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Crystal therapy: the power of placebo?

Crystals have always exerted a strange fascination on mankind. From amethysts to agates or quartz, humans have acquired crystal stones and used them in a variety of ways for centuries. Throughout history, gemstones and crystals were worn as ornaments, used as protective amulets or displayed as part of rituals.

In the s, there was a growth in popularity of crystals. This decade started the golden age of “crystal therapy”. This alternative therapeutic approach is often defined as a holistic and non-invasive healing method based on the use of crystals to release stress and induce deep relaxation, as well as to promote energy balance within the body of a patient. It usually involves a crystal healer placing specific stones at precise points on and around the body.

“Crystal therapy comes from different traditions all over the world so there are different ways of doing it, but it’s about using crystals to rebalance the energy in the body. At the end of the day, the goal is to address improve quality of life,” says UK-based crystal healer Philip Permutt.

Judging from the wide offer in spas and other wellness facilities around the world, it seems like crystal therapy is still attractive. One of Permutt’s patient, Kerri Gavin, tells her story of having suffered with acid reflux for a couple of years, an experience marked by intense pain and stress. Although she did get medicines that helped her for a while, she says that it was her encounter with crystal therapy that allowed her to get rid of the problem once and for all. She believes the health issues she was facing were probably not merely physical, but linked to emotional struggles she was carrying around - and she credits crystal healing with having brought her to this realisation.

For those who are convinced of the healing and rebalancing properties of crystals, it is a therapy that can do something positive for everyone, and help with a lot different conditions. However, they also recognise that the biological mechanisms involved and the explanations of why and how crystals may work are not well understood.

“There is no proven link between crystals and the body, and it’s still unclear how they have an effect on the body. In my experience, every person that goes through a complete course of crystal therapy does get benefits and crystal therapy can be used to relieve any kind of physical, mental or emotional condition,” says Permutt.

Although there is no doubt that some people report feeling better when they use crystals, rigorous scientific research to learn more about the phenomenon is lacking. Few studies have been conducted to compare crystal therapy to other therapies, and to unveil the way it works so the scientific community remains skeptical.

The power of suggestion: the Placebo effect of crystal therapy

One of the more comprehensive study into the effects of crystal therapy is already nearly twenty years old. It was presented by psychologist Christopher French and his team in at the British Psychological Society Centenary Annual Conference in Glasgow, and involved 80 volunteers. These participants were divided into two groups and given information about the sensations they could expect while holding crystals, such as increased energy and concentration. One group was given genuine crystals and the other fake plastic ones, to test the effect of the real thing. The team found out that both groups were as likely to report feeling the sensations that had been previously described to them. For the scientists, the conclusion was clear. It wasn’t the crystals that helped people, but the power of suggestion.

It’s hard to generalize based on those results alone, as they haven't been replicated in larger studies and a lot more research may be needed to get to the bottom of this. However, this work led to a shift in the discussion around crystal therapy. It’s likely, some researchers say, that crystals do not directly act on our physical and psychological woes. But they might have indirect benefits which could be explained using the concept known as ‘placebo effect’.

To test whether a treatment works, researchers usually compare its efficacy with that of a ‘fake’ pill - a placebo. Sometimes in the course of the study, taking a placebo alone is associated with positive effects on some people’s health. But these effects are often left out of scientists’ analyses. “Discarding all placebo effects in a single trash basket of “untruthfulness,” however, diminishes our knowledge of important dimensions of health care. There is a possibility that some types of unconventional medicine may produce placebo outcomes that are dramatic and, from the patient’s perspective, especially compelling,” says Ted Kaptchuk, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of a study on the placebo effect in alternative medicine.

Crystal therapy may produce a placebo effect that is beneficial to some people. Crystals may not directly influence the course of a health condition, but they may improve the way they feel and their quality of life.

That’s particularly the case considering that crystal healers and other alternative medicine practitioners often show a great degree of empathy and emphasise the importance of discussion with the patient, which can create an ideal therapeutic environment. “For many non–life threatening illnesses, clear diagnosis, assurance of recovery, opportunity for dialogue, and physician–patient agreement about the nature of the problem can hasten recovery or relief. In unconventional medicine, patient experience is never devalued or brushed aside as unreliable,”Kaptchuk points out.

Crystal therapy is a not a miracle therapy that can heal everyone. It’s important to stress that it does not cure diseases, nor should it replace traditional healthcare. But for some people, crystal therapy cannot be dismissed entirely due to how important the placebo effect and the power of suggestion can be.

Writer: Léa Surugue

Sours: https://www.euronews.com/green//09/18/crystal-therapy-the-power-of-placebo

New crystal, new you?

Part of The “New” Issue of The Highlight, our home for ambitious stories that explain our world.

Carnelian has many faces. When it’s brittle and a darker shade of red, it’s known as sard. When it’s any other color besides reddish-orange, it’s chalcedony. When it’s layered with black and white, it’s sardonyx. Sometimes agates are dyed, heat-treated, and sold as carnelian. Sometimes carnelian is classified as jasper.

These are mostly visual and not geological distinctions — all these stones are part of the cryptocrystalline quartz family and colored by iron dioxide. But real carnelian is rare, at once soft and vivid, with a slight translucence that makes it glow. Like a storm on Jupiter. Like a pooled bead of blood.

There’s new interest in the powers of crystals, another crest on a sine wave that can be traced from the mesmerism of the Victorian era, which gave us the image of a woman in a headscarf with a crystal ball, through the séance craze of the s, to the Age of Aquarius. In the s the New Age movement arose to carry the torch of ’60s counterculture and rebellion, morphing from a (sometimes irresponsible) cultural curiosity about what existed outside of white, Christian America into a marketing plan for anything that smacked of foreignness and self-healing.

Now, in a time of political turmoil and rebellion, crystals have woven themselves back into everyday life. The “crystal industry” is booming again, and Google searches for “crystal healing” have skyrocketed in the past few years. And they’ve become even more mainstream. You can buy a glass water bottle with a rose quartz inside to cleanse your water, a jade yoni egg, or just a handful of gems at Urban Outfitters or Target. Once upon a time, you would have had to go to a museum or a New Age store on the edge of town. But now it is not uncommon for someone to know the properties of a few popular crystals the way they might know their zodiac sign.

