STARSTONE: Amethyst for February

January 21, 2022

StarStone offers a monthly glimpse into the fabulous world of birthstones and the stories which have accompanied them for thousands of years into the modern day.

Each month and zodiac sign are celebrated with at least one gemstone, varying by period, context and culture. While these designations are far from an exact science, exploring the historical narrative of your birthstone may serve as a window into revealing self-knowledge. And give you yet another reason to buy yourself an amazing precious gem!

First, to throw down the gauntlet, both Aquarius (February) and Pisces (March) lay claim to Amethyst as their stone. While the purple gem is definitely associated today with February, we can’t blame the moody, sensitive sign of the fishes for wanting to associate with Amethyst.

 

Though it’s mostly a matter of opinion, we favor pairing Amethyst with the sign of Aquarius, the 11th sign of the zodiac which arrives on January 19–20, and exits February 18–19, when Pisces swims into view.  Let’s begin by addressing the obvious: the Age of Aquarius, as immortalized by Ren Woods in the opening moments of Milos Forman’s film version of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.

Yes, the Age of Aquarius is still a thing, and as a matter of fact, we’re living it this minute. Astrologer William Lilly gave this era its name in 1730, identifying it as a cosmic occurrence that comes along every 2,160 years, passing through all 12 signs of the zodiac, as the sun moves into a new constellation. The last age was Aries, and before that it was Pisces. Many theorists place the event as falling between Spring 2020 and Winter 2021, lasting until 2050. As always, the calculations are a bit sketchy, based on the procession of the equinoxes. One method of calculation computes the cycle as requiring 25,800 years, but experts argue about when it really began.

The pundits generally agree on one thing: that the Age of Aquarius is a time of ushering in higher consciousness. The phrase “New Age” truly seems coined for this sign. The Water-Bearer embodies humanitarian idealism and dedication to service. In spite of its fluid-sounding name, Aquarius is not a Water Sign, however: it’s an Air sign, ruled by Uranus.

But back to our song. The musical “Hair” will forever be linked with the mind-expanding, psychedelic grooviness of the 1960s.  True Aquarians believed it then and believe it now, because this sign seems incapable of cynicism. The Aquarian nature is often challenged by personal intimacy—making this February baby so very different from a later-in-the month, deeply romantic Piscean—but the Water-Bearer was made for missions of mercy, impossible dreams, quixotic lost causes, heroism and enlightenment. This often means that Aquarians aren’t easy to bond with in terms of friendship, family or romantic love, because they’re too busy saving the world.

This mystical drive toward the sublime aligns with what we find so alluring about Amethyst: its color. For centuries, the purple Amethyst was considered as precious as the Diamond, Sapphire and Ruby, and for this reason, many crowns, scepters and holy objects of antiquity are swathed with precious Amethysts. More recently, discoveries of Amethyst deposits in Africa have lowered its scarcity and relative market value, but never its beauty.  Amethyst is a hard, durable gem measuring 7 on the Mohs Scale, with exceptional depth of color and sparkle. Stones with deep, even purple tone are more sought-after than lighter-colored stones in the more pastel lavender-lilac spectrum.  Consistent color saturation is more desirable than the banding or striping sometimes found in the gem, and, as with all gems, clarity (meaning no visible inclusions) raises the value of the stone.

The Color Purple

With all due props to Pulitzer Prize-winning activist, novelist and poet Alice Walker, the color purple has brought cosmic authority to the table for thousands of years. Are we in the least bit surprised that Alice Walker was born under the sign of Aquarius (February 9, 1944)? Nope. In the ancient world, only nobles and aristocrats were permitted to wear purple, and it became a marker of supreme social status. The reason was practical: the only source of stable purple dye in the pre-industrial world was a vivid pigment squeezed from a sea-mollusk called the Murex. The Murex that yielded “Tyrian purple” was cultivated by the Phoenicians who occupied what is now called Lebanon, parts of modern-day Syria, and nearby areas along the Mediterranean cost, and this advanced sea-faring culture guarded their source fiercely.

In classical Greece and elsewhere, sumptuary laws dictated who could wear purple and how much, and harsh fines and punishment applied to those who dressed above their social class. The phrase “born in the purple” comes to us from the Byzantine era, where empresses gave birth to their royal children in a Constantinople Palace room lined with a purple gemstone—not Amethyst, but Porphyry, a brilliant violet form of granite with sparkling surface crystals. Babies born in this room were called Porphyrogenitas (princess) and  Porphyrogenitos (prince).

To this day, deep, true violet is still called Royal Purple. Millennia of associating purple with royalty finds its way into traditional Christian practice, where purple represents the year’s most solemn seasons, Advent and Lent. During these two periods, purple priestly vestments and draperies on the High Altar signal penitence, preparation and waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. In the case of Advent, where a purple candle is used to light the other white candles of the Advent wreath, purple anticipates the birth of the human Christ child at Christmas. Not coincidentally, the weeks of Advent are literally the darkest of the year, preceding the Winter Solstice.

Purple reappears approximately three months later, for the Great Fast of Lent, when Christ fasted in the desert and was tempted by Satan. This period is considered the most sacred of the traditional Christian year, reaching its nadir on Good Friday, when church-candles around the world are extinguished to express the anguish of the crucifixion. Roman soldiers taunted him by crowning him with thorns and sarcastically calling him “King of the Jews”, an honorific which Christ himself as well as the Rabbis rejected. Timed to coincide with the Vernal Equinox and the triumph of spring over winter, mournful purple garments are replaced with brilliant white and gold two days later on Sunday, heralding the glorious joy of Easter morning.

