Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Alexandria Reynolds
The Metaphysical Properties of Rocks
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines metaphysical as “of or relating to
the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses”.
Essentially, I’m going to be telling you about magic rocks. I’ll be telling you
about the history of the subject, discussing a few examples of rocks and their
perceived metaphysical properties, and also talk about the legitimacy of the
subject in today’s world.
“It’s my lucky rock!” – A Brief History
Let me try to explain the motivation behind these beliefs, though there are
several. I’ll start with what’s probably the most relatable. Chances are that
somewhere, you have some item you hold precious, right? You might seek this item
out sometimes, because you feel it does something for you. Not physically,
necessarily, but it might make you feel comforted, happy, secure… We can only
theorize, but that may have been the thought process that caused people to start
collecting stones and attributing things to them.
People have been doing this for a very long time. In fact, it was the ancient
Sumerians who started attempting to use the rocks to affect the body. They used
it for things ranging from jewelry, amulets for graves, cosmetics, even “magic
The Greeks were responsible for naming the metaphysical properties of many rocks
and gems, most notably amethyst. Amethyst is believed to prevent drunkenness,
and that is exactly what its name implies. The name comes from a pair of Ancient
Greek words that mean “not drunk”. Of course, the stone was used in the
prevention of drunkenness and hangovers alike.
Sounds a lot like magic, right? Well, let me give a few more examples, to show you just how powerful people believe these stones to be.
(Yes, this black lump is supposed to be magical.) —Image courtesy
of R. Weller/Cochise College
Fantastic, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think so from looking at it, but this thing
that looks like it belongs in a charcoal grill is actually supposed to remove
negativity from your life. It is a variety of obsidian, called Apache Tears,
which turns from opaque to translucent when held up to a light source.
It receives its supposed metaphysical properties from its name, as well as the
story behind it. The story says that there existed a certain Apache tribe, who
made multiple raids on an Arizona settlement. Those they were raiding decided to
hunt them down, succeeded in tracking them back to their homes, and attacked at
dawn. Most of the Apache men were killed. The rest killed themselves, rather
than die at the hands of their opponent. This left the women of the tribe; they
cried so much that their deity, the Great Father, sealed their tears inside
The story is important in describing how the metaphysical properties of the
stone work, as well. It is believed to appease the grieving because the Apache
women cried in the stead of the owner of the stone. It sounds pretty
difficult to believe, right? Well, this next rock is even more unbelievable.
(Oh how pretty and… lead-containing?) —Image courtesy of R.
Let me ask you: what do you think that pretty pink-ish rock is supposed to do?
Make you feel loved? No. Does it cure self-consciousness? Definitely not. How
about making you feel calm? That’s closer, but it’s not the primary purpose.
This crystal, Anglesite, is supposed to facilitate communication with the dead.
Like some sort of crystalline phone line to the underworld. Supposedly, you
could use this rock to communicate with creatures on any plane of existence
other than this one.
Oh, one small little caveat, though. While you’re busy communing with the dead
or a creature in some other universe, you could be giving yourself heavy-metal
poisoning. This pretty crystal medium contains lead!
This last stone isn’t quite as dangerous, but it still has a pretty cool trick
up its sleeve.
(Now this looks special, right?)—Image courtesy of R.
This lovely little gem is called Alexandrite, and it can do something that
neither of the other stones can do: it can change color. In natural lighting,
the stone will remain its natural green-ish color. When viewed under artificial
light, the stone appears red in hue. This change in color contributes to the
belief that the stone will allow its owner (or wearer) to fearlessly handle
Alexandrite is also believed to accomplish a variety of other tasks. In addition to its change-related powers, it is also said to do things such as giving luck in love, aiding regeneration, and helping with self-esteem.
“People believe this!” – Modern Beliefs
Now, while the author tries very hard to stay neutral on this topic, people are
very divided in their beliefs regarding the metaphysical. On the one hand, most
people dismiss the whole idea as superstitious babble. There is, truly, little
to no scientific evidence that supports the idea that rocks can have an effect
on the human mind and body. Their standpoint makes sense: you can’t prove it, so
The viewpoint of those that believe it seems a lot more complicated, however.
For some, it borders on an almost religious stance. The idea of crystal healing
would in fact be entirely religious, if not for the one aspect of it that has
yet to be proven or disproven. Those that use crystals for the sake of healing
have a theory: that crystals, rocks, and gems put off a vibrational frequency
(or “energy”) which resonates with parts or the whole of the human body. Some
claim that it is not so different from ultrasound or infrared use in medicine.
Unfortunately, very few studies have been done at all, so it will likely never
be anything more than an interesting theory.
Yet whether or not it is believed to be effective in healing physical ailments,
crystal healing is sometimes used alongside traditional medical treatments
because it relaxes the patient. Like anything unproven, it is not recommended to
use crystal healing as the sole treatment for disease. All the same, it can turn
a simple piece of jewelry into a fantastic conversation starter.
Apache Tears- http://skywalker.cochise.edu/wellerr/rocks/igrx/obsidian-tearsF.htm