Crystals may not have carried supernatural energy “since the dawn of time,” but since around then, humans have ascribed meaning, however arbitrary, to objects that appeal to us. And really, there are only a few things these stones ever channel: love, confidence, serenity, the power to receive the good or block out the bad. We assign these properties because they’re the things we wish we had control over.

Carnelian is a stone of optimism and energy. It holds the promise that, with its help, you can make your best self known. The stones of communication promote eloquence and clarity and help timid speakers become bold. They were traditionally used by the Assyrians and the Romans in signet rings and seals, a final blessing on a waxed letter to ensure the message got across. The Prophet Mohammed was said to have worn carnelian set in silver on his right hand to bring him luck and to turn away envy. A few sources say Vikings wore it to ease the stress of sacking villages. (You know how hard that can be). It’s sometimes called the Singer’s Stone, a tool to make one’s voice more precise and beautiful.

There are two ways crystals are said to accomplish their goals: welcoming in the positive or fighting off the negative. Carnelian is a bit of both, doing the latter to invite the former. To make you a powerful public speaker or accomplished singer, it clears away the dirty, raw emotions that inhibit elocution. Carnelian gives you the power to still your anger and jealousy, to dispel apathy, envy, and resentment, and to overcome negative feelings and thoughts so your better feelings can shine and you can live a more positive life.

But the language around carnelian insists that, whatever your problems, surmounting them is a matter of personal action. You are the problem, and if you’re feeling petty or envious, if life seems too hard, it’s because you have the wrong attitude. Saint Hildegard said as much in Physica: “If you’re so sick you’re mad from it, just put a sard on top of your hat and say ‘Just as god threw the first angel into the abyss, so may he cut this illness from you and restore good knowledge.’” It doesn’t matter what’s causing the illness. Pull up those bootstraps, baby, you’re only bringing yourself down.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Americans, with our idea of manifest destiny and our Puritan work ethic, are particularly primed to accept that “I” am the only person who can solve a problem. The New Thought movement, also known as the “mind cure movement,” was founded in America in the 19th century largely on the principle that all sickness originates in the mind, and that the right thinking will heal you. It combined Christian ideas, Emersonian individualism, idealism, and spiritualism — basically any tradition that buttressed their thesis that what goes on in the mind has real-world ramifications.

The movement was founded and influenced by Phineas Quimby, an inventor and mesmerist who believed in the unseen force tying together all living things. The mind, he thought, was just getting in the way, and ultimately, the truth would set us all free. “The trouble is in the mind, for the body is only the house for the mind to dwell in, and we put a value on it according to its worth. Therefore if your mind has been deceived by some invisible enemy into a belief, you have put it into the form of a disease, with or without your knowledge,” he wrote of his treatments. “This I do partly mentally, and partly by talking till I correct the wrong impression and establish the Truth, and the Truth is the cure.”

What he’s basically talking about is the Serenity Prayer — figuring out what your problems are, accepting with grace the things you cannot change, and gaining the power to change the things you can, even if the only thing you can change is your outlook. Quimby acknowledged that thoughts certainly affect how people behave, but also that they are chemical. The brain is just an organ, after all, affected by hormones and vitamins and stimuli as much as the lungs are. Maybe those fickle negative thoughts exist the way a muscle cramp exists, but heavens, don’t give them any power. There are real problems to be dealt with.

Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher who believed deeply in the power of the human mind, spoke of people who can’t shore themselves up against the hardships of life, who don’t keep their “proper character” as they face hardship or depression, as wolves, lions, and foxes — animalistic beings that have lost all their dignity. “See that you don’t turn out like one of those unfortunates,” he warned. When asked how he accepted his own chains and the exile without making an emotional fool of himself, he simply said, “I refuse.”

He had no advice for how to avoid turning into a malicious, wild fox, just the deep knowledge that you should avoid doing so, or you’ll suffer dire philosophical consequences. Just put the carnelian on your head and tell yourself your problems aren’t really problems.

Epictetus influenced everyone from the US military to author Tom Wolfe, and his works were the foundation of rational emotive behavior therapy, an early form of cognitive behavioral therapy that attempted to help patients identify their “irrational” behaviors and move through their feelings toward a more rational state. But without deeper analysis, the call for positive thinking, of lifting oneself out of despair by one’s bootstraps, only works in tautologies.

Some of Quimby’s and Epictetus’s “cures” were more sound than others — it’s a decent idea to try to keep an optimistic attitude in difficult circumstances and to seriously address thoughts of self-harm, less so to assume you can think away a tumor. However, both men acknowledged that patients needed to accept their reality first. Your outlook doesn’t get rid of the problem; it only saves you some misery. Soon after the New Thought movement, though, the idea of maintaining a good attitude was weaponized against itself, leading to the persistent belief that you can see your way out of depression, trauma, and institutionalized oppression through the power of positive thinking.

As Hettie O’Brien writes in a report on mindfulness for theNew Statesman, it is the “perfect coping mechanism for neoliberal capitalism: It privatizes stress and encourages people to locate the root of mental ailments in their own work ethic. As a psychological strategy, it promotes a particular form of revolution, one that takes place within the heads of individuals fixated on self-transformation, rather than as a struggle to overcome collective suffering.” One just has to be confident! And radiate positive vibes! To not only face one’s problems but to obliterate them. No longer is the “cure” merely influenced by one’s attitude; now the assumption is that attitude alone is what’s keeping someone down.

iStock/Getty Images

Carnelian is a particularly good stone for stamps. It’s easily carvable, falling somewhere around 7 on the Mohs hardness scale (talc is 1; diamond is 10), and hot wax doesn’t stick to it. Museums are filled with rings and stamps carved with the images of reversed cattle, hollow faces, and backward letters that only make sense if you imagine their imprint. Carving carnelian is not about building an understandable image, but about hollowing the stone so it only exists to give shape to something else. It was also supposedly one of the stones (in some translations the first, in others the sixth) in the breastplate of Aaron, the Jewish high priest of Jerusalem, and represents the blood of the martyrs. To get your message across, all you have to do is sacrifice yourself or carve yourself up, become the inverse so you can make an impression.

