crystal healing, Holistic health and wellness

Labradorite: A Stone for January

labradorite palmstone

Polished labradorite palmstone

Labradorite is a majestic stone of strength, protection, and transformation. A member of the plagioclase family, it is comprised of feldspar and was named by Moravian missionaries to Labrador in 1770. This stone’s remarkable physical appearance lends to its magickal and spiritual applications. According to Inuit legend, the aurora borealis was once trapped inside this stone, until some of its light escaped into the sky and became the magnificent northern lights. This legend speaks to the play of light and flashes of colour within labradorite’s structure. The stone itself is an unremarkable grey-green colour and somewhat translucent. The wonderful iridescent display—specifically called labradorescence—is the result of separated and layered intergrowths within the stone. The depth and orientation of these layers, along with the angle of the light source, determine the effect. The colours range from bright blues to sea green, golden yellow to copper, and sometimes even violet. While first identified by Europeans in Labrador, it has since been mined throughout the world. Much of the labradorite on the market today comes from Madagascar. It is a very popular semi-precious stone used in jewelry, and has also more recently been used to produce stylish floor and kitchen tiles.

aurora borealisOne of the primary energetic qualities of labradorite is its capacity to aid us in finding our own inner spiritual strength. The bright colour display of this stone emanates from deep within its crystalline layers. In this same way, it can become a powerful ally in our own journeys to discover the radiance within. When observing the stone closely, the emergence of colour and light informs each stone’s individual quality. A piece displaying mostly blue will have a slightly different personality—or energetic signature—than one rich in yellow tones. No two are alike. Forging a relationship with labradorite can also be a journey in discovering our own latent spiritual gifts. For me, a primary keyword for labradorite is Protection. By this, I mean it strengthens and fortifies the aura, bolstering it from within so that you may deflect negative, inappropriate, or unwanted influences. We are always in co-creation—sharing healthy amounts of energy with one another and all of Nature—however, some empathic and highly sensitive types have much more permeable energetic boundaries. If you sense that your empathic nature drains you, labradorite can be helpful in constructing a more autonomous field. This is not to say that you must sever bonds with the world around you, but often we can be unaware, or unconscious, of unbalanced energy exchanges, especially over long periods of time. For those in unhealthy relationships with others—or oneself—this is very important. Only in understanding and strengthening our boundaries are we best able to discover our true selves. So often we fall into relationships that demand we mask or hide our authentic selves for the sake of a job, to satisfy family members, to please a partner, to meet the expectations of self. Working with labradorite can help the process of finding your voice and identity in a world of others seeking to do the same, which often results in many adhering to models set by popular culture and mass media. By strengthening the auric field, we establish safe space within our own being to be unedited and inhabit if the energy of others is too draining or demanding. This personal space is so important to allow breathing room to assess ourselves fully and honestly in a way we don’t often permit or find time for. By projecting a strong auric boundary—strengthened by labradorite’s shimmering light—we can grant ourselves the freedom to be vulnerable and explore insecurities that have perhaps long haunted us.

labradorite sphere

Polished labradorite sphere

The shimmering flashes of labradorite connect us with Bifrost—the rainbow bridge between Heaven and Earth in Norse mythology. Being a channel—a conduit—between the archetypal essences of Earth and Sky—Yin and Yang, etc.—is the primary goal of much shamanic practice. The shaman—the magickal practitioner—seeks to balance within their being these energies; to possess the ability to shift, to step from one world to the next—from one mode of conscious awareness to another—with grace and ease. All is subject to the shifting, changing flow of the Cosmos—from the grand scale of galaxies, to all minute, atomic structure—and we are as much participants as observers in the fluid Universe. I consider labradorite to be one of the prominent shamanic stones—a crystalline guardian to altered states of awareness. Becoming acquainted with the nature of shapeshifting is to initiate oneself into the realms of the non-linear and the non-local. Labradorite can help with becoming accustomed to inhabiting this transitional space. Just as in the light the appearance of the stone shifts to reveal rich flashes of colour from what before was a dull grey surface, so does our being shift and metamorphose as we explore our existence among levels of consciousness. As we awaken Kundalini and explore the Tree of the Life within our own being, our vision can be trained to turn inward and gather insight from our subtle bodies and the non-physical world. Versions of ourselves exist on the Inner Planes as much as the outer, 3D reality of Malkuth—Muladhara, the Root Chakra—that we inhabit throughout normal, waking consciousness.

