crystals

Irradiated Smoky Quartz: Is it really safe?

A lot of — if not most — of the colorful quartz varieties on the market are enhanced in some way, and buyers are often none the wiser. Heated amethyst gets sold as citrine, and smoky quartz might even be treated with radiation to give it an extra impressive, uniform color.

Since a lot of crystal aficionados wear the stones and use them for healing purposes, this raises a serious question: Is it safe to use or wear irradiated smoky quartz?

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How does quartz become smoky quartz?

Before we delve into this subject, it’s important to note that all smoky quartz, natural or otherwise, is irradiated in some fashion. For natural smoky quartz, this happens due to the presence of radioactive minerals in the earth. For enhanced smoky quartz, this happens after it has been mined.

Smoky quartz gets its color from changes within the crystal produced by radiation. All quartz is made of silicon dioxide, with various colors produced by mineral inclusions within this silicon dioxide lattice. In smoky quartz’s case, this is trace amounts of aluminum, which form AlO4molecules that take the place of some of the SiO4 within the crystal. If you look at the molecules, you’ll notice that AlO4carries a negative charge, while SiO4 does not. Because of this, the crystal lattice of smoky quartz also contains small amounts of positive ions, usually hydrogen, lithium, or sodium. When this quartz is exposed to radiation, some of this silicon dioxide becomes free silicon and some of the electrons from the AlO4molecules get knocked out of place. They hook up with the positive ions, and create the characteristic “smoky” gray or brown color of smoky quartz.

Is irradiated quartz safe?

For the most part, irradiated quartz — whether naturally or artificially — is perfectly safe. Think of the color like a suntan. A person tans because they’ve been exposed to solar radiation, but that change in color means that radiation has acted on them, not that they are emitting radiation themselves.

Notice, however, that I say “for the most part.” After typical exposures to radiation, most smoky quartz is perfectly safe. Depending on the source of radiation, some crystals have a somewhat higher risk of becoming radioactive. It’s important to note that this is still a pretty low level of radiation, and decreases with time.

For a stone to become radioactive, radiation needs to add or remove a neutron from some of the atoms within the crystal. In other words, the energy of radiation striking the stone needs to be greater than the energy needed to bump a neutron out of place. The amount of energy it takes to do this varies by element.

Neutron bombardment using a nuclear reactor can irradiate stones, though this is a relatively uncommon method. Stones produced by this process tend to be very dark, and are almost always radioactive. Because of this, these stones are not released for sale until and unless the radioactivity had decayed to safe levels. Electron bombardment using a a particle accelerator streams a narrow beam of electrons at a stone. Many of these accelerators do not operate at a high enough energy to make a stone radioactive, but some do. Even so, the radioactivity of these stones decays quickly, making them perfectly safe within a day or two of treatment. Lastly, gamma irradiators use 60Co (cobalt 60) to produce energy. This does not meet the energy threshold needed to make smoky quartz radioactive. In fact, this process is also used to sterilize things like produce and medical equipment.

So, what does this all mean? By the time a smoky quartz has entered the market for purchase, it’s safe. Wearing or using natural or artificially irradiated smoky quartz is not going to hurt you. If it emits any radiation at all, it will be minimal compared to natural sources of radiation that you come in contact with every day — radioactive minerals in granite, or the potassium isotopes in a banana, for example.

How can you tell if a smoky quartz has been artificially irradiated?

Unlike heat-treated amethyst, there’s really no good way to tell. Some natural varieties of smoky quartz are very dark, like morion, so you can’t always go by color. This means that, unless the stone is labeled or the dealer tells you, the only way to tell if a stone has been artificially irradiated is by examining the matrix.

Naturally-occurring smoky quartz is found adjacent to minerals that contain radioactive material. This usually means intrusive igneous or metamorphic rocks (like granite, an intrusive igneous stone). On the other hand, radioactive material is less common in sedimentary rock like shale (with the exception of uranium, which can appear in limestone, dolomite, or sandstone, among others). This means that very dark smoky quartz with a sedimentary matrix is more likely to have been artificially irradiated, though that’s not really a hard and fast rule.