Positive thinking seems to demand self-sacrifice, or at least delusion. When it comes to positive thinking, few inspirational guides talk about the most crucial point: how to not feel a negative feeling. Some crystal resources say carnelian can help redirect energy, taking your focus away from the negative, whether that’s an enemy or a part of your own psyche, and aiming it at something more self-serving instead. Like attracts like, after all, so being happy and confident draws more of that toward you.

Negativity is spoken of as a poison to be sucked out, and carnelian can remind you that to a certain extent, you do have a choice to not spend all your time dwelling on the negative. But while varying behavioral therapies encourage looking negativity in the face, carnelian’s powers only show you how to wield a carving knife and cut away the tougher parts of yourself that aren’t serving you.

I have inherited my armor from those who came before me. My mother’s mother, my Amma, called outright displays of negative emotion “ugly.” She always seemed to be living in the tense space between who she once was — a poor, tough farm girl from Virginia — and what she later became: a college-educated woman who socialized with the well-heeled, professionally coiffed, and bejeweled women of Princeton, New Jersey. She contained glorious multitudes, but her upbringing gave her little patience for anyone who got caught up in their emotions.

My other grandmother, my Didu, moved from India to Germany to get a PhD when she was 24, leaving two young sons with her parents to experience deep cold for the first time and study in a language she had to learn simultaneously. She later moved with her boys to America, which hadn’t been introduced to the sitar by the Beatles yet. On her first day as a zoology professor at a private college, she was assumed to be the cleaning woman. My Didu was always underestimated because of her gender and her race, but when she talks about it, she also shrugs it off. It was what it was.

There’s so much unspoken trauma in these stories. I feel it in my bones and have picked up on the whispers and silent nods over the years, even though no one has given me a straight story yet. A straight story would perhaps let me see this inherited pain more clearly, to understand it without the carnelian trick cutting it away entirely. But the options seem to be: carry on, or be dragged down by the weight of generations.

I’ve had fights with every loved one about asking for help. In high school, I refused to let my mom look at my French homework (a language she was fluent in) or edit my essays (her literal job). In relationships — romantic and not — I’m unable to bring up problems as they’re happening, choosing instead to pretend they’re no big deal until I inevitably break down. In each instance, I’ve been asked, why I didn’t ask for help if I was struggling?

Why didn’t I just say something before it got so bad? I don’t have an answer, only that for as long as I can remember, asking for help has felt akin to cheating. I’d be admitting defeat if I acknowledged that I forgot the gender of certain French nouns, much less anything else about my life — that I didn’t know how to properly communicate a problem, that I was sad sometimes when there was nothing obvious causing it, that at some point I lost the ability to even identify when I had a problem because the only direction in my head was “through.” Go through.

The dark promise of carnelian has always made sense to me. Whatever mess I’m in, it’s mine to get out of. I just need to try harder, do better, be happier, and I’ll be known. I was convinced that my force of will was all I needed, and if something was bad, I just had to find a solution, alone. Most of the time, that still feels like the truth.

It took me until I was in my mids to identify as a feminist and a person of color. It’s not that I didn’t think of myself as a woman or as the child of an Indian immigrant. But to acknowledge there are things the world sees as a problem that I can’t fix was not an option.

My ancestors cut out deep parts of themselves. They crossed oceans, forgot languages, dressed to match the world around them, and adopted new prejudices in order to spare me the impact of their otherness. I was, and sometimes am, reluctant to identify with the more marginalized parts of myself, even though they fought so hard to survive. Sometimes, “stay positive” sounds like other things — stay white, stay straight, stay rich, stay sane. Don’t admit there are other parts to you, the parts that we left behind on the carving room floor.

For many people, acknowledging that there are societal structures in place to keep certain people oppressed can be freeing. Not that they’re not worth fighting against, but this acknowledgment is an important explanation for why things are so hard for so many. But for a long time, I only thought of that explanation as an excuse, a cheat code that led everyone who wasn’t a straight white man to develop a horrible victim complex.

Acknowledging that there may be other forces at play making my life difficult felt akin to asking for help on my homework — admitting there’s any problem means admitting you haven’t been able to solve it, that your bootstraps couldn’t take the effort of your hoisting, and that you don’t have as much power as you want.

In , Working Man’s Advocate published a joke about the man who claimed to have invented the perpetual motion machine. “It is conjectured that Mr. Murphee will now be enabled to hand himself over the Cumberland river or a barn yard fence by the straps of his boots,” they wrote, the idea as absurd as a machine that never stops moving. For much of the 19th century, the phrase “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” was used to illustrate the ridiculousness of thinking one could do the impossible.

It wasn’t until the s (many point to James Joyce’s Ulysses as a turning point) that the idea of hoisting oneself off the ground by one’s bootstraps was not only possible but necessary. That you alone could fix your problems if you were strong enough. Because the other option is that we are powerless, with only our thoughts to give us the illusion of action.

At its worst, carnelian guilts you into thinking it’s all in your head — just leave him, just stop being sad, just do the impossible. But at its best, carnelian can bring us that wisdom. There are days when you can’t give in, and carnelian is alluring because it reminds us that fighting back is possible. No matter the situation, there is always something else we could technically be doing to change it. Carnelian supposedly gives you not just the confidence to act in your best interest, to rip off the Band-Aid and do what’s best, but also the power to ignore the parts of you that are afraid of the consequences. Apply carnelian to everything and the crystal loses its power, but use it in moderation and sometimes it’s right.

Part of carnelian’s powers is fighting against envy. Keep your thoughts on yourself and your situation instead of dwelling on what other people have that you don’t. Positive thinking means worrying only about yourself, while negative thinking means being distracted by the world. But positive thinking can only work when you understand the whole; the world is not a distraction, and allowing yourself to see the negative, the envy, and the abuse means you are seeing the world clearly, for what it is.

There is freedom in integrating the positive with the negative, in acknowledging what you are and what you aren’t, in remaining whole instead of cutting away the undesirable parts of yourself.