ajna

Ajna Chakra

Shapeshifting can be a vital lesson in non-attachment—that the true nature of the Cosmos is not concretely objective. It is this changing perspective—evolving modes of seeing—that links labradorite, for me, to Ajna Chakra—the Third Eye. Associated with pure Light, Ajna means “Command” in Sanskrit and is the seat of our mental command—the centre of pure intuitive, spiritual knowledge. The lotus of Ajna Chakra has two petals representing the union of Ida and Pingala nadis as they rise up the spinal column and unite in divine wisdom at the energy vortex of the forehead. This reflects the perfect synthesis of polar forces, just as the union of Sky and Earth in shamanic practice. From this place of balance and awareness we may begin working to see with inner vision and learn to trust our intuitive, innate wisdom to create change in our outer lives. The ephemeral veil of the aurora borealis as it shifts and dances across the sky can teach us to release our dependence on concrete answers and finite, observable reality. Rather, it can aid in opening us to the realms of divination, imagination, and dreams. By trusting the world of our inner dreams and desires we become the Fool of the Tarot. The Fool is 0, the empty capacity of all things to come into being. The Fool is not silly or aimless, but rather bravely inhabits the process of the journey fully, setting foot out the door, embarking along the path ahead with intuitive trust, openness, and wonder. This is a fitting match for the month of January and stepping into the new year. January is named for Janus, the two-faced Roman god of transition and the new year. Janus looks back from where he’s come, but also casts his gaze to the future, inhabiting both to gather wisdom and clarity. Janus inhabits all worlds, accepting plural realities and the possibilities of All. This is the wisdom of labradorite. It can teach us to hone and develop our inner vision—building intention in the Astral Field so that it might manifest in denser form upon the Material Plane. Now that 2016 has dawned, we step into the growing light of the Sun as it waxes toward the Vernal Equinox in March. Harness this energy to develop your psychic sight to align the highest desires and greatest joys of our inner being with the world around you and walk the bridge between dreams and reality. Embrace change as a means for growth and expansion and work with labradorite as an ally to fortify your personal light as it mingles with the light of All That Is.

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Janus, Roman god of the new year

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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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Amethyst: A Stone for September

amethyst-natural-crystal-point-8cm_3

Natural amethyst point

After giving some thought to what stone or crystal would be an appropriate energetic tool for the month of September, I kept coming back to amethyst. The traditional birthstone of the month of February, amethyst is usually more strongly associated with the springtime and energetic rebirth, however, I am currently appreciating its qualities for the transition into the dark half of the year. As the Autumnal Equinox approaches, the northern hemisphere shifts from the warm and bright days of summer, to the growing dark and cooler temperatures of winter. We move through a delicate celestial dance that unfolds between the two solstices—the zenith and nadir of the solar year. As such, I have always perceived the equinoxes as gateways—sacred instances of perfect balance in the spring and autumn—that usher us from one kingdom to the other—from Light to Dark. The equinoxes are especially auspicious moments on the Wheel of the Year because they represent the magickal in-between moments that cannot be quantified as absolutes. The equinoxes are the energetic equivalents of dawn and dusk—ephemeral moments that are no longer summer or winter, or day or night. These equinoctial tides are perfect moments to embrace change and shifts as we flow through the cyclical nature of the cosmos. The cardinal direction of the Autumn Equinox is West. Here along the Pacific coast the West has a special energetic quality considering it is the direction of the oceanic horizon over which the sun sets to begin its Underworld journey until rising again at dawn in the East. Thus, the Equinox, the West, and the ocean all carry the energy of Decay and Death—or Transformation and Transmutation—in order to aid us in the journey from one state of being to the next, in accordance with the seasonal forces.

