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Crystal woo

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Crystal woo refers to a seemingly preternatural ability to make - nay, compel - people[note 1] to assign all sorts of ludicrous powers to crystals. The folklore of many cultures as well as modern new-age medicine claim that crystals have special powers or energy. This includes pretty much everything, from healing, to protection, to "focusing energy", "directing energy", "aligning energy" and so on. Really, there is nothing that woomeisters and new-age salesdroids haven't tried to associate with crystals. They look pretty and they have an almost "supernatural" feel to them, due to the regularity of their shape[note 2] - ergo they must have something special about them, despite being nothing more than highly-aligned mineral structures. Much crystal woo is based on Native American woo (North America serving as the current World Leader in Woomeistery).

The best known misuse of crystals is of course the "crystal ball", which for many self-claimed mystics and self-appointed psychics serves as a medium for images from "beyond". (Though in reality, most large 'crystal' balls are made from crystal glass, which is structurally amorphous and not a crystal at all...)

"Crystal healing" is the use of pretty stones to magically realign the chakras and make the cancer (or whatever) go away. It didn't work for Andy Kaufman and it won't work for you.

A crystal child is like an indigo child but more "advanced" or something.

In the early days of this rigorously tested theory, books on crystal healing were thin, limited only to those few minerals that the woo merchants had heard of. In response to criticism, books began to appear that transcribed a much wider variety of mineral species from proper science-texts and then added their magical qualities (which gave the entirely false appearance of having been made up). At first these amazing healing properties differed wildly between the ever-increasing number of crystal-woo books, until some sort of rough consensus was reached, largely by subsequent authors simply copying everyone else but with different pictures (compare publication bias).

A fact seemingly unknown to crystal advocates is that every mineral grain, no matter how small, retains its crystal lattice, and so should retain all the magical powers of that mineral. Given that the entire land surface of the Earth is made of rocks, sediments and soils that are largely mineral grains, everyone on the planet should be receiving the benefits without having to purchase overpriced and poor-quality crystals from scented shops or from people with purple hair. Beaches often consist almost entirely of quartz grains, as do deserts, and so overall there should be no negative energy at all anywhere on Earth. And all those people who sling off at "crystals" (when they really mean "crystal woo") should realise that crystals (as, for example, in crystallography[1]) are a STEM[2] subject - and why do they (or their parents) wear/gift engagement rings incorporating crystalline gemstones anyway?

Scientific evidence[edit]

The crystalline, clearly non-abrasive surface of a human kidney stone - natural and thus good for you, hooray!

First and foremost, despite what some practitioners who use crystals claim, there is no scientific evidence that crystals have special powers or energy. Answers.com sums up the scientific consensus on crystal therapy:

Medical professionals place little credence in crystal therapy, attributing any observed benefits to placebo effect. Their skepticism stems from a lack of scientific evidence for the healing effects of crystals, and from differences of opinion among practitioners about how the therapy actually works.[3]

Indeed, IndianReikiMasters.com admits:

The main problem in providing hard core scientific data that would be acceptable to scientists at large is that the sensitive equipment necessary to measure these energy changes is not available today...If the energy could not be measured, the effect it had on the human body could be. Therefore, this inductive means of study became our laboratory. Unconventional devices such as dowsing rods were used to measure the expansion or contraction of the body's energy field.[4]

Any powers that crystals might appear to have can be explained by placebo effect, selective thinking, wishful thinking, unconfirmed testimonials, and communal reinforcements. [5] Proponents admit that observation of the energy in crystals is dependent on one's intention and attitude. Internet sites selling healing and protection crystals commonly acknowledge that they are intended for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for medical treatment or common sense.

Selection and use[edit]

A crystal may be chosen, it is believed, by handling it and determining intuitively if it "feels right." Joanne Brannan has this to say about choosing a protection crystal:

In order for the magical properties of a crystal to provide effective protection, there must be a positive interaction between user and stone. When buying crystals online, a connection to the crystal may be made by focusing on the crystal in your mind's eye, if the connection is there you will sense it.[6]

Crystals have memory, if you hold a crystal and permeate it with love the crystal will remember your love and suffuse any environment where it is with love. Crystals also absorb negative evergy and sometimes need cleansing. To cleanse a crystal it is believed one may wash it, leave it submerged in salt water or a fresh running stream for some time, bury it in earth, or expose it to sunlight or moonlight. [7] IndianReikiMasters.com explains how to clear and test a crystal before use:

The most effective method for clearing a crystal is to hold or touch it with your hand. Repeat the Light Invocation three times. "I invoke the Light of the God within. I am a clear and perfect channel. Light is my guide." By the time you have completed the third repetition, the negative emotion will be gone. Test this for yourself, and ask a friend to help you. Measure his or her energy field using a dowsing rod...and write down your results. Hand your friend a crystal and measure the energy field. Write down your results. Hold the crystal to your forehead and recall a time you felt angry. Hand the crystal back to your friend, and measure the energy field again. Have your friend say the Light Invocation three times out loud, and once more, measure the energy field. Negative emotions cause a reduction in human energy fields. If the negative emotion charged crystal causes a reduction in the measurable field, you know the crystal is holding or storing negative emotions.[8]

Note the use of a dowsing rod in the above experiment.

