Walk into any New Age shop, metaphysical store, or fine seller of witchcraft supplies, and you will likely find a great deal of crystals and gemstones in stock. If you look up photos for the words magick, Pagan, or witch you’ll likely see quite a few featuring various types of crystals. Whether you’re talking about putting physical stones on your body to align your chakras or just making your apartment align with your magical lifestyle, crystals are the go to choice for many people trying to add a little occulture to their life and with the variety of colours, looks and uses, it’s not hard to see why.
Not everyone uses crystals in their spellwork or others parts of their practice. Some people have crystals only for their appearance, while others find crystals to be important and powerful parts of their practice. Working with crystals isn’t necessary, not everyone is drawn to that type of energy, but if you want to incorporate them into your practice, there are many ways to do so.
Getting started with them can be a bit overwhelming; there are so many to choose from and each crystal has its own unique metaphysical properties and vibrational frequency. Knowing how and where to start can be difficult especially since many texts only cover the crystal’s properties, not what would be best for a practitioner looking to incorporate them into a practical working.
What’s the point?
Crystals are used for a variety of reasons. Some people use them as ingredients in spell work directly. For others they are a physical reminder to “ground them” during meditative practices. Many people just use them as decoration for altars and homes. All of these uses, and more, are acceptable.
Some people believe that crystals have certain healing properties and being near them will help your body and spirit regenerate. For people who fit that description it is very important to understand the differences between certain minerals. Some crystals may promote good blood flow , while others are more for rest, for example.
Others keep crystals as tools for ceremonial purposes. This includes crystal balls for scrying, meditative stones, or even wands and athames.1 For these items the spiritual properties of the stone are often (but not always) less important than the physical qualities. Colour, texture, or physical hardness is looked at more. After all, you don’t want a tool so delicate it will break when you set it down.
Using crystals for magick, as part of actual spell work takes many forms. Crystals can be used to form barriers for the working of a spell, meaning the spell is worked inside of the border of the crystals. They can be used directly as spell ingredients, as something put in with other pieces to work magick. They can also be used as a focus point to be charged with intention. These are just a few ways they are used but there are many more.
Some people use them for decorative purposes and those choices are based solely on personal feelings and taste. Some people like the idea behind a stone’s meaning, even if they don’t believe in it, and will keep one around “just because they like it.” This is perfectly fine and unlike many spiritual tools and supplies, there’s no harm in doing this.
Crystals are also referred to as stones, gems, or minerals. These terms are used interchangeably.
Once you’ve decided what your personal needs are, there are some basic ways to begin picking out your own collection.
A little bit of science
Before you dive into the world of crystals, there are some things you should be aware of, especially if you plan to buy them online for specific uses. The physical or scientific properties of crystals are defined by certain terms, which I’m going to briefly go over here.
First off, all rocks are solid but they’re not all hard! The hardness of stones is rated on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.2 This scale rates stones from one to 10, with one being the softest and 10 being the hardest. The exact science of how these stones are rated isn’t important for our purposes but where they fall on the scale is.
If the stone will be decorative or you plan to keep it sitting in one place, it’s fine if it is soft, or a two to four on the scale. If it is to be used as a tool or to be carried around, you’ll want something harder to withstand bumps and scratches, probably in the five and up range.
It is important to consider when working with stones that when they come into contact with other elements (such as water) as they may erode or become dull. Once that happens, it is not something you can fix. Being aware of how your crystal reacts to things is the best way plan for how to best cleanse them and store them.
The second large factor to be aware of is opaqueness or translucency. Some stones are clear, like quartz while others are not, such as obsidian, and there are also stones that fall all along the spectrum. Depending on your need, you may prefer one that is more one than the other. For example, if you’re looking for one to use in scrying, you may be drawn to something that is more translucent whereas if you’re looking for a crystal to dress your altar, a more opaque stone with strong colour may be closer to your needs.
Vibrational frequency is something that is spoken about but it is unlikely that the deep science of it is something that will be greatly covered in spiritual practice by name. The quick and dirty of it is that it’s the rate of vibration, at a molecular level, that the particles of the crystal move at when impacted with energy from another source. This is not information that will be listed on many, if any, seller websites or in shops. In general however, crystals with higher vibrational frequency will help bring the bearer to greater spiritual and mental clarity.
A note on cost
The cost of gems varies widely depending on what the stone is (quartz, obsidian, labrodite, et cetera), the size, and cut. Prices are based on a variety of factors such as location and availability to the seller which means that there aren’t really hard and fast guidelines as to how much they should cost from shop to shop.
A good place to check for crystals and gems are local cave based tourist attractions, as they often have a selection of local crystals for sale. You can also try online on sites like Craigslist or ShopGoodwill as sometimes you’ll find lots that contain crystals.
Typically, the larger the stone is, the more expensive it will be, so if you see something that is of a good size but the price is on the low side, beware! The “stone” is likely a cheaper variety of a similar mineral or a synthetic version. As an example, take crystal balls. Your “standard” crystal ball is made from quartz, chosen for its physical strength (a seven on the Mohs scale) and clarity, that has been rounded and smoothed and is one piece. The larger and clearer the ball is, the more expensive it is. For a good size clear ball, it could run you a few hundred dollars. If you look online however, you may find really nice, very clear balls for low prices.