As much as I like to embrace free agency in my spirituality, I also recognize that sometimes this notion of surrendering to the Universal Flow can be daunting and intimidating, if not terrifying. So this year, during the autumnal shift, I am enlisting the wisdom of a crystal guide—Amethyst—the Violet Flame and Sacred Gatekeeper. Moving through the threshold of the Autumnal Equinox—passing the horizon line—we approach the kingdom of death—the Other/Underworld—as we gaze into the violet dusk and deep indigo spirit sky—the realm so strongly linked with amethyst and its ethereal quality. This time of year, as the nights get longer and cooler, with stars bright and clear arching their way across the sky, we can prepare relationships with the spirit realms and the entities that inhabit these unknowable regions. The fey creatures that come to play in the darkening year, however, have a greater tendency for mischief and nefarious aims than the faeries awoken at the Vernal Equinox. The spiritual purity—so-to-speak—of amethyst helps keep us on the straight-and-narrow. As we immerse ourselves into the enfolding darkness, it can be inviting to completely surrender to this energy, especially following the open fullness of summer. For the past several years I have had to consciously guard myself up psychologically during the shift from summer’s end to the onset of autumn. Summer is a period of such unadulterated communion with the natural world—the sun, the sky, grass, earth, and water—that in the wake of this openness and the decline of summer’s buoyancy, I often require moments of spiritual grounding and guarding because this season of energetic openness often leaves me in a permeable state. The denouement of summer can allow a pale violet melancholy to filter my reality and leave me susceptible to the playful machinations of the Sidhe—the hidden, underground realms of the Faery Folk—the kingdom of the Unseelie Court as it is known in Celtic folklore. These creatures work to draw you off the garden path into unknown regions. This isn’t a problem, provided we have taken measures to acquaint ourselves with our Shadow.

I largely use crystals as aids in my own self-transformative psychodrama, as the seasonal energy of the equinoxes are certainly among the most potent times for transformation. By enacting rituals—spontaneous, intuitive, or dogmatized—we can manifest change in many ways in our lives—investigating regions of our psyches that have gone unexplored, delving into squandered interests, developing and expressing ourselves in new creative ways. That’s when a more subtle second sight can be developed—the link established between Matter and Spirit. The idea of transition and permeability is integral during this time and I feel amethyst assists in allowing us to transition realms or planes of consciousness—we’re able to soar with Zephyr at sunset into the violet skies which deepen into the numinous black sky of Nuit.

Faceted pale violet Brazilian amethyst

Faceted pale violet Brazilian amethyst

The word amethyst itself is from the Greek améthustos and means “not drunk”. Among the Greeks, it was believed the crystal prevented intoxication by wine. As such, it’s energetic signature is one of mental clarity, precise psychic vision, attunement with Primal Source, stillness, and tranquility. It primarily occurs within geodes—gas bubbles in ancient lava—as crystalline masses or clusters. These hidden, internal crystal cavities reflect the hidden kingdoms of the Sidhe is Celtic folklore mentioned above. Very deep purple amethyst hails from Uruguay and India, while paler violet varieties come from regions of Brazil. Amethyst represents higher consciousness and integration of psychic awareness. The clean, clear vibratory frequency of amethyst awakens and stirs the Pineal Gland and its subtle visions and mysteries. Since within Earth-based spiritual systems the progress to the end of October represents the approach to the season of decay and death—always with the promise of rebirth at the winter solstice. In Ayurvedic tradition, the fall season is energetically that of Vata dosha—the Wind/Air Element. It represents the swift vastness of the mind and imagination. The intellect is quick and spacious, just as the expanding reaches of space. In October, the night air is dangerous, it grows hands and teeth, nimble feet for trickery. The spirit world shadows our own. Amethyst allows us to work with the mystic veil and begin a relationship with what lays beyond.

Dark Uruguayan amethyst cluster

Dark Uruguayan amethyst cluster

I would recommend getting two pieces of amethyst—one the lighter, more ethereal Brazilian variety—the other, the dark, rich purple Uruguayan amethyst. Begin the month working with the lighter amethyst, get to know what opening new realms of your mind is like, opening doors, getting glimpses of new rooms of the psyche. Sit with the amethyst in the light of the moon and allow its light to fill your field. The darker purple variety represents the depth of the journeying possible through its crystalline portals. As Samhain approaches, darker realms of the psyche can be visited with the help of goblin and gremlin companions. Like the goblins of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”, selling and boasting overripe fruit and berries of every kind, they attempt to fool and meddle with humans in many ways. You can enlist the peculiar aid of such an entity to explore an unhealed trauma or issue from the past which you have repressed. When working in tandem with crystals and elemental beings, always request that the forces at work are for the highest possible good.

