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.

 

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.

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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.

A sitting meerkat.
life, Neodruidry

I’m either coming out of this a genius, or with library paste for a brain.

I started isolation (okay, maybe not “started” — I don’t exactly keep an explosive social calendar) with the idea that I could take this time to do things. Clean my house! Meditate a lot! Start a new journal! Do a bunch of work!

Instead, I’m on my couch in my bathrobe and eating most of an apple pie for breakfast.

That’s okay, though. From the sound of things, so are a lot of other people.

That said, I was approved to study the ADF Initiate Path! It took two weeks of deliberation, and another two of voting, but I can start.
I just need the mental bandwidth to do it. Like the Dedicant Path, it’s a lot of reading, a lot of skill-building, and a lot of writing.

I have signed up for basically every web summit, webinar, and video course that’d have me, though. Three classes on Udemy. Something called a “Breathwork Summit” that I’m not entirely clear on. Another web series on astro-herbalism. If I can do it from bed, and lets me experience some semblance of human contact without the threat of someone coughing directly into my mouth, I’m on it like a hen on an egg.

On the other hand, I’m beginning to think that cramming so much into my head is detrimental to all of the stuff that’s already there. Knowing how to tie my shoes, for example.

Intracranial hypertension is pretty hinge on your memory-meat. That much I know. I did not, however, anticipate losing a skill that I’ve had since I was four. Like, I made a pair of ribbon ties for the curtains in my living room — just two bits of recycled sari silk in a very pretty turquoise blue. Nothing fancy, but they get the job done and it’s a lovely color. The bows kept coming untied.

I couldn’t figure out why. Baffled, I tried again and again. Finally, I sat on the floor with one of my shoes, and tried tying it.

Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. Loop, swoop, pull, right? But there was some step that I was missing. Some piece of knowledge that was just gone.

And that’s the story of how my partner walked into the living room to find me in tears and trying to learn how to tie my shoes.

(As it turns out, it was the bit at the beginning, where you make an X with the laces and pull. Completely gone. Unfortunately, tying much of anything doesn’t go terrible well without that part.)

I’m either going to come out of social isolation with all of the knowledge on the internet, or completely unable to navigate life. Not sure which yet.

I hope everyone else’s isolation is going as well as can be expected. If you’re looking for ways to help, here’s a place you can donate to to get needed supplies to the Hopi and Diné people. Your local food bank will also need donations (preferably of money, but food is important too). Meals on Wheels could also use some help keeping seniors in need fed and checked on. In-home workers are also being hit hard by COVID-19, and there’s a care fund set up to help them, too.

More people than this are being hurt by the pandemic, and I’m sure I’ve missed some ways to help ease the burden on them. If you know of any, please feel free to include them in the comments.

life

Planning, not panicking.

As I write this, my city and the surrounding area are up to 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As someone with health anxiety, it’s hard not to start panicking — reading about it online definitely doesn’t help, neither does watching the U.S. move from containing the virus, to just mitigating the damage it’s causing. Hospitals aren’t prepared. Under the internet’s various slimy rocks, concerns about the virus get dismissed as “propaganda.” People claim that as long as you eat “clean,” exercise, and pray, you won’t get sick.

Unfortunately, viruses don’t read online forum posts.

Getting sick isn’t a moral judgment. It’s not always something that happens because you did something wrong, or didn’t do something else well enough. While the immunocompromised and the elderly are the most at risk, young, otherwise healthy people still get hospitalized with the disease.

So, now what?

Like I said, I have health anxiety. I also don’t know how well a brand-new virus would play with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. (My guess: not super well.) Basic supplies like alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes can’t be had for love nor money. Even getting distilled water for my nepenthes was a challenge.

I’ve inventoried my herbs. I have my healing spells and prayers to Airmid. What’s next?

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Step one, handle the anxiety.

The first thing I did was download this health anxiety workbook. That part’s probably self-explanatory, though. It’s completely free, and covers everything from what health anxiety is, how it influences behavior, how it sustains itself, and strategies to deal with it.

Step two, make a whole lot of porridge.

We stocked up on lentils and rice. I eat a lot of them as it is, so getting a few extra bags wasn’t a stretch. Whenever something comes up that disrupts our lives, I always make a bunch of kitchari — an inexpensive, filling source of carbohydrates and complete protein that’s ideally suited for when you’re not feeling well. I’m planning to measure it into one-cup cubes and stock my freezer. It freezes very well, and reheats in about a minute or two in the microwave. If we get placed under quarantine, it’ll be a fast, easy, comforting source of nutrition.

Two wooden spoons and a small bowl full of dry lentils.
If you are what you eat, I am at least seventy percent lentil.

Step three, buy make hand sanitizer.

Since my partner’s job often places him in groups where constant hand-washing isn’t feasible, and alcohol-based sanitizer has pretty much vanished, I’m going to try to make some. I don’t really recommend doing this if you can avoid it — too little alcohol, and it won’t work. Too much, and it’ll dry your hands out, chapping the skin and increasing the risk of infection. If you have to make your own hand sanitizer, I’d recommend following the World Health Organization’s formulations.

Step four, ditto, but disinfectant.

Same for making disinfectant. Essential oils are great for all kinds of things, but the phenol content is extremely toxic to cats, and essential oil-based cleaners are probably not actually that effective at sanitizing when properly diluted. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control has some good data on using alcohol and hydrogen peroxide as disinfectants. (Isopropanol seems to be in short supply, and I’ve only got about half a bottle left. Grain alcohol can be up to 95% ethanol, however, and hopefully hasn’t been raided yet.)

Other than that, we haven’t stocked up on much. We have some extra toilet paper, paper towels, and soap, a few more pantry staples than usual, and an extra family-sized bottle of ibuprofen. I feel okay about this, though — like we’re prepared, without hoarding to the point of putting more vulnerable people in jeopardy.

I’m hoping for the best.