 

Smoky quartz is a very popular and versatile stone, and it’s easy to see why — it’s as abundant as it is beautiful. Despite its abundance in nature, some stones are irradiated to improve their color, which has made some people question their safety as jewelry or healing stones. Don’t worry, though — even after getting a radiation tan, smoky quartz is perfectly safe to handle and use.

 

crystals, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

3 Spells for Keeping the Peace

Ideally, you like the people you’re isolated with right now. Even if you do, though, it’s hard not to get on each other’s nerves once the cabin fever really starts setting in. There are tons of ways to fight boredom and keep busy, but you still might need a little extra help keeping the vibes smooth and tranquil.

That’s where these come in: Three spells to help you keep things happy and peaceful.

Starting with the Cleanest Slate You Can

Okay, so by now you’re probably already used to wiping down, washing, and disinfecting everything that isn’t literally on fire. Good! Physically cleaning a space is a key part of getting the magic flowing — dust, dirt, and clutter are less than optimal for energy flow. So, if you haven’t yet, do a solid spring clean. Set up containers for decluttering — one for things to keep, one for things that need repairing, one for trash, one for recyclables, and one for donations — and work room-by-room. When you’re through, get rid of anything you’re not keeping or fixing.

Once your space is as decluttered and clean as you can get it, rock on.

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A Wind Spell for Peace

The element of air is an oft-overlooked way to cleanse and freshen things. When it’s sunny and breezy out, open your windows and let the fresh air in. Close your eyes and feel the coolness against your skin. You can chant, pray, or state your intent here. I like to say something like,

“Let this breeze blow away all discord, so only peace and joy may remain. As I will, it shall be.”

An Herbal Tranquility Potion

I love making washing potions. It’s easy to do, too — add herbs to boiling water, as you might for tea, let them steep until the water cools, done. You can place dried herbs into a reusable tea bag, square of muslin cloth, or tea strainer, or just leave them loose and strain them out afterward. (As a word of caution, don’t mix the tools you use for potion-making with those you use for food-making. Not all magical herbs are edible, and many are poisonous.)

Some herbs and flowers that are useful here include:

  • Chamomile
  • Coltsfoot
  • Coriander
  • Lavender
  • Lilac flowers
  • Meadowsweet
  • Rose
  • Skullcap
  • Vervain
  • Violet

As the herbs steep, stir them clockwise nine times with a wooden spoon or wand held in your dominant hand. While you do this, say,

“No tension or strife shall come near,
Peace and tranquility alone reign here.”

Visualize the liquid filling with a calming, gentle golden light. When the potion is done and the herbs are removed, add it to a bucket of clean, warm water. Use this to wash your floors, doors, doorways, windows, and any steps leading to your front or back doors. Prepare the mixture fresh each time.

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A Peaceful Herbal Sachet

The same herbs listed above can be made into an herb sachet. To make one, you’ll also need:

  • A square of white, blue, or light purple cloth
  • A ribbon or needle and thread (to close it with)
  • Any other peace-promoting curios you like. These can include metal peace sign charms, a small figure of a dove, tumbled amethyst stones, or anything else that feels right to you.

To begin, make sure the fabric, ribbon/thread, and curios are cleansed according to your favorite method. You can set them in the sun for a little bit, use sound, sprinkle them with blessed salt, fume them with cleansing incense, or whatever other way you like. When they are prepared, it’s time to get to work.

Hold the herbs in your dominant hand. Close your eyes, and feel yourself drawing power up from the earth, and down from the sky. Allow these energies to mingle in you, and direct them into the herbs in your hand. Say,

“[Name of herb(s)], I ask that you lend your power to this spell. Chase tension and stress from here, and bring peace and calm in its place.”

Place them in the center of the square of fabric.

Repeat this process with the curios, substituting the name of the curio for the name of the herb. Place them in the center of the fabric with the herbs as well.

Fashion the square of fabric into a little pouch, either by drawing the corners together and tying them with the ribbon, or by sewing it into a little pillow shape with the needle and thread. When you are through, lightly kiss the sachet, and hold it to your forehead. Say,

“With this spell, I draw in the energies of tranquility, that my home might be a respite from the hardships and strife in the world. Let no stress remain, only peace shall reign.”