Vera Cruz amethyst cluster

Vera Cruz amethyst cluster

There is so much to discuss on the subject of this lovely violet variety of quartz. In terms of amethyst, many shades and formations come from regions throughout the world. Some varieties deserve particular note for the purposes of working closely with intentions of spiritual attunement or exploration. Vera Cruz amethyst, unlike the massive structure of amethyst’s usual crystalline beds, forms individual elongated crystals of magnificent clarity, lustre, and subtle violet hue. The gentility of the spiritual energy emanating from Vera Cruz amethyst is excellent for harmonizing energetic imbalances and rifts. It can aid in diffusing densities in the auric field and mend spaces where the boundaries are thin or being compromised. For me, the lavender tones of the Vera Cruz crystals encourage and coax the divine within us but in a playful and blissful way. If we open ourselves to receive this truly unique energy, it holds the key for potential transformation by acquainting us with and developing bonds with the Inner Indigo Child—the Faeries, the Fey. While many crystal healers associate amethyst with the Third Eye, the highly spiritual energy of Vera Cruz amethyst I feel is more appropriately aligned with Sahasrara—the Crown Chakra and Thousand-Petal Lotus. Vera Cruz aids spiritual ascension, allowing us to perceive and witness those things which no longer serve our evolution to fall away with grace. Meaning “True Cross” in Spanish, Vera Cruz amethyst brings our awareness to where our personal energetic fields—or auras—merge with the One. A cluster of this particular variety of Mexican amethyst can be used above the crown of the head to open our connection with Universal Source and bring harmony and wisdom into our lives. The lovely long crystals will diffuse its energy in all directions and, in this way, can be used to clear and amplify the energy of a room.

Brandberg with phantom inclusions

Brandberg with phantom inclusions

Another specific variety of amethyst carrying a unique energetic signature is the Brandberg variety from Namibia. This amethyst variety is named after the Brandberg mountain range. The word itself is Afrikaans and means “Fire Mountain”. While I feel the energy of Vera Cruz crystals is more diffuse and are useful for mending the aura from within, my sense of Brandberg crystals, with their small size and dense, directed energy, are evolved to project extremely focused energy, particularly in the context of bodywork and crystal healing. Brandbergs are small, concentrated crystals or points that carry an energetic link to the deep primordial energy of the Earth, while still maintaining the etheric link characteristic of amethyst as a mediator to the spirit realm. What makes Brandbergs so special is their subtle combination of elements—they are a blend of amethyst, clear quartz, and smokey quartz, often containing interesting attributes such as mineral inclusions, phantoms, and enhydro bubbles. These special crystals are a useful tool for activating one’s Pineal Gland—Ajna Chakra. By gently spiralling a Brandberg above someone’s Third Eye you will quickly activate the channel and this very ancient and powerful part of our being will begin to awaken and lend itself to our vision. This is what I call Igniting the Violet Flame. In much the same notion as the primal divine spark—the Burning Bush—this small, condensed spiritual flame will burn steady once properly ignited and attended. Beyond working with the Third Eye alone and developing psychic sight, Brandbergs also aid in aligning our consciousness with the Cosmic Oneness we emerged from before our current three-dimensional incarnations.