I would rather keep myself whole. When I hold my carnelian, I want to invoke all the ways I can keep myself afloat while acknowledging what lurks beneath the surface. I want it to give me the power to turn my positive thoughts into actions, to not mistake my attitude for praxis. But most of all, I want to stay positive while acknowledging the fullness of myself, every problem, every mindset. Nothing deserves to be erased. My carnelian is not set in a ring or etched with new images. It is whole, an image only of itself, and I am reminded that positive thinking doesn’t require that I be hollowed out. I don’t need to be carved to be beautiful.

Jaya Saxena is an author and staff writer at Eater. This piece has been excerpted from her new book, Crystal Clear: Reflections on Extraordinary Talismans for Everyday Life, published by Quirk Books.

Sours: https://www.vox.com/the-highlight//crystals-new-age-spiritual-carnelian
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Dark crystals: the brutal reality behind a booming wellness craze

In February, crystals colonised Tucson. They spread out over carparks and gravel lots, motel courtyards and freeway footpaths, past strip malls and burger bars. Beneath tents and canopies, on block after block, rested every kind of stone imaginable: the opaque, soapy pastels of angeline; dark, mossy-toned epidote; tourmaline streaked with red and green. There were enormous, dining-table-sized pieces selling for tens of thousands of dollars, lumps of rose quartz for $, crystal eggs for $ Crystals were stacked upon crystals, filling plastic trays, carved into every possible shape: knives, penises, bathtubs, angels, birds of paradise.

It was the month of the Tucson gem shows, a series of markets and exhibitions that collectively make up the largest crystal expo in the world. More than 4, crystal, mineral and gemstone vendors had come to sell their wares. They were expecting more than 50, customers to pass through, from new age enthusiasts with thick dreadlocks and tie-dye T-shirts, to gallery owners, suited businessmen and major wholesalers. Deals done here would determine the fate of tens of thousands of tonnes of crystals, dispatching them across the US and Europe into museums and galleries, crystal healing and yoga centres, wellness retailers and Etsy stores.

Five years ago, crystals were not a big deal. Now, powered by the lucrative combination of social media-friendly aesthetics, cosmic spirituality and the apparently unstoppable wellness juggernaut, they have gone from a niche oddity associated with patchouli and crushed velvet to a global consumer phenomenon. On Instagram, hashtags for #crystals and #healingcrystals tick into the tens of millions. In , the New York Times heralded “the great crystal boom” and in Hello! described them as the year’s biggest health and wellness trend. Sold as lamps, sex toys, facial massagers or “vaginal eggs” hawked by Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle empire Goop, there is now a crystal for every possible occasion. As Kim Kardashian was recovering from her robbery at gunpoint in , she embraced healing crystals. The model Miranda Kerr has said that she filters all her skincare products through rose quartz “to give the vibration of self-love”.

In the US, demand for overseas crystals and gemstones has doubled over the past three years, and quartz imports have doubled since (Those numbers capture raw stone, but not the crystals imported under many other categories: jewellery, home goods, decorations.) Daniel Trinchillo, owner of Fine Minerals International, a high-end crystal dealership, told me that his business makes between $30m and $40m in sales each year. Trinchillo caters to a growing cohort of celebrities, collectors and investment buyers who want rare and valuable crystals. The most expensive single piece he has sold went for $6m, but he knows of some that have sold for $10m. Trinchillo estimates that high-end dealers now account for about $m in annual sales. Include the lower end, he said, and you are talking about a highly profitable, multi-billion dollar industry.

Believers say crystals conduct ambient energy – like miniature phone towers picking up signals and channelling them on to the user – thus rebalancing malign energies, healing the body and mind. First popularised in the west in the s, crystal healing’s recent resurgence has coincided with growing interest in alternative spirituality and healing practices. According to Pew Research Center data, more than 60% of US adults hold at least one “new age” belief, such as placing faith in astrology or the power of psychics, and 42% think spiritual energy can be located in physical objects such as crystals. Not surprisingly, then, scientific criticism of crystal healing has done little to dim demand. Last year, Paltrow faced (and settled) a misleading advertising lawsuit for claiming that Goop’s vaginal egg crystals had the power to balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. But still, the rise of crystals continues.

Despite that explosive growth, the way the crystal industry operates has largely avoided close scrutiny. There is little in the way of fair-trade certification for crystals, and none of the industry-wide transparency schemes developed for commodities such as gold and diamonds. Tracing a crystal from the time it is dragged, dusty and cracked, from the earth, to the polished moment of final sale requires a journey backward down the supply chain: from shop, to exporter, to middleman, to mine, and finally to the men and women who work below the ground, on whose labour a billion-dollar industry has been built.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, but beneath its soil is a well-stocked treasure chest. Rose quartz and amethyst, tourmaline and citrine, labradorite and carnelian: Madagascar has them all. Gems and precious metals were the country’s fastest-growing export in – up % from , to $m. This island country of 25 million people now stands alongside far larger nations, such as India, Brazil and China, as a key producer of crystals for the world. And in a country where infrastructure, capital and labour regulation are all in short supply, it is human bodies rather than machinery that pull crystals from the earth. While a few large mining companies operate in Madagascar, more than 80% of crystals are mined “artisanally” – meaning by small groups and families, without regulation, who are paid rock-bottom prices.

If you want to know where the rose quartz on your shelves comes from, Anjoma Ramartina is a good place to begin. A collection of villages that sits atop some of Madagascar’s largest rose quartz deposits, it is a day’s drive from the capital city of Antananarivo. The further you travel from the capital, the greater the security risks. Large swathes of territory are described as “red zones”, considered unpoliceable by state forces. Rural villages often face raids from armed gangs known as dahalo, who steal cattle, sometimes killing, robbing or raping villagers. In January, the week we arrived in Anjoma Ramartina, three men armed with machetes were killed in a clash with village police. Do not travel or go out at night, people warned. Drive in convoy. Stay off the roads after 5pm.

madagascar map

Most homes in Anjoma Ramartina have no electricity, no running water, no phone or network connections. Malnutrition is common. According to the World Bank, around 80% of those outside Madagascar’s cities live below the $a-day poverty line. Health researchers found around half of parents in Anjoma Ramartina had lost at least one infant child to illness or hunger. As we made our way there, the driver noted that the road had recently been sealed – a vast difference from the deeply potholed gravel nearer town. “This is one of the best roads I have seen here.” He laughed: “Here in Madagascar, the road only gets made when there is something they want to get out.”

