Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by crystals, rocks and minerals. My interest was sparked by frequent visits to a small metaphysical crystal shop in my hometown in Sweden. I would spend hours gazing at these colourful treasures, which were elegantly laid out in a gigantic jewelry box at the center of the store, and absorbing information on their healing powers. A nine year old’s imagination is vivid and unrestrained by reason, and thus, I immediately felt a deep connection with the stones and believed them to be filled with spirit. This belief still lingers within me, as a glimmer of my childhood faith, and, perhaps, as a remnant of the primitive magical thinking developed in the hearts of our Stone Age ancestors.
The power of stones
There are, of course, scientific theories about the nature of our physical reality which suggest that stones could have metaphysical properties. Modern physics tells us that on a subatomic level (meaning the world inside the atoms) particles can behave either as a stream of matter or as a wave. When physical reality is studied in-depth, matter seize to exist and becomes energy – movement, vibration. At it’s core, everything in the universe vibrates, and the idea behind the healing powers of stones is that different stones carry different vibrations, that they tune in to different wavelengths.
Does this sound odd? Think of the words we use to describe our emotional and psychological wellbeing. When referring to a general feeling of peace and joy, we talk about “being in harmony”. Harmony is a musical concept which has evolved around the idea of playing more than one note simultaneously to accompany a melody. Harmony gives richness and colour to the melody, it frames and enhances the song. Just like the different vibrations of the universe play together to create the wonderful cosmos that we inhabit. Energy is a shapeshifter, and the wonders of nature is just one way in which this spiritual force presents itself. From this point of view, one could assume that stones do carry different vibrations and that using a specific stone (such as holding it in your hand) would increase that vibration in your life. It certainly is a beautiful idea.
Over the years my interest in stones has expanded from shiny, polished crystals to the stones found in and shaped entirely by nature: treasures found on beaches and riversides, or buried within the earth. When I decided to create an altar in my new home, I wanted the altar material itself to be meaningful and spirited, so instead of buying a table or some other manmade piece of furniture, I thought of bringing a part of nature inside. In true Scott Cunningham-style*, I decided to build my altar out of stones. Luckily, the area where I live happens to be the bottom of an ancient sea and home to some of the oldest rocks on the planet. The mere thought that I have made a table from a material that have existed for billions of years inspires a deep sense of awe and reverence whenever I look upon it. Since inanimate stones can’t die, but just become altered and decomposed by their surroundings, it feels like I’m looking at a physical manifestation of eternity. Many stones have been around for billions of years and rocks make up the earth’s crust. Stones literally carry us through life.
I thought that the look of this altar inspired a shamanistic, nature-oriented set of tools and decor, so I went with very simple things such as a smudge bundle made of sage and lavender, a beautiful Eudialyte stone from Quebec, a quartz crystal inscribed with the Ansuz-rune (Ansuz means “god” and refers to any deity belonging to the Pantheon in Germanic/Norse paganism), a bowl of salt for purifying tools and objects, incense to light during yoga and meditation, a candleholder to make it cozy, a branch of birch that I plan to transform into a wand, a vase for flowers etc.
There are many reasons to make space for an altar or shrine in your home, here is a list of some of the ways in which I use mine:
- A spiritual focus during meditation and prayer
- A workspace for rituals
- Honouring the cycle of nature by decorating it with flowers and plants belonging to the different seasons
- A piece of decor which brings a sense of spiritual presence to the home
It is said that when you have a clear vision, the universe aligns itself to meet your needs, and people will stand in line to help you reach your goal. That is certainly true about my stone altar. It didn’t cost me a thing to create this since the earth itself provided the material and my in-laws went out of their way to dig up some good-sized stones for me on their property. Shortly after, I received 2 beautiful Eudialyte stones from Quebec as a gift, so now I have my first local healing stones to work with. All of this has come to me directly from the earth, and through love and friendship.
* Scott Cunningham (1956-1993) was a widely appreciated and highly respected Wiccan author. He has introduced (and keeps introducing) many people to the world of magic and nature spirituality through his beautiful, simple writing in books such as Earth Power: The Techniques of Natural Magic (1983), Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (1985) and Wicca – a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (1988)