There are also several spiritual and mythological figures who I feel can be incorporated into a practice with amethyst, and emphasize its wisdom and mission. Saint Peter is one of these figures. As a the holder of the keys to a life beyond the mortal coil, Saint Peter is the Gatekeeper—assisting passage from one kingdom—or density of existence—to the next. The Gates of Sight, the eyelids themselves regulate interior and exterior vision—the All-One—the All-Seeing Eye—the Monad. Another figure from a different spiritual tradition sharing much of the same hagiography is Papa Legba—a loa spirit of Haitian Vodou. Papa Legba is the Guardian of the Crossroads and is often syncretized with Saint Peter in their roles as spiritual gatekeepers who moderate our passage from various realms of consciousness and spiritual journeying. Papa Legba’s vévé, or sigil, features the solar glyph—the equal-armed cross—the symbol of the astrological and astronomical year. The four arms represent the solstices and equinoxes, as well as the four directions—the Watchtowers and Elementals. The vertical arms represent the solstices as the zenith and nadir of the kingdoms, and the horizontal arms hold the space of transition, the space of balance and equilibrium. They are the horizon line over which the sun rises into the bright sky—the kingdom of life—and beneath which the sun sets into the realm of darkness—the kingdom of death. The ancients considered the horizon an emblem of transition between birth, life, and death following the daily movement of the sun. Where the sun disappeared after descending from the sky was uncertain, it seemed to travel down beneath the earth, under the realm of the living, to emerge again by morning having traveled a full circuit. The solar glyph is also reflected in the depiction of Saint Peter who carries the crossed keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. These potent spiritual symbols form the same equal-armed cross as Papa Legba’s vévé.

Moving toward the Equinox, employ the wisdom and ministry of amethyst—as well as the equinoctial glyph—to remain mindful of our connection not only with each other, but with the Cosmos as a Whole. Meditating on our communion with the divine can become a crucial step toward self-transformation and embracing change. When we realize nothing happens outside of the Universal Wisdom, we can better move through our lives in a state of grace and reverence. The Autumnal season is appropriate in so many ways to turn inward and honour the cycles of our lives as reflected in the Macrocosm, and amethyst is a perfect spiritual tool to begin this work.

Papa Legba's vévé, or magickal sigil

Papa Legba’s vévé, or magickal sigil

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Chrysoprase: A Stone for March

Polished chrysoprase

Polished chrysoprase

Chrysoprase is a rich leafy green stone of the chalcedony family. The name itself comes from the Greek roots chrysós and prasinon meaning “golden” and “green”, respectively. This name perfectly describes the incarnation of vital Source Energy—prana or qi—in all of Nature. Chrysoprase embodies the warm golden light of divinity manifested in the plants, trees, and flowers—the living green elements. As the Sun begins to warm the Earth at this time, the energies of fertility and growth are awakened and the photosynthetic cycle begins to gather momentum. This season is marked by the Vernal Equinox, a time of perfect balance. As the Sun aligns with the Equator, the long winter nights shorten, the light grows back, and day and night are of equal duration. This phenomena is matched by the Autumnal Equinox in September when the reverse is true—daylight shortens, darkness grows longer, and Nature sheds itself in preparation for the Northern Hemisphere’s winter season. These seasonal tides of change are powerful moments for magical contemplation as they reflect, on a dramatically visible scale, the ever-changing face of the natural world. The symbol of the equinoctial shift is the equal-armed cross—or solar wheel—the planetary glyph of Earth itself. This symbol is one of great strength and power. The four arms represent the four seasons, the four cardinal directions, the four classical elements. The intersection of the vertical and horizontal axes represents the union of Heaven and Earth—the divine crux—the Sacred Heart. The cross is bound and unified by the circle, the shape of infinite movement and growth. This magical glyph represents the equinoxes and solstices because it speaks of a state of balance and shift—between Light and Dark—Sky and Earth. It is also present in the Wheel of the Year of Neopagan tradition, as well as the Medicine Wheel of North American First Nations.

Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel

In ancient Greece the seasonal change from winter to spring was marked by the Eleusinian Mysteries in which Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, was ceremoniously welcomed back to the land of the living following her six-month sojourn in the gloomy kingdom of her consort Hades. Originally lured by Hades into his underworld realm, she fell victim to a spell binding her to stay there half of every year. Persephone’s annual return to the earthy domain of her mother Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, marked the return of warmer weather and the renewed fertility of the fields and forests and was a time of joyous celebration and reverie. However, at the end of summer Persephone once again descends back into the land of Hades to rejoin her husband and jointly govern the dark season as the fields lay fallow. While the autumnal energy is one of solemnity, the wheeling seasons—a microcosmic reflection on Earth of the great spiralling gyres of the stars—carry the eternal promise of the returning light, the sprouting leaves and budding flowers with Persephone’s emergence from the cave.