IndianReikiMasters.com goes on to explain that after it has been cleared a crystal can then be programmed:

Crystals can receive and hold thought forms...Information or commands are stored in the molecular structure of the quartz crystal as magnetic charged data.

IndianReikiMasters.com further asserts that to program a crystal one need only place it on the brow and imagine the desired result.

In order for one to receive the beneficial effects of a crystal, it is believed it may be worn as a pendant or other item of jewelry, wrapped in cloth and placed in a pocket, or kept in a bag on one's person. Crystals may be set on a computer or microwave oven in order to counteract the effects of those appliances or they may be left about the home, work place, or vehicle.

Crystals are believed to be particularly powerful when placed in a geometric pattern or grid. Emily Gems explains:

Crystal grids are made by the placement of stones in a geometric pattern for the specific purpose of directing energy toward a goal. The stones or crystals are then charged by your intention and energy.[9]

For dramatic results it is believed a crystal may be placed on a body part or held in the hand.

How they work, apparently[edit]

Hang the crystal around your neck to focus your "spirit energy."

It is believed that crystals possess their power because they are in tune with the Earth. Olga Rasmussen at HealingCrystals.com explains:

If we believe that crystals are as much a part of the web of connection as we are, then we can readily recognize that crystals have the ability to act as intermediaries, enabling us to communicate and connect with higher levels of consciousness and existence.[10]

Gems4Friends.com offers a different explanation of why crystals possess their power:

The theory is that gemstones carry vibrational rates. By placing these vibrational rates within the aura - your aura's vibrational rates also change.[11]

Norma Buchanan from American Time also has an explanation for us:

Quartz is an ideal material to use as an oscillator. First of all, it loses very little energy as it vibrates, so the vibrations are extremely steady. Secondly, it exhibits what scientists call the "piezoelectric effect," meaning that it vibrates in response to an electric charge and, conversely, generates voltage when it vibrates. This quality is central to the way a quartz watch operates. [12]
And here is where woo and science diverge again. The quartz does not "generate voltage when it vibrates". The piezoelectric effect refers to quartz generating a voltage under mechanical stress. In a quartz watch the quartz is not under mechanical stress. The watch battery supplies a voltage to the quartz, making it vibrate, and providing an accurate oscillation for timekeeping. All the electrical power in a quartz watch comes from the battery, which woo merchants fail to grasp. It is this utter failure to understand simple science that allows simpletons to believe that quartz possesses magical properties.

Healing crystals[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Crystal healing

IndianReikiMasters.com explains how healing crystals work:

The essence of the body is energy. Crystals functions[sic] as transformers and amplifiers of various energies into biological energies that rebalance and re-energize our biological system on the cellular level, as well as on our emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. The premise on which this biological transfer of energy is based is that the body is a series of synchronous, oscillating, solid and liquid crystal systems to which our crystal healing techniques are able to transfer energy directly, as from one crystal to another. This transfer of energy aids the system in attaining a certain functional strength in which it can regenerate.

Rasmussen also explains that "quartz crystals can conduct the energy of the healer's thought-forms and patterns."

Various healing properties are ascribed to a large assortment of gems and precious stones. See Gems4Friends.com[13] for a representative list. Note that the vast majority of the listed healing properties are difficult to quantify. For example amazonite is said to improve self worth.

Certain crystals or stones are associated with each of the chakras, or energy systems in the human body. Rasmussen offers this observation on the specific stones associated with the healing of each chakra:

If you read ten books on which crystals or stones you should use in healing and balancing the chakras, you will get ten different opinions...Remember that ultimately these stones represent a broad range of suggestions-perhaps much broader than those you have consulted. Ultimately you must learn to cultivate and develop your intuition and see what you are drawn to using.

Note that Rasmussen also mentions studies are being undertaken by "reputable institutions" to verify the existence of chakras, although no such studies are mentioned specifically, for reasons that we will let you guess.

Protection crystals[edit]

Proponents of these crystals promise protection from evil, negative energies, psychic attacks, psychic vampires (call Seán Manchester!), electromagnetic fields, and energy loss. They claim that quartz is an especially powerful protection crystal.[14] For a comprehensive list of crystals and stones used as various protections, see for example CrystalsAndJewelry.com.

