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Amethyst, February’s Gemstone Part 1

The Amethyst.

From passion and from care kept free

Shall Pisces’ children ever be

Who wear so all the world may see

The Amethyst

                       Author unknown

Amethyst is a busy stone. Ruled by the planet Jupiter, it’s the zodiac gemstone for those born under the sign of Pisces. Both traditional and modern birthstone lists include amethyst as the February birthstone.

Amethyst sterling silver vermeil pendant at Twelvesilvertrees.comOn the subject of February, according to legend, St. Valentine wore an amethyst ring carved with Cupid’s likeness. This may seem an unlikely pairing, given the gem’s reputation for calming passions. However, keep in mind that in Medieval times, chaste love was highly valued as true love. Amethysts signified this vision of love.

Many cultures find spiritual overtones in amethysts. Often viewed as a stone of peace, some believe amethyst’s calming presence produces soothing dreams by bringing the dreamer more in tune with the Divine. This clarity and peacefulness also extends to the waking mind. Amethysts are said to help the mind flow freely in both mental and spiritual realms. Many psychics use amethysts to cleanse & charge with their tarot cards and other divination tools.

It is believed that this association with calming physical passions led some early Christians to associate the amethyst with Christ. The gem’s purple colors represented purity of spirit. Its purplish and reddish hues represent the chastening and purifying effects of suffering, the colors alluding to the wounds and suffering of Christ, hence amethysts were used to aid the healing of wounds.

The Ancient Egyptians carved & polished amethysts into amulets as both a form of prayer and protection against harm. While later Egyptian master craftsmen created elaborate and breathtaking pieces, early artisan jewellery makers kept their designs more simple & practical. Most likely, early magicians designed these devices as protective fetishes, carving amethysts, carnelians and beryls into shapes of animals & deities. In later times, members of the priesthood designed & crafted these amulets.

One of the most well-known uses of amethysts cleansing powers involves its  purported capacity to prevent drunkenness. The myth about Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, has promoted this belief.

The story goes as follows,

Long ago, a beautiful maiden was on her way to worship at the Temple of Diana. However, she had the misfortune of crossing paths with the god of wine, Bacchus. Angered since he’d just suffered some slight, he’d vowed to take revenge on the next person he met. He spied the maid and unleashed his two guardian tigers upon her. As the great beasts bounded towards the hapless lass, the goddess Diana intervened. To spare her such a terrible fate, she turned her into a pure, clear stone. Immediately, remorse seized Bacchus. To atone for his actions, he poured his wine over the stone, staining the crystal a deep, violet hue. And so, the maiden Amethyst lent her name to the crystal.

Although written in a classical style, this myth only dates from the Renaissance period, as part of a poem on gemstone beliefs written by the 16th century French Romantic poet, Remy Belleau (there is also an ancient Greek version of this story referred to as Dionysus & the tigers)

Nevertheless, the idea that the stone could guard against drunkenness does go back to the Ancient Greeks. Amethystos means “not drunk” in Ancient Greek. They believed you could drink all night and remain sober if you had an amethyst in your mouth or on your person.

Part 2 to follow