Tuck the sachet in a hidden corner of the room you wish to influence. You can let that sachet take care of your whole home, or, if you think your place could use a little extra help, make a sachet to hide in every room of your home.

Remember: If You Can’t Source Ingredients…

… Don’t sweat it! Can’t find an amethyst? Most of the plain stones in your yard are actually variants of clear or white quartz, both of which will do in a pinch. No fresh lilac flowers or lavender buds? You might have a few bags of Earl Grey tea, which is made with lavender and bergamot (which is also helpful for lifting moods and instilling courage). Missing other herbs? See what plants you have in your yard — even “weeds” like clover are associated with things like love and protection, two properties that would be very useful here. You can also check your kitchen. Oranges, in particular, are great for bringing joy and sun energy to whatever spells include them. Zest the peels, allow the zest to dry, and keep it in a cool, dark place for whenever you need a little sun magic.

The most important part of any spell is declaring your intention and focusing your energy on that intention. You can have all of the right herbs, and it still won’t work if you don’t focus the power properly.

Magic is adaptable. You can experiment and bend things to suit what you have on hand. While there are some spells that don’t accept substitutions, the majority of them can be worked around to some degree. Since going out to shops to source rare and hard-to-find ingredients isn’t really feasible right now, this is the perfect time to see how you can adapt your magic to your landscape.

divination, life

Le Pendu

Hanging is a lot of things, but it’s not always a punishment.

Part of me wanted to skip this week’s card, because… Well, there’s not much going on, is there? I’ve been keeping busy here, but interactions with the outside world that alter the shape of my internal landscape have been, shall we say, lacking.

Still, I did the thing.

I had to laugh when I drew Le Pendu, The Hanged Man.

Like the man in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, Le Pendu of the Tarot de Maria-Celia dangles by one foot. His hands are free, though, and he appears to be sticking his tongue out — almost a “Look, Ma! No hands!” face. Nobody tied him there. He isn’t being punished. He is there of his own volition, for his own reasons.

He is waiting. Resting. Delayed. Hanging upside-down certainly gives him a new view of the world, but this comes at the price of his mobility. He is sacrifice.

I had to order a few things today. I would’ve preferred not to, but there are some supplies that are no longer available locally here. I can’t really describe how nerve-wracking it was, scrolling through lists of products to find the things we needed, all while watching things sell out before I could act. Still, this anxiety comes from a fortunate place: We have the ability to order things, or I wouldn’t’ve been looking in the first place.

It’s a helpless feeling, like hanging upside down, but Le Pendu’s hands are free and I am fortunate to be in a position to feel this helplessness to begin with.

Waiting isn’t always a punishment. Right now, it’s the choice we make for our own safety, and the safety of others. The Hanged Man has to come down some time. The helplessness and delays will pass.

life

The Letter and the Spirit

It’s one thirty in the morning.

Pye is racing from room to room, stopping short with all four legs splayed out, bellowing into the night before zooming off.

I’m sitting on my (half-asleep) partner, eating a sandwich and babbling about this completely awesome idea I just had to set up a blanket tent in the living room, make s’mores, and watch a marathon of The Twilight Zone. (He does not remember this conversation, and it’s probably just as well.)

I also never thought I’d get to the point where my misophonia would be hardcore enough to make me want to punch myself in the face for chewing, but here we are.

 

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“I think we need to… go on a car ride, or something,” my partner suggests, voice heavy with concern.

“No,” I tell him. No, because, right now, the only place either of us goes is to the grocery store. No, because burning gas unnecessarily means eventually having to make an extra stop at the gas station to refill. That means touching surfaces that someone else has to touch afterward. It means walking on the ground where other people have to walk, then track whatever’s on that ground into their homes. What if we get in a car accident? That takes up two spots in the ER that could’ve been used by someone else.