Rough chrysoprase

Rough chrysoprase

It is in this moment of growing sunlight that the golden-green energy of chrysoprase begins to bubble from the Earth and from our bodies. It harnesses the energy of Manipura—the Solar Plexus Chakra—and channels it up the pillar of Sushumna—the cerebrospinal column—just like a seedling sprouting from the ground reaches for the Sun—the radiating energy of Tiphereth. The Green Ray energy of chrysoprase is held at Anahata—the Heart Chakra—and when it is charged with the rising energy of the season, as sap in a tree, it flourishes like the buds and blossoms of spring. The channel between Manipura and Anahata is the crux of our physical being, and as such is cleansed and strengthened by this returning flow of vital energy. It runs upward through the abdominal core along the spinal column and provides us the vitality and motivation to emerge from any energetic husks that might have formed during the cold season of stillness.

Blodeuwedd by Welsh artist Christopher Williams

Blodeuwedd by Welsh artist Christopher Williams, 1930

The burgeoning of spring heralds a moment of potential transformation on all levels—not just the obviously physical that we see all around us in Nature—but also the emotional, mental, and spiritual. The Vernal Equinox marks a time when the conscious gaze shifts from its inward focus to once again engage in external growth and transmutation. We shift our lives from the grey survival mode of winter to the fresh out-going ventures of spring. We dust off ideas and dreams that we’d been holding onto during the deep hibernation and once again allow the inspiration to flow forth. At the equinox we can harness the power of the shapeshifter—the shamanic force of slipping between worlds—between the defining guises that too often hold us captive in outmoded patterns. It is the shapeshifting Blodeuwedd from Welsh mythology who often comes to my mind during this transformative season. Fashioned by the magicians Gwydion and Math from the blossoms of meadowsweet and broom, Blodeuwedd—whose names means flower-face—embodies the gentle, lush power of nature at this time of budding and blossoming. A uniquely magical creature, she is ephemeral just as the fresh flora suddenly sprout themselves into being fed by the nimble rays of the Sun. Blodeuwedd’s corporeal form shifts from flower to human, and later to animal, as she is consequently transformed into an owl for conspiring to kill her husband.

One of the best ways to celebrate the arrival of spring is to get out into Nature however you can in your location—walk in the forest or park, visit a local botanical garden and appreciate the signs of spring. Here in the Pacific Northwest the cherry trees are in full bloom, carpeting the streets and sidewalks in pastel pink petals. The crocuses and daffodils have opened and the magnolia trees have just lent their large sweet-smelling flowers to the air. While walking contemplate this dramatic transformative display and how it can manifest in your life. Imagine your hands and fingers transforming into leafy tendrils— your feet and toes sprouting roots into the moist soil and moss—your face, the flowers drinking the fresh spring rain. Shapeshift your being in and out of what you’ve come to know. You can easily bring this fresh and vibrant energy into your living space by creating an altar to the muses of spring—Persephone and Blodeuwedd. Gather some fresh running water from a spring or brook in which to place some wild harvested flowers. Whisper to them your affirmations for change and sleep with a chrysoprase beneath your pillow. The shy Fairies will come out from their hiding places in the flower buds and douse your sleeping mind with spirited inspiration for the coming months.

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Crossing the River, Embracing Darkness

Today I walked to work amid a very heavy Pacific Northwest rainfall. As my feet reached over the currents of water gushing along the curb I was thinking about the river Lethe, one of the rivers bordering the Greek underworld, the river of forgetfulness, over which one must cross to pass to the other side. The other side of what you might ask?

