Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Crystal Controversy

I'm a four planet Virgo, so one of the first things I was drawn to as a new pagan all those many years ago (is it really nearing 20 years!? Holy hell.) was crystals and gemstones. Herbs was first-- again, Virgo-- but crystals were not far behind. As taboo as this subject is in the more hardcore witch circles, I've never been ashamed to admit that I am drawn to pretty, shiny, chthonic things. I spent years carrying each stone with me, one at a time, and meticulously recording the results. I wore them, put them on my body, placed them under my pillow at night, meditated in circles of them, placed them in complicated grids, met them in dreams and trances... everything. Eventually, I did some not for profit crystal healing for others. I was still a teen and seriously considered doing this work for the rest of my life, but frustrations and concerns set in and I left crystal healing behind for good. I thought.

The subject has recently come back onto my radar, and I find my reasons for ignoring crystal healing falling on deaf ears. But I have this space, so I thought I'd type out my feelings on the subject as a sort of cathartic exercise for myself, even if no one is reading it. ;)

The first thing that made me reconsider my position as a crystal healer was the ethics of where and how the various crystals are collected, and we're not even talking about the obvious ivory, pearl, and coral here, which are probably harvested illegally. The subject of blood diamonds has gotten some attention recently, but these are by no means the only crystals which are harvested at the expense of other humans, animals, or ecosystems. Anytime there is a phenomenon that grows as rapidly as crystal healing has, there will be people who want so deperately to profit from it that they push the ethics envelope, and I want NO part of that. Sure, I can do my best to ensure that I only buy crystals from ethihcal, fair trade suppliers, but the overall problem left a bad taste in my mouth.

Then there is the misconception that crystal healing can do no harm. Go ahead and google it. See if you can't come up with at least a dozen sites proclaiming how "safe" crystal healing is. Oh look, I found one in about 2 seconds: "There aren't any bad side effects...". This illustrates perfectly a complete lack of understanding about healing in general. Let me give you an example.

At the point at which I was considering leaving crystal healing behind, I was approached by a woman in her 50's who had been treating herself with crystals. She'd been using hematite to relieve back pain from an old injury because she'd read or heard somewhere that hematite was useful for realigning the verterbrae, but the back pain was still getting progressively worse. What was she doing wrong? Well, she'd misunderstood the problem first and foremost. Back pain from an old wound is probably not caused by vertebral misalignment. It's more likely inflammation at the site and/or nerve pain. So this woman was treating the wrong thing. Second, she was using the wrong stone. In my experience, hematite aggravates inflammation, so the stone she was using was actually making her worse rather than making her better.

With herbalism, people are usually distinctly aware that some plants are poisonous, so they have a healthy dose of trepidation about treating themselves without doing at least a little bit of research. But with crystal healing, people will pick up any old stone and expect it to be all happy goodness and rainbows, no side effects at all (except for the good ones, of course). There are some safe crystals, just as there are safe, nourishing herbs, but you gotta do the damn research. Healing is healing. This means that you have to a.) understand a fair amount of human (or animal, if they're who you're treating) anatomy and physiology, b.) understand the characteristics of the healing medium you are working with and c.) be aware of the constitution and particular peculiarities of the specific patient you are working with.

Are you going to die from making a mistake with crystal healing? No, probably not, but that doesn't mean it's harmless. I don't mean for this to discourage anyone from seeking crystal therapy with an experienced, qualified healer, nor do I mean to disparage those who practice crystal therapy. I just wish that more people were willing to recognize that there are risks that come with ANY form of healing.

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