This isn’t because online retailers have better prices, it’s more likely that their quartz crystal is either synthetic or just glass. Since both of those are much cheaper to produce, the cost is lower but they might not be letting the consumer know the truth.
So, do your research. If the price is lower than what you would expect, check out the location of the seller. The crystal may be local and therefore much less expensive for them to purchase wholesale. It may be synthetic and if you aren’t sure, just ask directly. Taking this bit of extra time will save you from purchasing something you will be unhappy with.
There are a variety of ways to tell if a crystal is fake or dyed. An easy way to tell if a crystal has been dyed is to check the cracks. These will be darker because the dye pooled there. Manufactured crystals also tend to be more clear than those that are mined.
What do you need?
When first getting started with crystals, the best thing to do is identify your needs. Are you looking for something that just looks nice to give your altar that witchy Tumblr photo feel… or do you need something specific for a spell working?
Identifying your specific need will help you make the best choices. If you are just looking for something decorative, you likely would want cut crystals in a variety of shapes or ones that come in natural point formations. Crystals that fit this bill come in a variety of types and colours. Most larger, natural pieces will be more expensive but synthetic options are plentiful and inexpensive.
If you mean to use them in ritual or spell work, then be clear about what those needs are. If you are following a set spell or ritual, they will often tell you what is needed. If you feel you have to substitute, read up on the recommended crystal to find a suitable replacement. In most cases, a similar colour will be fine but this is not always the case.
If you are using it in a ritual that you are developing on your own, outline your needs for the stone. If you want to etch something into it, for example, a softer stone would be better. If you need to submerge it in liquid, something harder is a better idea.
Taking these small steps will help you slowly become more acquainted with crystals.
Go with the flow
You don’t need a reason to purchase crystals. Just wanting to learn more about them is reason enough! Still, without a set plan, it may be harder to figure out where to start. In these cases, give yourself a budget and go with the flow!
Pick stones that feel right to you. You can do this a number of different ways. If you happen to be in a shop, take some time with the crystals. Most shops do allow you to touch them so pick up a few and hold them. Concentrate on how they make you feel, what energy they put off. Some won’t do anything at all while others may have various, subtle effects.
If you are online, a way to focus your search is by using simple colours, because colours can be aligned with many emotions and intentions.3 For example, green is often used for money, pink is used for love, black for protection and grounding. These are just a few of the ways colour is used as a signifier in magical practices with crystals. Although crystals may have other metaphysical properties based on their type, using colour to explore them at first is a pretty solid (ha-ha!) way to get started.
If you happen to work with deities or spirits, you can use their affinities as a way to guide you. This could be a focus on stones in colours that they like or that represent them or you could choose stones that remind you of your favoured deity such as coral for a water based god, or something like yellow jasper for one associated with the sun. This could be a fun way to really meditate on and learn more about your chosen deities.
Once you’ve made your choices, you can learn more about these stones at your leisure, and you may find some wonderful surprises that fit your supposedly random selection into your life or address something that you are going through currently.
Crystals and their meanings or standalone uses
It’s true that crystals have different meaning or properties associated with them. For example, citrine, an orange hued, translucent stone, is said to absorb negative energy. Yellow jasper is a similarly coloured stone but is more for physical pain. So colour is not always a good indication for specific uses in some cases.
If you are looking for crystals to address certain issues or to use as meditation guide to address certain needs, knowing the specifics of each crystal helps but it does not have to be taken on all at once. Start with one issue and choose a crystal that will help with that. Many people begin with the stones that help with creativity and boost spiritual focus. Moldavite, for example, an unassuming green stone, is good for spiritual strength while selenite, a white stone is good for creativity.4
Choosing a stone in this manner is less spontaneous than the above mentioned, but is a good method if you think that you will want to work with crystals more. It allows you to learn a lot as you go, making it a better place to start if you already know you want to incorporate crystal work into your practice.
Taking it further
If you are looking for more information about working with crystals, once you’re comfortable with handling them, there are many books that will give you more information and guide you on their usage. I personally enjoy Healing Crystals by Cassandra Eason5 for a handy guide. It has clear pictures and thoughtful descriptions that approach the 150 stones it includes in a variety of different ways.
The Book of Stones by Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian also seems to be a strong resource, and is recommended by Susan Starr in her reviewed of the book.6 If you want to learn some practical uses for crystals, you can also take her online class, Crystal Grid Fundamentals for ideas on how to move forward with crystal work.
Using resources like this will help you to build your own, unique practice. This has been only an introduction to choosing crystals. How you proceed from here is up to you!
Image credit: Yagan Kiely, John Wardell, storebukkebruse, and Andrew Gustar
- See Jarred Triskelion’s article, “How to craft a wand.“ [↩]
- Geology.com, “Mohs Hardness Scale: Testing the Resistance to Being Scratched,” 2005. [↩]
- The Magickal Cat Online Pagan/Wiccan Store, “Magickal Color Correspondences,” 2002. [↩]
- Cassandra Eason, Illustrated Directory of Healing Crystals: An Illustrated Guide to 150 Crystals and Gemstones, Collins and Brown, 2005. [↩]
- “Illustrated Directory of Healing Crystals: An Illustrated Guide to 150 Crystals and Gemstones,” Amazon, accessed January 31, 2017, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T3CI3L4/ [↩]
- See Susan Starr’s review of The Book of Stones. [↩]