In a cool, dark room in the town council hall, Many Jean Rahandrinimaro, the deputy mayor of Anjoma Ramartina, sunk into a black vinyl couch. “Crystal, amethyst, rose quartz,” he said. “Everything except sapphires and rubies, we mine here.” He placed a few stones on the wooden table in front of him: polished clear quartz and purple amethyst. He estimated that from a population of about 10, people, up to a quarter of locals now depended on the mines for some income. Between two and four men died each year in the crystal pits surrounding this village, he said – only two last year, but often it was three or four. “Sometimes it’s very dangerous but they still mine, because they want money,” he said. “There’s the possibility of landslide, that happens a lot here. The soil falls on them and they die.”

Landslides are not the only danger for miners. Smashed rocks create fine dust and quartz particles can penetrate deep into the lungs. There, they fester, inflaming surrounding cells, increasing the risk of lung cancer and silicosis. Child labour is also widespread: the US Department of Labor and the International Labour Organization estimate that about 85, children work in Madagascar’s mines.

A few days after our first meeting, I returned to the town hall. In a ruled exercise book, Many Jean traced a finger over the town’s registry of deaths, tapping entries on the page: here and here, the two men who died in the mines last year, recorded in neat cursive handwriting. And here, Benoit Razafimahatratra, who had died two years earlier when he was looking for quartz at a quarry to the east. Many Jean knew where Benoit’s family lived, and offered to show the way on his motorbike.

Bomber jacket flapping behind him, Many Jean took us to the next village. Sitting in a small shop that sold fritters and dried fish was Jean Gregoire Randrianarisoa. He looked tired. Yes, his older brother had died, he said. “What killed him was digging for stones, about 15 metres deep. He went into a tunnel and it collapsed from above and he was buried – someone called for help: ‘Help! Zafimahatratra is buried down there!’ That’s when I went with his children to dig him up,” he said.

Benoit was about 55 when he died, said his widow, Josephine Rasondrina, a tiny woman, less than 5 feet tall, with hair neatly divided into braids. She brought out a photograph of him. His features had faded. Josephine gestured at her two granddaughters, about six or seven years old, sitting on the steps. “Since my husband died, they stopped going to school. Since my husband died I got really tired.” She raised her fingers to her temple. “I am really tired. Emotionally and physically – because I have to work the field to feed my children.”

Common crystals, such as quartz, can form almost anywhere around the world, when water and steam carry mineral particles into fractures in the earth. Drawn together by the mutual attraction of their electrical charges, their molecules stack in orderly sequences, forming defined planes and repeating facets that can create the pleasing shapes – geodes, prisms – that they’re sought for. In the mineral-rich earth of central Madagascar, villagers often find quartz and citrine deposits by chance, when they are revealed by landslide or washed down to nearby riverbeds. The mines dug to meet growing demand are often improvised, operated off the books and without permits.

One of these makeshift mines lies about an mile hike from Anjoma Ramartina’s nearest road. Rakotondrasolo, the man who villagers called the mine owner, found the site about 20 years ago, and continues to work there, along with his family, to this day. One morning, he agreed to show me the mine. Rakotondrasolo is tall and very thin. His worn flannel shirt was buttoned over a T-shirt with the face of Andry Rajoelina, Madagascar’s newly elected president. (The T-shirts were everywhere, after being thrown from trucks and doled out at political rallies across the country during the election campaign.) The red dust of the landscape had worked its way into the weave of his clothing until every garment was infused with terracotta orange.

As we made our way along the red dirt track to the mine, the sun was directly above, shimmeringly hot. Here and there was a sparkle among the scrubby grass: hunks of pink crystal, scattered at the path’s edge. Walking behind Rakotondrasolo, his wife pointed: “The stones are beautiful,” she said quietly, “but the work is very hard.” Then the grass of the track ended sharply and the deep red cavern of the mine fell away in front of us. “Keep away from the edge,” said Rakotondrasolo, gesturing to where the ground was cracked and unstable. The pit dropped 15 metres deep, narrowing as it deepened. On the sheer face of rock were cross-hatched marks of spades and pickaxes. At the far side of the cavern, a huge pile of rose-coloured stones caught the sunlight. At the bottom, a passage disappeared, curving out of the light.

“Be careful,” he said, as we trod over the edge of the crater, “the rocks are sharp.” Rose quartz cracked underfoot: jagged, gleaming, a little translucent, shining like the flesh of a fresh-filleted tuna. Later, he lifted a worn trouser leg to show the scars he had acquired from a lifetime of mining: on the right leg, where falling stones crushed his shin, and on the left where a sharp edge split the skin, requiring six stitches.

At other times, this crater would have been busy with the sound of men at work – his sons and nephews, who would come to dig and then split the cost of stone they sold – but today it was silent except for Rakotondrasolo’s careful footsteps. They had stopped work: rains had been heavy, and they worried that the water made the cavern less stable. “I was afraid, and was afraid for my children because of this soil. It can collapse on them. I asked them to stop working here,” Rakotondrasolo said.

He threw in a handful of gravel and it tumbled to the bottom. Of his 10 children, seven worked with him in the mine. The boys started at the age of about When they find a thick seam of quartz they smash it out of the rock, then chain the pieces together. Some blocks are small, but others are kg or even kg. The miners drag the boulders out of the hole, sometimes five people hauling together, up on to the grass embankment and toward the hill where lorries come to load them.

I asked where the crystals went from there. “To the ports,” Rakotondrasolo shrugged. He did not know. Somewhere overseas. A long time ago a client brought him a rose orb, cut and polished into a sphere, to show him what eventually became of some of the stones he had mined. But the buyers mostly say little about what the crystals are used for or where they end up. They pay him and leave – about ariary, or 23¢ a kilo, he said – 17¢ for lower quality. It is not much when the money is split between the men at work: ariary buys a cup of rice at the village market.

