Amethyst was originally regarded as a very precious stone, until the immense quantities received from Brazil reduced its value generally.
From the earliest dawn of history the occult properties of this stone as an antidote to inebriety have been recognised, by all writers, the name originating from a Greek word meaning “without intoxication,” and according to Aristotle it was also the name of a beautiful nymph who invoked the aid of Diana to protect her from the attentions of Bacchus, which the goddess did by converting her into a precious gem, upon which Bacchus, in remembrance of his love, gave the stone its colour and the quality of preserving its wearers from the noxious influence of wine.
The Egyptians used these stones freely for Talismans, their soldiers wearing them as Amulets for success in their exploits and calmness in danger. Pliny says the Magi believed that if the symbols of the Sun and Moon were engraved upon the Amethyst it made a powerful charm against witchcraft, and procured for its wearers success to their petitions, good luck, and the favour of those in authority. Camillus Leonardus, confirming its efficacy in restraining intoxication, says:
It also represses evil thoughts and all excesses, prevents contagion, and gives good understanding of hidden things, making a man vigilant and expert in business.
The Amethyst has always been associated with ecclesiastical decorations, its frequent use in episcopal rings giving rise to its description as “the Bishop’s Stone,” and rosaries of Amethyst beads were much in request in olden times to attract soothing influences in times of stress and to confer a pious calm on their wearers.
In religious art it was regarded as emblematic of resignation under earthly sufferings, patience in sorrow, and trust unto death, which Marbodus (translated by the Rev. C. W. King) expresses in verse:
On high the Amethyst is set
In colour like the violet.
With flames as if of gold it glows
And far its purple radiance throws;
The humble heart it signifies
Of him who in the Saviour dies.
During the Middle Ages the qualities attributed to it were many: it indicated the presence of poison by becoming dim, also personal danger and ill-health by changing colour; it was, moreover, considered to give vigilance to business men, and to sportsmen and soldiers calmness in danger.
The Amethyst is the stone of St. Valentine, who is said to have always worn it; and in the days of romance and chivalry, if presented by a lady to her knight, or a bride to her husband in the shape of a heart set in silver, it was said to confer the greatest possible earthly happiness on the pair who would be blessed with good fortune for the remainder of their lives.
In connection with the soothing influence of this gem, it is interesting to note that according to modern research1 purple light rays have been found to exercise a calming effect upon nervous and hysterical patients and a consequent improvement in the vitality. Cases of neuralgia and sleeplessness have been relieved by an Amethyst rubbed gently over the temples. It is one of the very few gems that may universally be worn without adverse results.
The subject of Talismans and Gems of the Zodiac covers a wide area, and the difficulty of arriving at a definite conclusion is increased because of the varying opinions between writers on these subjects as to the stones referred to, or intended by the Ancients, complicated still further by the different languages from which these records have been translated, and where Month or Zodiacal gems are referred to many of the writers are obviously unacquainted with Astrology or Astronomy.
The present volume, being the result of many years of study and research, it is not easy in all cases to specify the original source of our information, which has been collected, not only from ancient and modern writings, but also from personal experience and experiments, noted at the time they occurred, long before this book was contemplated. Again, we find that many, and more especially modern authors, quote from one another in places, and the original source of the information is obscure; we have, therefore, endeavoured to give as far as possible our authorities, although, owing to the antiquity of the subject, much is necessarily left to deduction and conjecture; and it is more than probable there may be unintentional omissions, to remedy which we give a list of books that we have at different times consulted and studied with advantage.