Nicola Tesla once said that though we cannot understand the life of crystals, they are nevertheless living beings. When it comes to amber, this precious gem, which is not even a stone per se, seems to vibrate with more life than other gems. Touching it bestows incredible warmth in the hand and warms the heart. Amber cradles the warmth and light of the sun and the vitality of earth’s plant life.
In mythical lore of various cultures, the origin of amber was associated with tears. In Greece, where amber was called “electron” and equated with the beaming sun, it was believed to have originated from the tears of the seven sisters of Phaethon, son of the sun god Helios. In a well known myth, Phaethon, too inexperienced to control the sun chariot of his father, was as a consequence struck down by lightning, and tumbled down to his death. His seven sisters turned into poplars as a result of their grief. Their tears hardened into droplets of amber, which were carried by the river to the sea. In a Lithuanian and Polish myth, the queen Jurate, who lives in an amber palace under the Baltic Sea, falls in love with a fisherman. When her God of the Sea father finds out about this transgression, he smashes the amber palace into a million pieces. Its fragments wash upon the Baltic coast up to this day. In Norse myth, the goddess Freya sheds tears when her husband Odur is away from her. The tears which fall on the earth turn to stones, the ones that fall into the sea turn into amber.
There is something human, lifelike, fragile and delicate about amber. But at the same time, precious stone adepts speak of its tremendous “life force” (1) as well as its purifying, healing and balancing properties .
Amber is an ancient resin from deciduous and coniferous trees – prehistoric poplars and pines – that has fossilised over millions of years. Resin is oozed by a tree in order to heal its broken branches. It hardens, often trapping insects in a sort of magnificent tombs, preserving them for eternity. This process and the pre-historic origins of amber link it symbolically to “experiences passed down from one’s ancestors” as well as to “past-life explorations.” (2) Amber was also placed in tombs to protect souls in the afterlife.
Because amber is created “by the synthesis of light by plants and trees” (3), and not below the earth’s crust like many other stones and minerals, it carries with itself the triple energetic signature of the Earth, the Sun and the Sea. Though so fragile, amber emits tremendous power of protection. Viking women “used spindles with whorls made of amber to spin protection into garments for their warrior husbands or sons.” (4) To this day we make our children wear amber necklaces not only to ward off evil but also to soothe teething pain. In Chinese medicine, amber is believed to bestow a state of peace and calm as well as provide with energy and vitality.
The most precious and ancient amber comes from The Baltic Sea. It is very common and emblematic of the northern part of the land of my ancestors (Poland). Its paradoxical and magical quality of being both so vital and so magically pre-historic has never ceased to amaze me. I think Rilke captured the mystery of amber wonderfully in his poem Black Cat, which ends with these words:
“But all at once
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.”
(1) Robert Simmons, Naisha Ashian, The Book of Stones: Who They are and What They Teach, 4th Kindle edition, 2021
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