As Rakotondrasolo stepped away from the crater, a low hiss sounded behind him. We turned back to see a thin layer of red gravel, loosened from the wall, slide down into the hole.

While some mines are large, open pits, others are claustrophobically small: networks of tunnels piercing the earth. About miles east of Anjoma Ramartina lies Ibity, a small village surrounded by tourmaline mines, where you have to dig deep to find stones.

“The deeper you go, the more difficult it is to breathe,” said Italy Miliama, a shopkeeper at the centre of the village, scooping coffee into enamel cups.

“Once you see a stone, you follow it to find the other stones,” said one of his friends. “We dig, dig, dig. We call it the stone way, the way of stones.”

The mines at Ibity spread out like an ochre moonscape. On the morning I visited, about 20 people were above ground sifting through the soil. Among them, a local miner named Jean Baptiste Rakotondravelo and his son stood barefoot, turning a large, improvised pulley. Their backs strained against the weight. A moment later, up came a large yellow jerrycan, full of red earth from below. Jean Baptiste’s son carried it to his mother and young siblings and dumped it on a pile of dirt that they sifted with their fingers. The day was hot, the sun nearing its peak. “It’s extremely hard work,” Jean Baptiste said. “It can’t be done by a few people. It has to be done by many.”

At his feet was a hole about a metre in diameter, with sheer sides like a well. Shining my torch down the hole, I couldn’t see to the bottom. Every so often a faint shout echoed up from the darkness, and Jean Baptiste and his son put their backs again to pulling up the bucket. His other sons were working down there, Jean Baptiste told me, digging for tourmaline. He shrugged: “Go down if you like.”

Near the top of the hole, it was possible to make out mosquitoes catching the light. As they turned the pulley and I descended, gripping the rope with both hands, the light retreated. The passage down was tight, the damp earth walls grazing my back, elbows and knees. Reaching the bottom, the air felt thin and it was a little harder to draw a full breath. On one side, there was a small horizontal tunnel with room only to crawl.

I crouched and shouted into the darkness. “Salama!” two young voices called back, and deep in the tunnel, pair of dim headlamps turned to face me. Two boys blinked into the torchlight. The smallest wore a yellow cloth baseball cap, and his eyes were wide, mouth slightly open with surprise. Their names were Roland and Tavita: Jean Baptiste’s sons, who he says are about 14 and They started working down here two years ago, spending hours digging underground, crouching in the dark, backs curved, calves aching.

Deep underground, we looked mutely at each other for a moment. Ducking into the crawl-space, I was conscious of the weight of dirt resting above us: about 19 tonnes of soil and rock, suspended only by its own natural cohesion. Roland and Tavita squatted, jamming a spade or crowbar into the soil to dislodge it and pack it into the jerrycan. When it was full they would crawl back toward the light, shoving the heavy dirt bucket ahead of them, to be dragged up top.

“When it’s too long they can have difficulty breathing, so they come out,” Jean Baptiste said, back at the top of the well. Above ground, the boys’ mother, Odette, sat working alongside two generations of children, the youngest a fat-cheeked six-month-old girl. Odette sifted through the dirt, searching for a rock shaped differently from the rest: the small, wine-red and green crystal, tourmaline. “Sometimes we go months without finding any,” she said. They had found just one today, about the size of a knuckle.

Odette held it out to me, streaked with red dust, in the middle of her palm. At that moment, it was worth just a few cents. But in the months to come, it would slide along the global supply chain, its value multiplying with each stage of the journey.

For the crystals mined in Anjoma Ramartina, the path out of the country is through a company called Madagascar Specimens, which exports about 65 tonnes of carved crystals a year. At its premises, a converted house in the outer suburbs of Antananarivo, boxes of crystals were stacked against the wall. A row of shining SUVs were parked outside the house. Samples stood on the disused fireplace: carved angels, pyramids, geodes, wands. The rose quartz had been trucked in rough from Anjoma Ramartina by a local middleman, the village’s former mayor, who bought large quantities from Rakotondrasolo’s mine.

The owner of Madagascar Specimens, Liva Marc Rahdriaharisoa, a tall man in dark jeans, wire-rimmed glasses and a navy T-shirt, gestured to the stack of boxes to his left, packed for shipping. “This, for example, is going to Canada. This to Netherlands. This to the United States,” he said.

He lifted the lid on a box of quartz massage wands. “These are very popular.” Then another box of rose quartz hearts: “Some of our best sellers,” he said. “Crystals are the most popular stones now – many customers are looking for it, because – I’m not sure of the English – the medicine with crystals is very popular now. Like therapy, the belief crystals have healing power, you know? It’s very – how do you say? – trendy.”

The gem and mineral expo in Tucson was a key point in Liva Marc’s year. “That is where you’re looking for customers,” he said. “You see all customers from around the world: Chinese, Japanese, New Zealand, Australian. It is the biggest market in the world. We go there to exhibit, to sell, but most important is to find customers there.”

Between the buyers in the US and the mines in Madagascar was a gulf of experience, which, sitting in the courtyard of Liva Marc’s small factory, he found hard to express. “It’s like two galaxies,” he said, grinning and shaking his head. “It’s a big difference. If I say to people at the mine what Tuscon is like, they will never understand. And if I say to the Tucson people to come here, they will never understand. It’s very different worlds.”

He acknowledged the poor conditions at the mines he bought from. “You were shocked, but I was shocked, too! When you see in the rough, [stones weighing] like 50kg, 60kg, they drag it four, five kilometres, two or three per day, and earning only $1? You know, it’s … ” He paused. “Sometimes you can’t imagine how they can do this.”

Madagascar Specimens exports some crystals rough, but its workshop in Antananarivo also works the stones, cutting them into shapes, grinding and polishing the faces. From Liva Marc’s perspective, refining the stone in Madagascar means creating steady jobs and keeping more of the value of the crystals in the country. With stone that was exported rough and then carved in China or the US, almost none of the profit stayed in Madagascar.

