize one or the other. In eras past, the emphasis was certainly on the spiritual centre, that all life on Earth was merely a transitory way station during our path to spiritual attainment. However, popular 21st-century culture is turning the wheel entirely, so that the only meaningful emphasis is placed on the acquisition of material goods, social status, and monetary success. We’ve been suffering the Matter/Spirit divide since Descartes—that the body is devoid of spirit, and that spirit wants nothing to do with the carnal sins of the body. By establishing a healthy Middle Pillar within our subtle body, we can begin to strengthen the link between the two realms. The importance of this move towards unification is reflected everywhere in the illusion of separation that continues to contribute to pain and suffering. Rhodochrosite can be a wonderful ally in the journey to meet the Shadow and the union and integration that can occur within our own beings, and also that on a successively Macro scale of global and universal harmony and wisdom.

Quan Yin, bodhisattva of compassion

Quan Yin, bodhisattva of compassion

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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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