It’s bad enough we have a (probably also unnecessary, but work with me here) decontamination protocol established for going to the grocery store: He goes. I make him wear elbow-length rubber gloves and cover his face with something to keep him from touching it. He comes home, leaves the groceries by the door, strips off his clothes and puts them by a bag near the door, dumps the gloves into a bucket of soapy water also by the door, and hops in the shower immediately. I empty any groceries I can into separate glass containers and throw the packaging out. If I can’t do that, I wipe the packaging with disinfectant. As soon as he’s out of the shower, he washes his clothes, takes out the trash, then washes his hands. It’s exhausting, time-consuming, and pretty ludicrous, but it keeps the health anxiety at bay. (At least, a little bit.)

Confinement’s making a lot of us kind of weird.

oddball

What’s still completely baffling to me, though, are all the stories of influencers choosing to skip town. “I’m doing what’s best for my family” seems to be the reasoning (though a cynical part of me wonders when they started considering their ad partners “family”). Doctors decry the behavior, worried that they’ll inadvertently encourage their followers to do the same. People in rural or tourist areas are worried because they aren’t set up to feed and supply these people off season — and they’re damn sure not set up to care for them if they get seriously ill, or bring the virus with them.

“I’m doing what’s best for my family,” but all leaving does is let you travel back in time a few days, maybe a few weeks. Before long, all of the places that people are fleeing to will experience their own peaks. What will they do then? Return home, after their home is finally seeing a decline in cases, and bring a new increase with them?

“I’m doing what’s best for my family,” it just involves acting contrary to the advice of doctors and potentially killing other people’s families in the process. For what? Instagrammable content and an illusory sense of temporary safety?

I read a comparison of pathogens to a coat of invisible wet paint. You touch it, maybe with your hand, or even your shoe, and it gets on you. You can’t see it, though, so you don’t notice all of the places you leave it behind or all of the people who end up touching it after you. You can avoid seeing other people, but you’re not really socially distancing if you’re out touching wet paint and tracking it everywhere you go. It’s the difference between following the letter of the recommendation, versus the spirit.

I get it, confinement sucks. I’m fortunate, in a strange way, because circumstances have made me used to keeping myself busy at home. I wish there was a way I could help take care of my grandfather, or go see my partner’s family, but we’d be doing more potential harm than good if we did. Staying confined isn’t just a way to keep us safe — it’s a way to keep us from unwittingly killing someone else. Taking care of each other means not making the (often underpaid) employees of stores, gas stations, and accommodations expose themselves to unnecessary risk.

Stay home. Please.

divination, life

The Ten of Swords Strikes Again

Last time I drew the Ten of Swords, it didn’t take long to manifest — by the next day, I was sicker than I think I’ve ever been in my life. I’m hoping that that isn’t the case here, for obvious reasons.

This week, I used the Tarot de Maria Celia again. I’m getting the hang of interpreting the pips cards and, to be honest, it’s become one of my favorite decks. In Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks, the Ten of Swords typically shows a dead or distressed figure, stabbed by ten swords.

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Image from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith.

The Tarot de Maria Celia offers no such imagery; it’s the culmination of the cycle of the suit of Épées, and that can mean a lot of different things.

Don’t get me wrong, none of them are really positive. It can still stand for a time of pain or betrayal. It’s still the end of this pain, though. It’s the last numerical card in the suit, which makes it’s the last low point.

As the suit of the logical mind, the Dix D’Épées can stand for a point where the thiking mind has matured, after a cycle of pain and difficulty. Like the Ten of Swords, it’s also a sudden, crushing loss — the kind I think most of us are feeling right now, in one form or another.

This card can also stand for exhaustion, physical and mental. The Tens of any suit are the ultimate end, after the whole cycle of the suit itself. This can mean enjoying the fruits of your labor, like the Ten of Pentacles. It can also mean collapsing, gasping, at the finish line after you’ve spent yourself going through a gauntlet. With how I’ve been feeling, I can understand that. Exhaustion is a trauma response, and I think we’ve all been going through the wringer.

