Archive for October, 2010

The Biblical Origin of Birthstones – Part I

October 29, 2010

Do you like to wear your birthstone, or perhaps the birthstones of your children or other family members?  Have you ever wondered how these particular gemstones came to be assigned to each month?  The history and lore of birthstones is a fascinating topic with cultural and religious origins that may surprise you.

If you’ve ever shopped for jewelry, you’ve probably seen the familiar list of “modern” birthstones most often used in the United States:

January - Garnet
February - Amethyst
March - Aquamarine
April - Diamond
May - Emerald
June - Pearl / Moonstone
July - Ruby
August - Peridot
September - Sapphire
October - Opal / Tourmaline
November - Yellow Topaz / Citrine
December - Blue Topaz / Turquoise / Tanzanite

Now, there are other, similar treatments of gemstones ascribed to different cultures.  In traditional Ayurvedic medicine from India, for example, gemstones are associated with the planets in Vedic astrology and used as a sort of prescription for addressing imbalances in the individual’s horoscope.  But although I have seen lists of “Ayurvedic birthstones,” it appears that within that tradition, the stones aren’t strictly associated with the months the way we think of birthstones in the West.  Similarly, there is a “mystical birthstone” list often seen on the internet, which is attributed to Tibet, but I have yet to find a reliable source explaining its origin.

The list above was standardized in 1912 by the Jewelers of America, a national association of professional jewelers, although tanzanite was added to the month of December by the American Gem Trade Association fairly recently, in 2002.  But the original list of stones was somewhat different, and the idea of a special gemstone connected to the month of your birth has roots that go much further back.

In his 1913 book The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, George Frederick Kunz explains that both Josephus (a Jewish writer of the 1st century AD) and St Jerome (a Christian of the 5th century) suggested a correspondence between the twelve months of the year, the twelve signs of the zodiac, and a list of twelve stones given in the Biblical book of Exodus.  These twelve stones were said to be set into the breastplate of the High Priest of the Israelites, and engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Neither Josephus nor Jerome went into detail about how these stones were connected to the months; instead, the order in which the stones are assigned comes from another listing of stones in the Bible, namely the twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation.  Now, these stones were said to be carved with the names of the twelve apostles, and the apostles in turn were associated with the months of the year.  These two lists of stones eventually formed the basis for our modern list of birthstones.

What were these lists of stones, and how did they come to be attributed to the months?  That will be the subject of Part II of The Biblical Origin of Birthstones, coming soon!

(This essay was originally posted on the Crystal and Mineral Collecting blog of a local “rock shop” called Treasure Mountain Mining.  They operate primarily on the internet, but have a wonderful showroom of minerals, in which I have spent way too much time.  :)  The bulk of my own collection of crystals and minerals comes from these folks, and they recently asked me to contribute some articles to their blog.  I will be posting them here as well, starting with this one, but I invite you to check out the original post as well, which includes some pictures and links to their fantastic specimens of the various birthstone minerals!)

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 25

October 21, 2010

Media Astra Ac Terra Episode 25 is now available for download!  In this episode, we look at Uranus in the Astra segment, and the mineralogy and metaphysics of celestite in the Terra segment.  Then in the main show I share some of my recent adventures with mice and angels.  :)

In the introduction, I also give a brief book review of Math for Mystics by Renna Shesso, and in the main show I mention Lon Milo Duquette’s recent book, Enochian Vision Magick.  The online class he’s teaching based on that book can be found at the Maybe Logic Academy, with more details on the Course Info page.

During the episode, I played promos for The Infinite and the Beyond, New World Witchery (check out their recent folktale mini-sodes!), and a fun new show bumper from Rikki Lacoste (und Wolfgang Schtrüdelburger) of Kakophonos:)

Last but not least, I said that I would include a little more of a write-up on the things I’ve come across in my research into how to keep mice and other rodents out of your car, whether you live in the country or you’re storing your vehicle for a season. I ignored most advice about setting traps or using poison, because for one thing, I think poison is cruel and too apt to kill random other creatures, and frankly, it’s just not an option to trap or kill all of the mice around my house. Killing or removing some would just make room for more. The second most common advice I came across was to get a cat, although again, my interest was more in learning how to keep mice out of my car rather than cut down on the mouse population in general. Besides, I’m allergic to cats, although lately I’ve been considering giving one a try, since my partner loves cats and would love to have one.

So, the best options I came across that work for me involve stinking up my car. My understanding is that mice rely heavily on their sense of smell, and they don’t like going into a place where that sense is overwhelmed. That’s why things like mothballs will keep them away – but frankly, they’d keep me away, too, and I didn’t want to make my car toxic to ME. So I went with scented dryer sheets and smelly soap; the things I saw recommended most often were Bounce dryer sheets in the glove compartment and Irish Spring soap under the hood, so I went with those. I tied the soap in sections of nylon pantyhose to keep them in place, and tied those in areas that don’t get too hot from the engine – the last thing I need is a fire hazard, or soap clogging my engine – and when I park the car at home I put a cardboard box underneath that has both dryer sheets and a bar of the soap in it, to discourage them from coming in close to the car at all. I also made up a spray bottle with peppermint oil in water; mice don’t like the smell of mint, I hear, so I occasionally mist around the wheel wells, too. So far it seems to be working. I’m not thrilled with the smell of all this stuff, either, but I can deal with it.

If you’ve got any suggestions that I haven’t mentioned – especially from personal experience – feel free to share!

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!
- Oraia Sphinx


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