“Maybe they [shops in the US] don’t explain it to their customers. It’s business for them, they want money. They will never say: ‘I buy this for $1 and I sell to you for $1,’,” he laughed, “but that’s the reality.”

The plunder of Madagascar’s resources for profit is nothing new. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the country was a source of slaves, bought by Europeans and sent to work in brutal conditions, often on sugar plantations on the islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues. When the French colonised Madagascar in , they outlawed slavery, but ushered in a new era of forced labour and extraction, with tens of thousands of tonnes of rosewood and millions of francs’ worth of gold shipped offshore each year. More than a century later, the country’s riches still rarely benefit the Malagasy people, says Zo Andriamaro, a sociologist and human rights analyst. Gold, cobalt, sapphires, crystals: she sees them all as part of the same old story, resources siphoned out of the country for the benefit of foreign companies. “There has to be some more systematic way of controlling and regulating the market for all types of minerals coming from here,” she says. “It is totally unjust.”

Mining also threatens Madagascar’s rainforest. When new mining sites are discovered, sometimes thousands of men migrate to mine, encroaching on protected environmental areas and threatening the survival of endangered species. Embracing mining on a larger scale is “intrinsically, fundamentally unsustainable and destructive”, Andriamaro says. “You can never pretend that you will restore the environment to its initial state.”

The month after we spoke in Madagascar, Liva Marc and a shipping container full of his stones landed in Arizona, bound for the Tucson shows. I met him in a hotel lobby, one of three retail spots he had in the city. Business was good, he said. Buyers from all over the world had come.

The stalls around him showcased towering display pieces: rose quartz boulders, massive amethyst geodes. They had been cleaned, polished and set on display, but he still looked at them and thought of their origins. “All these big pieces – imagine how they must dig it. How difficult it must be,” he said. “Imagine how it starts.”

While the crystal business is booming, and largely among consumers who tend to be concerned with environmental impact, fair trade and good intentions, there is little sign of the kind of regulation that might improve conditions for those who mine them.

Julia Schoen, co-founder of the crystal drink bottle company Glacce (tagline “Luxury Spiritual”) told me that ethical sourcing is “the No 1 priority” for her company. Schoen was speaking on the phone from her office in New Orleans, where she told me she was surrounded by crystals that had been unboxed and laid out, waiting to be blessed by staff, who would burn sage smudge sticks and pray to cleanse them before use.

Glacce sells water bottles and metal straws embedded with rose quartz, amethyst and other crystals, which are supposed to transform ordinary water into a “crystal elixir”, where the water takes on the healing properties of the crystal. The bottles were touted by Vanity Fair as “’s Status Symbol” and are sold by bohemian-themed fashion retailer Free People, as well as Goop. Schoen said sales of the bottles, which retail for $$, had increased exponentially since they started the business, and demand often outstripped supply.

But even with a booming market, she said, the company didn’t yet have a budget to track their crystals to their source at the mines. Instead, Glacce depended on Chinese middlemen to select crystals, including those from Madagascar. Schoen told me that Glacce’s suppliers “know that we do not want to be having our money go towards a mine that’s using child labour. They know all these things.” At present, she said, they considered transparency a high priority and hoped to develop relationships with individual mines by , but could offer no concrete reassurances about the current conditions of their miners.

“In an industry that has not been so regulated and maybe hasn’t had so many eyeballs on it, there are obviously practices that most people who are purchasing crystals would not want to know about,” Schoen acknowledged. “You know, at the end of the day it’s like, our intentions are – ” she paused. “I think we’re clear what our intentions are.”

The challenge of sourcing crystals ethically is one faced by the industry as a whole: Glacce, Goop or any given Etsy vendor are no more culpable than the next crystal dealer. Every retailer I spoke to raised the question of price. Would crystal consumers really be willing to pay more to guarantee safer, child labour-free mines, or a fair wage for miners? Schoen compared it to the organic food movement: if enough people wanted assurance of their products’ provenance, the supply systems would develop.

At Tuscon, in the marquee for crystal vendor The Village Silversmith, I asked owner John Bajoras – tall, tanned and broad-shouldered, with an enormous shark tooth around his neck – where the responsibility lay if crystals were coming from mines where people, many of them children, were risking their lives for meagre pay. It is all about the customers, Bajoras said. “It’s a complete conundrum. I get somebody with dreadlocks, and a peace-hippie attitude, and you try to sell them a piece of labradorite from Madagascar for $ And they’re like: ‘I’ll give you $6, dude.’ That’s where the fucking problem is. If they were like ‘It’s $12? Well, how about I give you $20?’ [then] you could kick $8 back down the line, sure. That’s the problem. The problem is your end consumer. Not anybody else in the pipeline. The end consumer is the person who sets the price.”

Bajoras visited Madagascar often, but rarely made it out to the mines, opting instead to deal with middlemen in the cities. But he knew the villages of Anjoma Ramartina and Ibity: “Yeah. All our rose quartz comes from that area. All the tourmaline comes from there,” he said.

And if some of the conditions are truly awful? “Awful is relative, remember,” he shot back. The volume of his voice rose slightly, but he was still smiling. “Your job looks horrible to me. I feel for you. I’m glad that you’re willing to do it, because we need people like you to do it, but I ain’t fuckin’ doing it, no way. I would rather die in a mine, any day, no doubt. Holy shit. No. Not happening. Spell check? You’re out of your fucking mind.”

Meanwhile, the $tn wellness industry rolls on, bolstered by profits from cheap crystals and a generation looking for alternative modes of healing. Bajoras was confident his stones had healing power. After all, he said, if uranium could kill you, why shouldn’t lithium quartz be able to help cure your depression? And when you broke it down to an elemental level, he said, people are mostly minerals and water anyway. “You’re hydrated mineral powder,” he told me. “You are! You’re like Kool-Aid.”

Beneath a tented canopy beside the Tucson freeway, his colleague Alexa Stamison was selling an array of Madagascan rose quartz, carnelian and amethyst. Stamison had a warm, open manner and an encyclopedic knowledge of their stones.

A woman dressed all in white – crocheted shirt, maxi skirt and headscarf draped over her top-knot – approached the stall. “How much is this carnelian?” she asked. The stone was $ A stone of empowerment, Stamison told me, great for women going out on their own or moving into a new home.

