Mythology of the Amethyst

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Amethyst Gemstone’s Place in Antiquity is Testament to its Unique Color

Considered a stone of friendship, the amethyst is said to protect its wearer against seduction and evil spirits, as well as enhancing clarity of the mind.

Ancient Greeks believed amethyst had the power to prevent intoxication and carved wine goblets from the purple stone. Powdered amethyst added to a drink was supposed to protect the drinker from the effects of alcohol. One myth describes how the goddess Rhea gave Dionysus an amethyst stone to protect him from drunkenness and preserve his sanity.

According to Greek mythology Dionysus, the god of wine, became enamored of a young woman called Amethysos, who spurned his attention. Undeterred, Dionysus continued his pursuit, resulting in Amethysos praying to the gods to help her remain chaste. The goddess Artemis granted her wish and changed Amethysos into a white stone. So impressed was Dionysus by Amethysos’s desires to remain pure that he poured wine over the white stone as an offering, turning the stone purple.

A variation of this myth has a furious Dionysus declaring his intention to kill the next mortal he meets after having been insulted by a mortal. He created a group of fierce tigers to carry out his promise. He met Amethysos, on her way to pay a tribute to Artemis. To protect the maiden from the tigers the goddess turned Amethysos into a pure white crystal statue. When he saw the beautiful statue Dionysus was so overcome with the guilt he wept. His tears stained the white quartz purple.

The Greek philosopher Hieronymus wrote that eagles placed an amethyst in their nests to protect their young from danger. Pliny, another Greek philosopher, claimed in one of his writings that an amethyst worn around the neck on a cord made from a dog’s hair was effective protection from snakebite.

The Amethyst in Religion

Symbolic of trust and piety, the amethyst has become associated with different religious faiths. Moses described it as a symbol of the Spirit of God when it was placed in the original breastplate of the High Priest of the Jews. According to the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus, the amethyst is affiliated with the tribe of Dan, one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It is the gemstone of the Apostle Matthew.

As the stone of Catholic clergy, it was used in prelates’ crosses and is featured in the 15th century Papal Ring in Pforzheim’s Jewellery Museum. Tibetan monks dedicated the amethyst to Buddha and used the gemstone for their rosaries. Some Muslim prayer beads are made from amethyst.

The Amethyst and Royalty

Because the color purple is associated with royalty, throughout history the amethyst has adorned monarch’s crowns, rings, necklaces, and other jewelry. The mummies of Egyptian rulers were entombed with amethysts. It was a favorite gemstone of Catherine the Great of Russia. In the 19th century, Napoleon seized an amethyst bust of the Roman Emperor Trajan when his army conquered Berlin.

At the beginning of the 18th Queen Charlotte of England owned a magnificent amethyst bracelet which was, at the time, valued at around £2,000 sterling. Some of the world’s rarest amethysts are featured in the Crown Jewels worn by England’s ruling monarch.

The Amethyst Skull

In 1912 the Amethyst Skull was discovered in Mexico. It is thought to be over 1,500 years old. The Amethyst Skull may have belonged to either President Diaz of Mexico or order of Mayan priests, who handed it down through their generations. A Mayan priest brought it to America in 1982. Research conducted by Hewlett Packard revealed the skull was carved and shaped against the natural axis or “grain” of the stone. Not only is this feat nearly impossible today; it is completely unknown for the tools and skills available in the era from which the Amethyst Skull is dated.

Amethysts for Protection and Transition

The name “amethyst” is derived from the Ancient Greek words a, (“not”) and methustos (“intoxicated”), a tribute to the gemstone’s ability to protect its wearer from the effects of alcohol consumption. Medieval European soldiers wore amethyst amulets for protection in battle. Amethyst beads have been found in Anglo-Saxon graves in England. It was believed the stone would protect crops from storms and locusts.

During Europe’s Renaissance-era – from the 14th to the 17th century – the amethyst became a symbol of humility and modesty. The color purple came to represent a unification of influences. The gemstone became very popular in jewelry and was used to decorate crosses carried by people.

The amethyst’s qualities are said to guide the soul through journeys to another dimension where visibility is low. It is also thought to aid the stranded and/or the struggling. Some evenings, shortly after dusk, the sky fills with a lilac color at the beginning of the transition from day to night. This beautiful, rare phenomenon is called “An Amethyst Sky”.

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