The Accidental Shaman: Journeys with Plant Teachers and Other Spirit Allies - Howard G. Charing 2017
The Power of Stones
The Colors of Infinity: Becoming Cognizant of Bioenergy Fields
Stones have power. From a shamanic perspective they are alive and a gift from the mineral kingdom. Minerals are the foundation of all life, and without them, plant, animal, and human existence would not be possible. The esoteric and religious use of stones spans the millennia. Stones that are venerated for religious worship or are at the centerpiece of sacred sites are known as a baetyli. In Western culture, for example, in the myth “The Sword in the Stone,” the magical sword Excalibur is embedded in a stone, and only the rightful king could withdraw it. For centuries, the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, was placed under the royal throne for the coronation of the new British monarch. The London Stone is also the stuff of legend: “So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish,” as the old saying goes. Brutus was the mythological founder of London, and the London Stone is regarded as the foundation stone of London.
One of the most magical stories from the Old Testament, in Genesis 28, tells how Jacob escapes from his brother, Esau, and at night falls asleep on a stone. This stone pillow is where he has his famed dream of the ladder with angels ascending and descending, and standing at the pinnacle is God. When Jacob awakens, he anoints the stone with oil and names the stone Bethel, meaning “House of El” or “House of God.” This archetypal baetylus later became the most important religious center in biblical Israel until Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem.
Another acclaimed baetylus is the sacred stone known as the omphalos, located in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Omphalos means “navel,” and it was regarded as the center, or navel, of the world. Interestingly, in the Quechua language of the Andes, the name of the ancient Inca city Cuzco also means “navel of the world.” Ancient philosophers understood that the navel is our first conduit of nourishment and is associated with life itself and that the term navel of the world was deeply symbolic. Furthermore, in sacred geometry, the navel represents the golden ratio, or phi (φ). The sacred stones from many mythologies symbolize the axis mundi.
In the vibrant mythological and shamanic mundo Amazónica,*8 stones possess mysterious and potent energy. Pablo Amaringo describes encantos, the magical stones used by shamans for healing (see color plate 4): “Encantos possess hidden powers that can be combined with ícaros [magical chants sung by shamans] to heal.” Pablo cautions that one should be careful when encountering encantos in an ayahuasca vision, because “their esoteric powers cannot be received by a person who has not first dieted and purged with ayahuasca. Some encantos are so powerful that if they are seen by a person who has not dieted properly, they can cause daño [harm].”1
For a shaman, one of the most important properties of stones and gemstones is that they “hold” energy. In Peru, stones endowed with energy are shaped into talismans, amulets, and charms to attract love. These are called huacanqui. Other stones are used to protect a person from negativity, such as hostility and envy; these are known as a seguro, Spanish for “safe” or “secure.”
Discovering the Power of Stones
1. Start by establishing an affinity with the stone. This is not so enigmatic as it appears because all actions start with an intent. An intention is an act of power. The principle of intention functions on two levels: The first level is deciding “this is what I want to do; this is where I want to go.” The second level is the antecedent, a signal or alert for energy to move to a certain destination or objective.
2. Once you have made a clear intention to find the stone, the primary act is to choose a stone or allow one to choose you. The stone in some way will draw your attention to it. The stone can be anywhere—on a beach, by the side of the road, or even in the parking lot of a pub (where I have found some of my best stones). Do not judge the stone by its appearance or the location where you find it. Pick up the stone and, while holding it, get a sense of it. Does it feel right? Does it feel as if the stone wants to be with you? Trust your feelings on this.
3. When you have some time, look carefully at the stone, study its details, observe its facets, and get to know it. Meditate on whether there is a particular quality that you need to bring into your life, such as love, courage, trust, confidence, creativity, or serenity.
4. Next, plan a shamanic journey to find the particular quality that you need. Place the stone in your hand, and start the journey. You will mostly likely find that this quality is embodied in an object or an artifact that you are magnetically drawn to in the journey. Once you find this artifact and either instinctively know that it is the correct item or are informed of this by your spirit guide, hold it in your hands and start your return to everyday consciousness. As you make the transition to the here and now, you will feel the energy of the artifact in your hands. Once you have returned, cup your hands and forcefully blow the energy into the stone. Feel, sense, and imagine that the quality is moving into the stone itself. You can often sense the stone pulsating in your hands as you do this.
5. The next step is to diet the stone. Although dieting usually takes place in the context of plants, Pablo Amaringo told me this method is also used for communion with encantos, or magical stones. In this diet, the consciousness of the shaman and the stone meet to establish a magical affinity.
To diet the stone, place it in a jug of water, cover it, and keep the jug in a cool and dry place for eight days. Starting on the ninth day, slowly drink a half glass of the water each morning until the water is gone. As you sip the “charged” water, use your imagination and feel that you are ingesting the quality that you brought back from the shamanic journey. This practice can also be used with gemstones and crystals.
6. After this, keep the stone with you, place it on your altar, or put it under your pillow at night. Go with what feels right for you; this is a personal interaction between you and the stone. There is nothing whimsical about this; it imbues the stone with a sacred quality that is keyed to you. In other words, it is a personal baetylus in your life.