“I think I need it, it was just calling to me and I couldn’t walk away,” the woman said. “I don’t need a bag, I’ll just carry it.” She walked away, cradling the stone.

If anything, Stamison wonders if the circumstances of miners in Madagascar, “makes the pieces a lot more special. Because I know some person in a little baby hut was actually polishing it by hand, and they’re setting their intentions into it, too,” she said. “People’s intentions and people’s energy are put into the stones as they’re producing it.”

“So the circumstances they’re mined in, they are embedded into the stone somehow?” I asked.

“I think so. A little bit, it has to be. It has to be.”

Additional research by Holifeno Hantanrinoro and Teddy Rahenintsoa

Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, and sign up to the long read weekly email here.

Sours: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle//sep/17/healing-crystals-wellness-mining-madagascar
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Reddit healing crystals

Whether we subscribe to the healing properties of crystals or not, there is no getting around the fact that a growing number of people around the world do.

Thanks, in part, to dedicated accounts on social media flexing the beauty of these subterranean gemstones along with the wave of new age practices on the rise amongst millennials, the appeal of crystals has brought a sparkle to the collective eye like never before.

crystals in singapore

Apart from being used for feng shui purposes, crystals are also being used as accessories for meditation or mindful living, given that each crystal has touted properties to enhance a particular chakra or characteristic. For example, clear quartz amplifies the energy of the mind and harmonies all your chakras, obsidian clears bad energy, jade attracts luck and friendship, and so on. Fair enough if you don’t completely buy into this, one still can admit that crystals, especially clusters, are a great way to introduce colour or personality to a space.

Whatever your inclination, shopping for crystals in Singapore is the most obvious way to fulfil it. There are a number of metaphysical supply stores (yes, it is a thing), as well as dedicated crystal stores, both online and offline to help you get started.

(Main and featured image: Franco Antonio Giovanella/Unsplash)

This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

Qi New Age Healing is run by Lay Lee, a self-declared medium. The shop has a whole stream of items dedicated to new age needs, including crystal sets, and crystals both cut and raw. Bracelets are also available if that’s what you prefer. Order online, or visit their physical shop on Kandahar Street.

Love for Crystals houses an expansive selection of crystal products in a variety of formats — raw, spheres, slives, terminated, shaped, polished and tumbled — for whatever use you may desire. All its products are procured from responsible sources from across the world, ranging from Tuscon to Brazil. You can order online or chose to visit their showroom, which is open on selected days.

Secret Crystals is your one-stop portal for all your healing crystal needs. There is a particularly varied selection of pocket-sized stones in a variety of shapes, for those who want to carry your stone of choice around on the daily. While they do have a physical store, prices on their online channel are cheaper, so do take note if you’d like to shop here.

Every Friday at pm, Goddess Gems will launch a selection of crystals for sale on its Instagram page, which we’ve linked below. The stones are lovingly curated, so there are some truly unique pieces available for sale on this digital platform. Check out the highlights on the Instagram page for what is still available if you can’t wait for Friday drops.

Energy guide Sanctum of the Soul also doubles as a digital crystal store, with its listings regularly updated, starring both common and uncommon stones hewn in a variety of shapes. Custom crystal jewellery is also available, so contact the store to make bracelets according to the specifications you’d like.

Instagram crystal seller Illa Nocte sells an array of crystals that purr with witchy appeal. There are clear orders on how one should go about making purchases on Instagram, so follow those guidelines to lay claim to the stones you want. If you’d like to touch and feel the stones for yourself, Illa Nocte is also stocked at The Moon on Mosque Street.

Palm stones, crystal hearts and towers are a ubiquitous sight at Aloofafa. This Instagram crystal retailer is where you want to go for stones to decorate pockets of your home, from display cases to altars. Weekly drops happen every Sunday at 2pm, so be sure to follow if you want to get first dibs.

Sours: https://www.prestigeonline.com/sg/beauty-wellness/wellness/where-to-buy-crystals-in-singapore-for-all-your-new-age-needs/
CRYSTALS FOR HEALING #themidnightraven

From Adele to Katy Perry: What&#;s Behind Hollywood&#;s Growing Obsession With Crystals

Take a pill for what ails you, or clutch a crystal? A-listers are deploying gems for everything from increasing positive home energy (Kate Hudson, Victoria Beckham) to decreasing performance anxiety (Adele grips one during concerts). &#;I definitely see an increase in crystal use,&#; says meditation guru Olivia Rosewood, whose clients include stars and moguls. While there&#;s no medical proof — studies on crystals have proved only the power of suggestion or a placebo effect — many cultures have histories of them purportedly healing via energy vibrations. &#;An intellectual understanding is not required to feel peace instantly,&#; says Rosewood. &#;I attribute crystals&#; current popularity to increased stress and their inherent calming power.&#;

1, 7 — Rose & Clear Quartz

Katy Perry carries rose quartz for love, &#;a feel-good stone,&#; says Michael Carbaugh, founder of L.A.-based Sandoval, which sells scents containing crystals ritualistically charged by the full moon.

2, 4, 6 — Black Tourmaline, Pyrite, Hematite

These gems and others are embedded under the sprung-oak floor of movement guru TarynToomey&#;s new NYC studio opening in January. Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson attend sessions of her cultish The Class, held daily in Santa Monica and Hollywood.

3 — Amethyst

Some of Rosewood&#;s clients use infrared-heated, crushed-amethyst-filled &#;BioMats that cover an entire bed,&#; she says of the $1, pad that harnesses technology NASA uses to help astronauts regain vigor. &#;It&#;s deeply relaxing and life-changing for sufferers of chronic pain.&#;

????5 — Malachite

Renate Radford, senior vp of TV for Elizabeth Banks&#; Brownstone Productions, says writers rub stones to cure anxiety. &#;I work with a big writer who carries around a malachite stick,&#; she says. &#;Creative people are more open to trying different things, and all this stuff is imbued with the magic you give it.&#;

This story first appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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Sours: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/music-news/adele-katy-perry-whats-behind-hollywoods-growing-obsession-crystals/

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