PaganLore.com explains how protection crystals work:

...their energy gently deflects negative energy and introduce positive energy that can help us feel better. They will absorb excess energy and boost depleted energy, which will help bring harmony and protect your space.[15]

HealingCrystal.com mentions that when dealing with protection stones "intention" is critical to success and that one should "be clear about what it is you are trying to accomplish, and think of it in positive terms."[16]

Ironically, despite the claims of protection, quartz crystals are a known human carcinogen, based on worker inhalation of crystalline silica in the form of quartz.[17] Shucks!

It can be seen from all the examples above that to be a crystal expert requires no actual study or rigorous testing, simply the brazen confidence to spout a word salad of nonsense about chakras, healing, auras, harmony, positivity, balancing, love, protection, energies, unicorns and rainbows. And for the audience to be receptive, gullible and ignorant of even basic scientific fact. A claim by one proponent that quartz crystals are only found in 7 places on Earth that correspond to the chakras of a human body appears shaky when quartz is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. Another alarming claim was that digging up quartz to supply healers was disrupting the energy flow between the chakras and likely to lead to a greater environmental disaster than clearing the Amazon Rainforest.

Citrine, a yellow form of quartz with distinct magical properties, is in fact almost always amethyst that has been baked in a hot oven. Natural citrine is rare but oven-baked amethyst is a massive industry. You've been had. And obsidian, as promoted by the famous scientist Victoria Beckham in her fashion range, isn't a crystal. It's a glass. It has no crystal structure. But if you accept that a non-crystalline solid has magical properties then you have to accept the same of every other solid.

Potential hazards[edit]

While most of its defenders will say that using crystals for healing or protection is harmless as long as they don't take it as a substitute for medical treatment, there are still a few hazards associated with the practice (beyond the ones that any form of woo/alternative medicine would have).

Hazardous crystals[edit]

This crystal could make all your problems go away![note 3]

Most of the commonly used crystals, like gypsum/selenite, pyrite, and the various forms of quartz are usually harmless, although they may contain very small impurities of dangerous elements. However, there are some crystals that are very dangerous, and while many practitioners will warn about their toxicity, some will still encourage their use. Examples include:

  • Galena, a lead sulfide. While galena is only dangerous if powdered, the similar crystal anglesite is much more soluble and very harmful no matter the form, but some people still use it anyway.[18]
  • Cinnabar, which was once used as vermillion pigment, contains mercury and unlike thiomersal it is toxic. It's kind of funny that some people who are opposed to mercury in vaccines will use this kind of mercury in crystal healing.[19]
  • Chalcanthite, a copper sulfate. Due to its extreme solubility, it can easily get in your body and give you copper poisoning if it is exposed to a little moisture, with less than an ounce of the stuff being potentially lethal. Fortunately, at least crystal healers are smart enough not to use this Nope, they still do![20] In fact, there is so much of a demand for it that some people make it artificially, as natural chalcanthite is rare![21]
  • Asbestos, which shouldn't even need an introduction. Obviously, no one would be stupid enough... sadly, they would.[22]

While some of these crystals can be handled safely with proper safety measures, the various woo applications often require putting them close to your body, increasing the chance that something bad can happen. You're better off sticking to quartz... oh wait.

The only kind of crystals that woo-pushers seem to avoid are the super radioactive ones like uraninite and torbernite[note 4] — apparently lung cancer from asbestos is okay but lung cancer from radon is not. Either that or being anti-nuclear trumps using healing crystals in the bizarre hierarchy of New Age beliefs.

Environmental concerns/exploitation of workers[edit]

Tantalite, one of the crystals that is responsible for the devastation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Without it, the device that you're reading this with probably wouldn't exist.

Another concern with crystal healing is where these crystals come from. Many are mined in dangerous conditions that underpay workers, use child workers, and sometimes slavery, and result in the destruction of the environment and economy of developing countries with transnational corporations and a handful of dictators being the only ones that benefit.[23] The one problem with this though is that it may seem a little rich, since so many aspects of our daily life such as cars, computers, lights, cell phones, airplanes, and electronics in general all depend on minerals that are mined in these conditions,[24] so stopping the use of crystals in healing won't fix what is a massive systemic problem in neoliberal capitalism, especially as many of the crystals have other uses for ore or building material. Still, the people who use these crystals should be doing more to call attention to these injustices, although we suppose the same should be said to people who use computers.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. New Agers, mostly
  2. Though there is not one single non-natural, super natural thing about the shape of crystals. They are as they are because of math and physics.
  3. If you're actually considering using it, call 1-800-273-8255
  4. Try searching for the mineral's name with "crystal healing" and see if anything comes up.

References[edit]