Submersion in Lethe - Gustave Doré

Submersion in Lethe – Gustave Doré

This time of year offers us a unique opportunity. For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, this is the season, following the autumnal equinox, that the solar year begins to die. The sun rises and sets lower along the horizon each day and darkness infiltrates our lives. Today in particular we experience a solar eclipse as the sun passes into the Eighth House—Scorpio. Always coinciding with a new moon, a solar eclipse further enforces the energy of the underworld journey I was contemplating as I waded over puddles on a gloomy, grey morning. The new moon marks a monthly dark night of the soul, when the moon, having waned from full, seemingly disappears into the dawn. With no nocturnal light, the new moon offers us the darkest night, a night of deep reflection into the psyche. Today the new moon passes before the great solar disc to eclipse from sight even our great star itself. Ancient cultures the world over perceived eclipses as rare events when the sun was eaten by the dark shadow of the moon. This story of consumption speaks deeply to our mythological selves, our primal selves, through the story of Jonah swallowed at sea by the great whale, or even the nocturnal journey of the sun itself passing through the body of Nuit—the Egyptian goddess of the starry night sky. Furthermore, this image of Death prevailing is embodied in the cosmic energy of Scorpio itself. In the vernacular of Tarot, Scorpio is Trump XIII—the Death card—harvesting bodies like wheat from the field. This, of course, is symbolic death, metaphoric death, all that which must be sacrificed in order to make room for new growth. Just as the sun is now daily waning, it will be reborn at the winter solstice as the child of light, a fragile promise. Death and sacrifice must not be construed as ending or demise. Rather, the spiritual death for which Scorpio is a harbinger, marks the ending of all that which no longer serves. We can seize this energy in our lives by going within to recognize our Shadow, the aspect of ourselves that has long remained hidden for the fear of the power it may release if acknowledged. Addiction, pain, grief, anger, jealousy, etc. are all shadow energies better shed than secretly closeted. We cannot deny their presence, and function, in the human psyche, indeed becoming acquainted with and engaging these energies is often the best way to harness them as teachers during our brief incarnations on earth, the three-dimensional kingdom—Malkuth.

This season is also particularly auspicious as the holiday we popularly know as Halloween approaches. The night of October 31 is the traditional Celtic festival of Samhain, one of four great fire festivals marked by the ancient European tribes. The spooks and tricks of our contemporary, mainstream practices are a reflection of the original significance of the pagan festivities to mark the deepening darkness of the solar year, the death of the agricultural season. This night is an opening of the veil, so to speak, between the realms of the seen and unseen, the physical and the astral, life and death. On this night we can reach between dimensions. It is during this period of darkness, enforced strongly by the eclipse, that we are given a window of opportunity to align with the celestial hierarchy to work to actively affect change in our lives. Darkness is not the maligned cloak of night our medieval ancestors have taught us to fear through distorted fairytales, nor is it the hellish pit where dwells greed, avarice, lust, anger, etc. It is only by feeding darkness these personal demons do we allow them to thrive and fashion around us an imposing cell. Rather, darkness is the great regenerating void into which all things must flow in due course, to there decompose and be reformed into new structure and so drive the cyclical wheel ever onward, fuelling the evolution of Yeats’ great widening gyre: the spiral of our galaxy, the helix of our DNA.

Mark this season with small personal rituals and affirmative actions to align your conscious will with the great universal energies already at work, the energies we are all an innate part of, but often are cultured into switching off our perceptions of. By participating in this energetic co-creation we imbue meaning and subtlety into our daily activities. Go into nature to meditate, consider the fallen leaves as organic matter in the act of transformation, feeding the insects and fungi. Develop a healthy relationship with death as transformation so it no longer holds sway as the final plunge before eventual uncertainty. Use this time to transform energies in your life that are no longer fuelling your growth, which have survived perhaps unacknowledged for far too long. By sweeping away these influences we create space for newness to emerge. Be intuitive and creative with these rituals and ceremonies, paint a symbol on a rock representing that which no longer serves your evolution—be it a habit, a worry, an unhealthy relationship, an argument—and cast it into the sea on the ebbing tide to be washed away by the tenderly transformative energy of water. Write or draw your intention for release on paper—a simple phrase, a poem, a monologue—and offer it to the radically transformative energy of fire. Burnt offerings invoke the mythic power of the phoenix, reborn through fire and ash, rising on wings to the sky. These are acts of sacrifice, not a sacrifice in the crass sense of slaughter, but in the true sense of the word. From the Latinate roots sacer and facio, the word means to make holy, to transform something from the mundane into something special, to endow it with sacred meaning.

Fire-on-the-BeachIf nothing else, use the darkness as a mirror to reveal the husk that can be shed. Wade across the river Lethe. Allow the slough to fall from your being and emerge on the other side refined and focused for what is to come. This morning I was acutely aware of the aspects of myself left behind to be carried away by the dark water gushing along the curb beneath the low-hanging grey clouds. I watched as it flowed, mingled with sticks and leaves, into a small whirlpool as it found the nearest sewer drain.

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