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Pisces: Coral And Amber

[Legends Of Gems]  [Diamonds And Zirconia]  [Color In Gems]  [Birthstones] 
[Aquarius Gems]  [Pisces Gems]  [Aries Gems]  [Taurus Gems]  [Gemini Gems]  [Cancer Gems]  [Leo Gems]  [Virgo Gems]  [Libra Gems]  [Scorpio Gems]  [Saggitarius Gems]  [Capricorn Gems] 

( Orginally published November 1937 )

Neither of the gems coming under the influence of the sign of Pisces is truly a mineral. Amber is of vegetable origin, and coral, though of mineral content, is produced by a minute sea animal. Both were known to the ancients, and about them have collected many strange legends as to their occult powers.

From earliest times coral has been used as an amulet to protect children from childish diseases and teething troubles. In Mediterranean lands a string of tiny coral branches or beads is still kept on a child's cradle or placed about its neck immediately after its birth. If worn throughout childhood, coral was believed to have power to make the girl beautiful; it preserved her youth and beauty until as a mother she sacrificed her beads for her children.

Marco Polo reported that coral was one of the stones held in high regard among the Tibetans. Amulets were worn around the neck to war off the evil eye and to protect from fever and plague. Many early peoples believed that coral was a charm against fire, sorcery, and disasters of nature, and that it had the power to strengthen the heart if poisons had been swallowed. If the patient did not recover, it was believed that the stone was not genuine. A coral amulet engraved with the head of a serpent and worn touching the skin was believed to afford protection against physical ills as well as the bite of poisonous insects or animals. The ancient Gauls ornamented their helmets and weapons of warfare with coral amulets.

In ancient Egypt powdered coral was scattered over the fields under cultivation, the belief being that it had the power to protect the crops from the ravages of insects or of untimely storms. Among other early peoples coral which had been burned and powdered was mixed with oils to produce an ointment for the cure of skin infections.

In southern and central Europe the red and pink shades of coral have long been favored for rosaries. Coral amulets were supposed to protect the wearer from machinations of jealous friends or enemies. The power of this stone to protect from the evil eye was extended even to the master's dog, lessening the danger from hydrophobia which would otherwise result.

Tincture of red coral was long used as a sovereign remedy for many ills. If red coral changed its hue and grew pale, it indicated the approach of death. If another amulet of deeper hue could be obtained, death might be warded off unless the patient had been too long without its magic protection. In India a coral amulet was left on the body of the dead to prevent evil spirits from entering and taking possession.

The strange legends which have clustered about amber are to be traced partly to its electrical properties to attract bits of paper when rubbed, and partly to its preservation of insects imbedded within it.

Amber is the fossil gum exuded from trees in distant ages. Because of some convulsion of nature the trees became buried in the earth where they remained until washed up by the sea.. Amber is mainly found in a blue clay along the seacoasts of the Baltic, the Adriatic, and the Mediterranean, though it is occasionally found along the coasts of China and India and even North America. While this gum was still soft, it attracted and held insects until they became imbedded in the viscous substance. Insects of extinct species as well as those known today are found preserved in the gum, along with bits of leaves and bark. Amber is so light in weight that it is to be found floating in sea water, having been washed up by the waves from underwater strata or loosened by waves washing up on the shore. It is mined also from open excavations along the shore.

The electrical properties of amber were recognized very early, the Greek philosopher Thales having noted and recorded this strange characteristic in the sixth century before the beginning of the Christian era. This mysterious power was proof to the ancients of a magical influence which made this substance most desirable as an amulet. Because amber is relatively soft, it was one of the earliest materials to be shaped into different forms, examples of carved amulets having been found in old tombs dating back ten centuries before the time of Christ.

The Romans prized amber so much that in the time of the Caesars part of the tribute levied on the Britons each year was required to be paid in amber.

Among primitive peoples amber was believed to preserve or restore strength and vitality. Aged warriors often decorated themselves with amber amulets to assure victory in battle. Necklaces of amber are still worn today by people living on the south slopes of the Alps where goiter is prevalent. They believe that the stone prevents skin troubles and ailments of the throat, attributing this protection to an electric circle set up in the body.

There is an old Anglo-Saxon legend ascribed to the magician Merlin, which preserves a strange application of the electric warmth of amber. A man and his wife, in despair at their small daughter's tendency to lie, brought the child to Merlin. The magician placed an amber necklace about her neck, advising her that if she uttered an untruth, the beads would tighten as a reminder that she should correct her words. If she did not heed this warning, the beads would choke her. As the story goes, the magic power of the amber beads soon made her a truthful child.

In countries bordering the Baltic, the legend grew up that amber prolonged life and prevented rheumatism and pain in the joints. Among primitive peoples in many parts of the world brides chose amber as an amulet to wear at their weddings, considering that this stone insured happiness and long life. Tibetan and Eskimo men today wear amber amulets in the belief that they will have good hunting and fishing. It is a strange coincidence indeed to find this belief flourishing in such widely separated parts of the world.

Amber was also supposed to be a desirable substance for mouthpieces of pipes which would be passed from hand to hand. Its electrical property was held to prevent the transmission of infection. In Turkey it is still a polite gesture to offer a visitor a pipe with an amber mouthpiece.

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