Stone Medicine, Grounded
For me, it began with the plants. By which I mean that it was the plants who first helped me to see that the world is alive with medicine. It started slowly, with noticing how blackberry blossoms can dust a hillside like snow. With seeing the dandelions sprout between the pavement, the plantain flourish in the driveway. With hearing the way two maples will rustle together in full leaf, like grandmothers in conversation. A sound that wasn’t just a sound, but a whispered realization of the aliveness happening all around me. The Anishinaabe people have a whole word, just for this kind of conversation. “Si-si-gaw-d,” the sound trees make when they talk amongst one another.*
It began with the plants. They were the ones that first taught me to recognize this world for what it is— a living tapestry of consciousness and connection. But once I opened to this reality I was able to remember what all our ancestors knew intimately. That this entire world is animated by energy. That there is no “it,” no “things”— only beings. And that every being has its own medicine.
And so it was that I opened to our earth’s most ancient medicine— The Stones.
* For a beautiful and storied reflection on si-si-gaw-d and the richly languaged world of the Anishinaabe (Objibwe) people check out Ignatia Broker’s book Night Flying Woman
Stones have been considered emissaries of healing, power, and creativity for millennia. From the Egyptians to the Celts, the Central American empires to indigenous societies throughout Australia and North America — stones are foundational to a diversity of medicinal practices and spiritual beliefs. Stones and crystals are mentioned in many ancient religious texts, including the Bible, the Hindu Vedas and the Koran. The oldest written reference to stone medicine comes from a hieroglyphic papyrus dated in 2000 B.C — but the recognition of stones as medicine can be traced much farther back in human imagination. Stones are an intimate part of humanity’s relationship with the more-than-human world. They are gatekeepers for our interaction with divinity, and with mystery. Stones are part of the fabric of human history. Like the blue stones of England’s Stonehenge, transported over 150 miles to their final resting place, or the quartz crystals found in burials throughout the world, including a California grave dating from as far back as 6,000 BC.
In Chinese medicine, stones have been a part of medicinal prescriptions for thousands of years. In fact, they were used as the original acupuncture needles and are still an integral part of Chinese materia medica today. We hear the term “crystal healing” and we have a tendency to write it off as new age. But stone healing isn’t new at all (unless you count the crystal technology that fuels all our cell phones and computers). Calling upon stones for healing is as ancient as humanity itself. Whether we were marking our handprints with ocher on cave walls, or burying our dead with serpentine. For millennia human beings have recognized stones as medicine
It isn’t that stone healing is new. It’s just that we’ve forgotten.
Learning to engage with stones as medicine is a way of expanding our consciousness beyond the bounds of what we’ve been handed, opening our hearts to perceive a deeper, more complex reality.
How many of us grew up thinking of rocks as the very definition of an inanimate object? When we can see stones as alive — elements of our world that have been most rigorously denied their behinghood — we can truly transform our perspective of life. We can begin to engage with a reality of the world that is much more life giving, life recognizing. If stones are alive, then absolutely everything on earth is venerable, powerful, and worth honoring.
If stones are alive, how could we deny beinghood to any other life form? If stones are alive, how could we condone strip mining a mountain or building a wall between us and our neighbors? When stones come alive, all the divisions that have created so much strife in our world begin to dissolve. When stones come alive, a true revolution in thinking can take place.
Let’s start the revolution. Check out the video below to hear about the history of “Woo” and why embracing stone medicine is an integral part of the healing on this earth.
Over the past several months I’ve developed a class to help open the gateway to this kind of transformational thinking and medicine making.
How Stones Communicate is a course about beginning to work with stones, and opening up to a more luminous world. Grounded, de-mystified, practical, and story-rich, this class will help you open a dialogue with the stones. To hear the si-si-gwa-d of the stone realm, and find a new language for understanding the medicine inherent to this world.
The class is yours to keep forever and is available to you whenever you are ready.
I have such a stellar regard for your writing and blog but I’m having problems with your premise here. i.e. Because stones have been regarded as having magical properties in the ancient world, it behooves us to rediscover their healing power today.
Well, by analogy – the ancient world regarded constellations in the heavens as divine entities, animals ,and beings immortalized in the night sky. So on that basis, we can’t really credit something to be true or vaild simply because it reflects ancient belief systems. That may be more a case of Woo-shful thinking 😉
On the other hand, we do know there is a common atomic structure linking all things. So in that sense, something inanimate is in fact, always a manifestation of universal electromagnetic energy. In my view, that might be a more palpable point of departure.
Hi Tony! Thank you for reading and bringing up such a great discourse. The ancient world did see the heavens as divine entities, and animals as healing spirits, and rivers as conduits to other worlds… and I would say that they are right! It may not feel validating for you to hear that our ancestors believed in stone medicine, but it is a source of great foundation and solidity of many (not to mention the fact that one of the central tenants of this blog post was to question the idea that stone healing is new age).
This question does bring up another thought for me. I think we are limited by language, and I think perhaps one of the most limiting words of all is “but.” We like to say, “this is what we knew in the past, BUT this is what we know now.” And I always wonder what would happen if we eliminated “but” all together and just used “and”. The stars are giant balls of exploding gas, AND they are divine entities. The heavens are maps of planets and dark matter and galaxies beyond our own AND they are maps for own our human stories.
We like to tell ourselves that the language of our current science (a language that maps the outer world in numbers and data) is the truth, but how is this actually any more real than the language of mythology? The language of poetry or love? Languages that map our inner worlds? If everything in life that we experience is absolutely subjective, as in, cannot be separate from our individual perspective and experience… then wouldn’t (in many ways) poetics be just as central to understanding truth?
There are many languages and paths to explore our world, and maybe for you universal electromagnetic energy is what sparks your mind. And if so… that is awesome! We need people fluent in every language who are willing to point to the deeper truth: everything is divine, interconnected, vibratory, and of its own medicine.
In reality, I think this conversation brings us back to the idea that there is no one truth. It’s all true. We are in a process right now in society of expanding our perspective. Of letting go of the limiting discourses of ethnography, as well as scientific rational, and beginning to understand that what we know is very small indeed. What our ancestors held so strongly, and that I respect deeply, is that we live in a luminous and living world. And that is the truth that I write towards, in my own language, here on the blog.
Thanks for reading!!
Enjoyed reading this very much! And thanks for the book recommendation – will definitely check out Night Flying. 🙂
Thank you Sarah! Yes, Ignatia Broker’s work is stunning! I hope you enjoy <3
Love the video, very well put. What are your sources for the historical data? Any particular books you would recommend that are well researched/ grounded ?
Thank you Chloe! There are some really rich historical resource for stone healing within Chinese Medicine, including The Divine Farmers (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing). There is also an entire wikipedia page about The Wu in Chinese, with a great bibliography at the end of the page. Mentions of other cultures were gleaned from various anthropological sources seen throughout the years. There aren’t very many stone books that are grounded in specific traditions, but I highly recommend the new textbook Stone Medicine by Leslie J. Franks. It’s a comprehensive look at the philosophy of Chinese medicine, and the scientific and historical role of stones in the practice.
Thanks for the list Asia, i’ll have to look into them! I have a background in cultural and medical anthropology, so i’m kind of a huge nerd for historical data!
I signed up of the class long before it was available and it was difficult to wait until I could view it. Fabulous! If you are drawn to stones you must take this class!
Thank you dear Anne! Your words are a gift. If you have a moment to leave a review for the class on Clarity Stone Medicine I would be so grateful. It can be a big decision to sign up for a course, so any way in which we can give people more of a feeling sense of the workshop is just so wonderful. Thanks again, friend! <3