If the Ten of Swords/Épées offers a hope spot, it’s that things won’t be this way forever. As I mentioned before, it’s the culmination. It’s a card of logic. It says that, if we can take a bird’s eye view of our pain and maintain perspective, we can take solace in the fact that we won’t be suffering forever, and use this opportunity to analyze the situation and figure out how to keep this from happening again.

I can brace myself for bad news, but at least the bad news won’t last.

A sitting meerkat.
Blog, life

Isolation Blues

I’m tired.

Not in the sense that a lot of us are, I don’t think — I’m mentally tired, sure, but I’m so sleepy. Part of it is my body continuing to adjust to having serotonin for the first time in my life, part of it is that it’s March, which means starting up this year’s round of antihistamines. Part of it is a trauma response.

Brains use energy, and a lot of it. Between figuring out how to supply ourselves, stay safe, maintain social distancing, properly decontaminate after venturing out in public, stay sane at home, take care of our children and elderly people, and deal with the constant stress of isolation during a pandemic, a lot of us are burning the candle at both ends and the middle, too. And it’s so tiring.

I’m still watching webinars like they’re going out of style. Still taking Udemy classes. I’ve also been immersing myself into the kind of weird, surrealist nonsense that calls to me — I started playing Dujanah (which is strange, chaotic, haunting, painful, and gorgeous) and AENTITY (as frustrating as it is eerily beautiful) last night, and I’ve got The Dream Machine waiting for me. Re-reading (observing?) the Codex Seraphinianus. Probably going to watch Mononoke later, so I can lose myself in color, pattern, and yokai stories for awhile. Might watch MirrorMask tomorrow.

mirrormask

At times, my building seems normal. The furnace still clunks and bangs, the exit still beeps when you leave it open for too long.

Sometimes, it’s like something out of REC. None of us know how long this is going to last, and I don’t think anyone actually trusts the people in charge to make the right decision anymore. This complex houses a lot of people — some are very old, some are young families. Some have children with neuroatypicalities. Some are mentally ill. Some are dependent on drugs to get through the day. Everyone’s experiencing the isolation differently, and some people are having an easier time weathering it than others. Some days, one of my neighbors wails. Some days, another screams at invisible antagonists in the hallway as he pounds on doors and yanks doorknobs. Some of my neighbors had resources in the community that helped them get through life, whether treatment centers or adult day care. I’m wondering if I should try to go for the lumbar puncture my brain needs, or stay home and hope I don’t have a seizure or lose more of my vision. Everyone’s wearing thin. I wish I had something to offer other than dry pasta and home-made hand sanitizer.

I have rituals, and I have prayers, but there’s a need for more immediate relief. Magically manipulating things on a subtle, energetic level only does so much so quickly, and this reaches farther and moves faster than one person’s energy can.

Thank you for reading here and listening to me kvetch, I’ll resume more upbeat posting (as soon as I’ve been able to have maybe six or seven naps). Here’s hoping this post finds you healthy, at home, with a full pantry and people you like.

 

 

divination, life

The Nine of Wands

I didn’t really want to draw a card today.

One thing I’ve learned from reading tarot is that you shouldn’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to. I wasn’t going to ask.

Still, I needed something to do with my hands, and I have more time and decks than I know what to do with, sometimes. I was waiting for the results of a well check — I’ve called and called my grandfather for days, and gotten no response. He’s very independent for his age, but I still worry (especially now). When another day passed with no answer, I bit the bullet and asked for someone to check on him.

(He’s okay. He was sick, but he’ll be home tomorrow.)

So, agitated and with shaky hands, I forced myself to put my phone down and shuffle a deck instead. I didn’t even really ask a question, I just wanted something to do.

I drew the Nine of Wands.

This card speaks of setbacks and obstacles. It’s the ninth in the cycle — the third card of the third card — the Penultimate End, but not the End End. It’s a conclusion, but not a culmination. It’s challenges, it’s exhaustion.

It kind of sucks.

The silver lining to the Nine of Wands is that, coming as it does at the end of the end, it means that you have a lot of knowledge and resources to draw on. Things are tough. You might be feeling mistrustful, worn out, ready to give it up. When you can leave the past behind and push onward, you can make it throught.

I hope we can.