A Lapidary of Sacred Stones: Their Magical and Medicinal Powers Based on the Earliest Sources

A Lapidary of Sacred Stones: Their Magical and Medicinal Powers Based on the Earliest Sources

by Claude Lecouteux


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A comprehensive dictionary of sacred and magical gem lore that draws on the rarest source texts of Antiquity and the Middle Ages

• Reveals the healing and magical virtues of familiar gemstones, such as amethyst, emerald, and diamond, as well as the lore surrounding exotic stones such as astrios, a stone celebrated by ancient magicians

• Examines bezoars (stones formed in animals’ bodies) and “magnets” that attract materials other than metal

• Based on ancient Arabic, Greek, Jewish, and European sources, ranging from the observations of Pliny the Elder to extremely rare texts such as the Picatrix and Damigeron’s Virtue of Stones

Our ancestors believed stones were home to sacred beings of power, entities that if properly understood and cultivated could provide people protection from ill fortune, envy, and witchcraft; grant invisibility and other magical powers; improve memory; and heal the sick from a wide variety of diseases. These benefits could be obtained by wearing the stone on a ring, bracelet, or pendant; through massage treatments with the stone; or by reducing the gem into a powder and drinking it mixed with water or wine.

Drawing from a wealth of ancient Arabic, Greek, Jewish, and European sources—from the observations of Pliny the Elder to extremely rare texts such as the Picatrix and Damigeron’s Virtue of Stones—Claude Lecouteux provides a synthesis of all known lore for more than 800 stones. He includes such common examples as the emerald, which when engraved with the figure of a harpy holding a lamprey in its claws will banish panic and nightmares, and beryl, which when appropriately carved can summon water spirits or win its owner high renown, as well as more exotic stones such as astrios, a stone celebrated by ancient magicians and whose center glows like a star. Lecouteux also examines bezoars—stones formed in animals’ bodies—as well as “magnets” that attract materials other than iron, such as gold, flesh, cotton, or scorpions.

This comprehensive dictionary of sacred and magical gem lore, drawn from the rarest sources of Antiquity and the Middle Ages, represents a one-of-a-kind resource for gem enthusiasts and magical practitioners alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594774638
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 12/04/2012
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Claude Lecouteux is a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval and pagan beliefs, including The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses and The Secret History of Vampires. He lives in Paris.

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A Lapidary of Sacred Stones

Their Magical and Medicinal Powers Based on the Earliest Sources
By Claude Lecouteux

Inner Traditions

Copyright © 2012 Claude Lecouteux
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781594774638

The Bones of the Earth

The Stone Is a Person

In The Lord’s Answer (II) Chateaubriand declares: “People say that stones do not speak, they do not feel. What an error!”

The stone has been regarded as a living being, a male or female creature capable of reproducing, believing, and having feelings. Albertus Magnus says that the peanite is of the female sex and that it conceives and engenders a stone that is similar to it. It is also said that the balagius (balas ruby) is the female carbuncle. According to John Mandeville, diamonds can be either sex and can engender children.

Men find them more commonly upon the rocks in the sea and upon hills where the mine of gold is. [ . . . ] They grow together, male and female, and are fed with the dew of Heaven. And according to their nature they engender and conceive small children, and so they constantly grow and multiply.

Philippe de Thaon mentions turobolein in his Bestiary. When the male stone approaches the female both catch fire. Bartholomaeus Anglicus says that idachite perspires and that silenite contains a white spot that grows and shrinks with the moon. The Argonauts used a stone for an anchor, but as it had a habit of straying from its spot, they had to fix it in place with lead. A fine example of lapis fugitives! In the Kojiki, written in seventh-century Japan, we learn that stones can be frightened and flee what they perceive as danger. One day when Emperor Ojin was under the influence and traveling through a mountain pass, he found a stone in the middle of the path and struck it with his cane. The stone fled away from him, giving rise to the saying: “Even a solid stone can avoid a drunkard.” Some stones, like the aetite, are pregnant. Some cry vengeance (Habakkuk 2:11), some can be swayed, as in the myth of Baldur (Gylfaginning, chapter 49), in which the stones promise Frigg they will cause no harm to her son; and they can, conversely, be inflexible, as seen in expressions like “to be hard as stone.” This hardness has been the rationale for insensitivity. But in hagiographic legends, especially those concerning persecuted virgins, stones are capable of displaying kindness. They open to conceal the fugitive from her pursuers, as in the case of Saint Dietrine and Saint Odile. The Acta Sanctorum tells how on October 17, in the legend of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the prefect Lysias ordered them stoned, but the stones refused to strike them and instead turned back on those that had thrown them.

Stones speak and are used for divination purposes, especially the mineral siderite, which can be trained in the following fashion so that its voice may be heard.

If one fasts and purifies oneself, if one washes the stone in pure waters and wraps it within white linen, then when the lights are lit something like the voice of a newborn will suddenly be heard, and the stone shall answer questions. Then, toward the end, it breathes like an animate creature.

Helenos raised a siderite like a child: “He pampered this divine stone, it is said, he held it in his arms like a mother holding her young son against her body.”

The Worship of Sacred Stones

Regarded as the bones of the earth or the home of unspecified numinous powers, stones were an object of worship. However from the beginning to the end of the Middle Ages, the decrees of synods and councils fulminated anathema against those who swore oaths by them or worshipped them.

A highly interesting passage from the Bible perfectly displays how stones were sanctified. Jacob rests his head on a stone and his contact with it gives him a divine vision while he sleeps. On awakening he recalls the ladder that appeared to him in dream. He stands the stone upright, pours oil over it, and gives it the name of beit El, “dwelling of God.” Worship of stones has been attested throughout Europe long before the Middle Ages, and the ecclesiastical writs, texts, canons, decrees, and penitentials offer some details. Between 443 and 452, the council of Arles condemned those who worshipped stones; in 506, the council of Agde forbade the swearing of oaths to stones, and in 557, the council of Tours condemned those who performed actions near stones that were incompatible with the rules of the church.

Dictionary of Magical and Medical Stones


Astrios: The stone named astrios is white and resembles a crystal. It is found in India, on the sides of the Pallene headland, in Carmania, and on Mount Ballenus, hence the name of ballen sometimes given to it. Its center glows like a star whose light resembles that of the full moon. Some attribute its name to the fact that, when set opposite the stars, it steals their light and reflects it. These authors name the most beautiful Germanus, which is flawless, and describe a lesser variety that is called ceraunia. The least valued resemble the light cast by a lantern. Those involved with the magic arts swear that Zoroaster celebrated its marvelous virtues in magic.

Through their names, astrios, also called ceraunia, “thunder bolt,” the astroites extolled by Zoroaster and the magi, and the astrobolion, all appear to be varieties of the same gem. The astrion may correspond with the asteria, a kind of opal.


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Table of Contents


Introduction: The Bones of the Earth

Dictionary of Magical and Medicinal Stones
An A to Z Guide to the Sacred Power of Gems from Antiquity to the Middle Ages



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