It’s no surprise that American fashion in the 1960s triggered a purple explosion, including youth culture’s appropriation of vintage Victorian and Edwardian finery along with theatrical costume of all sorts, from Woodstock, to Carnaby Street and Britpop, to the decades of Renaissance Faires that followed. Add to this the Maharishi-inspired fascination with India, including an introduction to the chakras. In this ancient system, the Crown chakra, located at the top of the head or pineal gland, represents the ultimate level of enlightenment symbolized by the 7th ray in the rainbow, the color purple. Not surprisingly, modern crystal purveyors recommend that everyone keep a hunk of amethyst on hand at all times, to keep the Third Eye open, fend off bad vibes, and keep in touch with our higher spiritual selves.

Aquarian Amor

The association of the color purple with luxury and power continues to give the sign of Aquarius its unique, quirky and sometimes downright odd reputation.  Aquarians are usually non-conformists, and like fellow Air Signs Gemini and Libra are often off in the clouds. This often makes Aquarius impossible to pin down. This sign may be reluctant to commit to monogamy or marriage, and as an employee or business associate may seem a bit scatter-brained in spite of the Water-Bearer’s obvious intelligence. Aquarius is a Fixed sign, meaning that its nature tends to be quite rigid. In other words, you’ll never change her/him/them.

With this in mind, the origin of the sign’s purple birthstone may be relevant: amethystos in the original Greek means not intoxicated or drunk. This is the reason that in ancient Greece, wine goblets were often carved of amethyst, to prevent overindulgence. The fact is, most Aquarians are naturally so out-there and trippy that they don’t really need to seek out psychotropic substances. Aquarians are no more prone to getting tipsy than the rest of us, but their featherweight attention-span and lofty idealism may require tethering.

 

But if you love an Aquarius, good luck with that. Aquarians are easily bored and despise confinement, like kites are always tugging on their strings, seeking purple haze and purple rain. Of all the Air Signs, Aquarius is the most restless and unsettled. Gemini is flirtier, Libra is cozier, and Aquarius is often the one who got away.

Blame it on the sign’s ruling planet of Uranus, often called the planet of genius, revolution, originality, innovation and reform. This planet is associated with social consciousness and rebelliousness: as the song goes, “…Golden living dreams of visions, Mystic crystal revelation, And the mind’s true liberation.” Uranus is linked with the nervous system, explaining Aquarian’s ability to turn on a dime. Knowing this also provides a crucial insight: Aquarius cannot handle stress or pressure of any kind, and is easily rattled. If you want to make an Aquarian disappear, say “I love you” first, or demand an explanation for anything.  Even the simplest request may be construed as an ultimatum.

Aquarius is usually the first person to embrace a new trend (hot yoga, bullet-proof coffee, intermittent fasting), so to even be slightly interesting to the Water Bearer, you’ll need to be versed in current events.

The month of February brings Valentine’s Day, which is perhaps the least favorite day of the year for most Aquarians, especially men born under this sign. Water-bearer guys value their freedom above all else and often prefer the life of the lone wolf. This is a seeming contradiction for Aquarians dedicated to lives of humanitarian service, but that’s the way Aquarius rolls.

 

 

The Aquarian woman also may cringe at the holiday’s hearts and cupids because she hates being told how she should feel, and when she should feel it. This refusal to be manipulated may also reveal itself in the sign’s indifference to their own birthday, and to gift-exchange on other holidays. This aversion to pre-fab emotion often casts Aquarius as remote, aloof, and less than generous. Aquarius will never spend money on lavish presents for others, but spends freely on himself/herself/themselves, fulfilling every whim (new bass guitar, speedboat, laser hair removal). If your Secret Santa is an Aquarian, expect a donut… if you’re lucky.

 

 

If you’re in love with an Aquarian, always keep it light and witty and don’t expect dramatic showings of passion in regard to your relationship. If you’re a homebody, there will be trouble. Ditto for anyone longing for thoughtful gestures, flowers for no reason, sentimental texts and long mornings in bed (looking at you, Cancerians).  Aquarians hate what some people call stability, in the form of repetition and sameness. This sign fears being trapped. In the context of dating and relationship, Aquarians require constant day-trips, travel, outings and distractions, perhaps because they’re uncomfortable in small, intimate spaces and shrink away from the expression of strong feelings.

Possessive Earth signs (especially Taurus) may make Aquarius feel smothered in quicksand, while weepy Water people (even secretly sensitive Scorpio) may leave this denizen of the air feeling drowned in sogginess. Aquarians often are happiest with fellow Air signs Gemini and Libra, who also prefer ambiguity and flexibility to oppressive, smothering constancy.

Quick-moving Fire signs (Sag, Leo and Aries) are often a good match as well, although a too-strong gust of Aquarian Air in the form of aversion may blow out even the hottest flame. If you’re an Aquarian dating a Fire sign, remember that these three signs are ruled by the massive furnaces they call egos, and require constant stoking to keep the heat blazing. If you’re too much of a cosmic cool breeze (cancelling dates, for instance), or forget to laugh at their jokes, you’ll find yourself with no more than smoke and ashes in the morning.

 

And if you’re a true Aquarian, you’ll just shrug and meander off to your next adventure.

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Photo: Pexels

Victoria Thomas
Victoria Thomas is always at the crossroads, like Robert Johnson. She writes about intersections of culture and history and what these crossings mean, in a desire to understand human behavior and help the world awaken to our collective potential for joy. Read her arts writing under the heading “the Sublime” @www.soolip.com.

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