A Brief History of Crystals

The use of crystals for healing on many levels began long before what is called the New Age. When you hold a crystal or meditate with them, place them in special areas of your home, or wear crystal jewelry, you continue practices which are as old as humankind.

The history below is by no means complete; it is intended to suggest that the human connection to crystals is one which transcends time and cultures.

Prehistoric Use of Crystals

Archaeologists have discovered in graves and barrows excavated in Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Africa beads, carvings, and jewelry of amber, jet, turquoise, lapis, garnet, carnelian, quartz, and other stones. It is believed that the carvings were probably amulets and talismans, used for protection and as reminders of religious rites.

Some of the discovered stones were carved in the shape of various animals, and were probably symbols of particular totems. Others were necklaces and other items of adornment.

The value given to crystals in these various cultures is indicated by their presence in the graves; they were intended to go with the departed soul to help them in the next life.

A striking example of prehistoric reverence for crystals is the solar temple, Newgrange. This ancient passage grave in the Boyne Valley of Ireland, which is older than the pyramids, was built so that the sun would stream through the 70-foot-long entrance tunnel on the Winter Solstice. Its roof was originally covered with white quartz, to symbolize the White Goddess.

Crystal Skulls

One of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries has been that of anatomically perfect crystal skulls. According to the many sources I've consulted on them they defy modern dating techniques; estimates are that they are at least 20,000 years old.

One of the best-known of these is the Mitchell-Hedges skull. Its origins are disputed. Some believe that it was discovered by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, the daughter of archaeologist F.A. Mitchell-Hedges, in Guatemala; others claim that the archaeologist bought it in London.

Although the specific purpose for the carving and use of the crystal is unknown, those who have spent time with it have reported a variety of mystical experiences.

I had the privilege of spending some time with this skull in 1988. Simply to view its perfection (it is so lovingly carved that its surface is perfectly smooth) and the rainbows which flash from its interiors would have been gift enough; being able to touch it was an experience so powerful that I am sorry to say I can't describe it, except to say that there is enormous spiritual energy in this skull.

Ancient Egypt

Crystal was widely used in this civilization. A hieroglyphic papyrus from the year 2000 B.C. documents a medical cure using a crystal, and several from the year 1500 B.C. have additional prescriptions.

Lapis was considered to be a royal stone. It was often pulverized and made into a poultice to be rubbed into the crown of the head. It was believed that as it dried it drew out all spiritual impurities.

The pharaohs often had their headdresses lined with malachite in the belief that it helped them to rule wisely. In powder form this stone was used for poor eyesight and inner vision.

Many other stones were found in the tombs, including carnelian, turquoise, and tiger's eye. These were often shaped into amulets, shields, and into the shapes of hearts, the Eye of Horus, and scarabs.

Native American

The original settlers of North, Central, and South America used crystals widely for spiritual, ceremonial, and healing purposes, and served practical purposes, as well. The ancient Mexicans, for example, made mirrors out of pyrite.

Obsidian served both practical and ritual purposes. The Mayans used it for ceremonial knives, and and other tribes believed that it served to sharpen both outer and inner vision.

Turquoise was believed to be a stone which bridged heaven and earth (a belief also held in Tibet). In one legend it is stated that if one went to the end of the rainbow and dug in the earth he would find a turquoise.

Mayan Indians used quartz crystals for both the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Some Mexican Indian tribes believed that the souls of those who led good lives would go into crystals.

China and Japan

Quartz was traditionally revered in the Far East, especially in carved form. Quartz crystal balls were considered to represent the heart or essence of the dragon. Dragons were thought to have great power, and a deeper meaning for "dragon" is that of a very wise and evolved individual.

The stone most associated with China is jade. It was termed the concentrated essence of love. Many kinds of amulets are carved from this stone, including those for friendship and for romantic love. A jade butterfly was a symbol of successful love.


The culture of ancient India is a rich source of information about crystals. The system of chakras (energy centers), which helps us to place crystals on the body for healing and meditation originated there. Astrological documents written as early as 400 B.C. contain detailed observations about the power of various stones to counteract the negative effects of planetary positions.

Stones were regarded as having great spiritual and emotional powers. Moonstone, for instance, was a sacred stone, and believed to arouse love. Onyx, in contrast, was believed to help release the ties of old loves. The ruby was a highly valued gemstone, and was known as the "king of precious stones."

The connection between humans and crystals is especially vivid in the following verses from the Vedas (Hindu sacred texts):

There is an endless net of threads
Throughout the universe.
The horizontal threads are in space.
The vertical threads are in time.
At every crossing of the threads,
There is an individual,
And every individual
Is a crystal bead.
The great light of absolute being
Illuminates and penetrates
Every crystal bead, and also,
Every crystal bead reflects
Not only the light
From every other crystal in the net,
But also every reflection
Of every reflection
Throughout the universe.

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