"Let not the muse the dull Carnelian slight
Although it Shine with but a feeble light."
MARBODUS, BISHOP OF RENNES (11 TH CENTURY)
Carnelian is a very attractive and richly hued brownish-red variety of chalcedony.
Much of the carnelian used today comes from Campo de Maia on the
continent of South America, where a sizeable quantity has had the
colour improved by staining with ferrous nitrate. Carnelian is
also produced in Warwick, Queensland, Australia. However,
Ratnapura in India produces the best quality material.
Carnelian has been known since antiquity. It is said to take its
name from the Kornel cherry, which has the same rich coloring. In
the 1660s, Dr Johann Schroeder gave another interesting origin.
He writes: "It is a half transparent, like the water wherein
flesh is washed, of like bloody flesh. Hence it is called
'Carneolus' or 'Carnelian'."
Carnelian is mentioned in Exodus as one of the gems set into the
breastplate of the High Priest and as a foundation stone of the
The ancient noted how carnelian separated very readily from wax
or clay. This phenomenon was given a practical role when
carnelian was engraved to make the beautiful intaglio seals used
by kings and merchants to authenticate their documents.
The ancient Egyptians are numbered among the many people who
called upon carnelian as a protective stone. It has been referred
to as the "blood of Isis" (the Egyptian goddess of nature) and it
was even suggested that it should be cut and shaped in a certain
form and than placed at the throat of a corpse at the time of its
embalming. The followers of Isis trusted in this powerful
talisman to invoke the protection of their goddess any evil that
might befall them on their journey through the underworld. Among
the talismans and amulets carved from carnelian by the Egyptians
were representations of the hand, the fist, the eye, the lion,
bee, jackal head, frog and, most often, the bull's head.
Carnelian was also thought to be the talisman that resisted the
onset of bed temper. According to the ancients, bad temper is a
form of black magic. As the evil of black magic was often
conducted by the light of a waning moon, they believed that the
onset of danger could be detected by an unusual sheen over the
surface of the protective carnelian.
THE EVIL GLANCE
In most countries of the Middle East, there is a widespread
belief that a person looked upon with an ill-meaning of envious
glance will lose his fortune. Wearing a carnelian engraved with
an appropriate prayer is said to remove the evil from covetous
looks and render them harmless.
Carnelian was once thought to be an excellent remedy for checking
bleeding wounds and, according to Dr Johann Schroeder: "The
powder of them is good to drink against all fluxes. Carried
about, it makes cheerful minds, expels fear, makes courage,
destroys and prevents fascinations and defends the body against
all poisons. It stops blood by a peculiar property; and bound to
the belly keeps up the birth." (1660s) Generally, the healing
power of carnelian followed the principle that the appearance of
the stone suggested how it could be used - for example, the
wearing of almost any yellow stone was prescribed for treating
jaundice. Carnelian has also been said to provide the timid with
the courage they lack to speak boldly and well and to aid astral
travel when placed in front of a light and gazed at intently.
FACT & FANTASY
Various Islamic peoples consider carnelian to preserve the
equanimity of its owner during disputes, and they have also used
slivers of the stone as toothpicks. These are used because they
not only whiten the teeth, but they harden the gums and prevent
them from bleeding.
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