Nicholas Pearson has been immersed in all aspects of the mineral kingdom– from magick and metaphysics to science and industry– for more than 20 years. He began teaching crystal workshops in high school, later studying mineral science at Stetson University while pursuing a degree in music. He worked for several years at the Gillespie Museum, home to the largest mineral collection in the southern United States. A certified teacher and practitioner of Usui Reiki Ryoho, he teaches crystal and Reiki classes throughout the United States. Nicholas currently has three books in print: The Seven Archetypal Stones, Crystals for Karmic Healing, and Crystal Healing for the Heart— with Foundations of Reiki Ryoho due on shelves next spring. He lives in Orlando, Florida with his partner (and photographer extraordinaire), Steven.
How did your love for crystals begin?
I started at a young age; as a kid I picked up rocks and stones from everywhere I went. At the age of 8, my grandfather gave me my first quartz crystal, and everything changed. Suddenly the mineral kingdom wasn’t just inert stone, as it also included luminous, crystalline gems. Where most families spent time at church on weekends, my father and I went to the library. He always encouraged me to learn about anything that called to me. That means some weeks I indulged my love of science, while at other times I dove headlong into mythology, folklore, and religion. I found that spiritual traditions of the world filled a void that I didn’t know I had. From that point on, I devoured any books on magick, witchcraft, healing, and metaphysics that I could get my hands on.
By the end of my tenure in high school, I’d already begun teaching workshops on working with crystals. In my college days, I explored mineral science more exhaustively while working at an earth science museum. I was blessed with an opportunity to have unprecedented and virtually unrestricted access to one of the nation’s largest mineral collections. At that time I was also studying music and language, but I finally settled on the sciences. After school, I found my way into management, and climbed the corporate ladder (all while being supported by gemstones).Over the years, in spite of all the other areas I’ve explored, I have always felt most at home among the mineral kingdom. I finally took the leap of faith and began writing and teaching full-time in 2014.
When did you realize that working with crystals wasn’t just psychological placebo, but actually worked?
I’ve always had a scientific sort of mind, so I’m always looking for how and why crystals do what they do. However, before I had all the experience that I do now, there was this moment where I just listened to the stones and followed the instructions I received. That turning point happened one summer in my adolescent years, when my family had taken a vacation to the Smokey Mountains. My mother had been experiencing sciatic pain for much of the trip, and I dug into my new goodie-bag of tumbled stones. I pulled out a piece of crazy lace agate and placed it where the pain was. Minutes later, her discomfort disappeared. While my mother shrugged it off, I never forgot that episode. Since then I’ve seen dozens of skeptics experience something magickal or miraculous with the mineral kingdom. Nowadays, I have been able to corroborate my own experiences with a small handful of published studies about the efficacy of crystals.
Crystals with certain colors seem to have somewhat similar properties. For example, most black stones and crystals I come across are good for grounding and protection. Is this a universal rule when it comes to crystal correspondences? Does the color affect the energetic properties of a stone?
Color is a great starting point for most people when they begin their crystal journey. However, color is a complex question. If we compare two gemstones like clear quartz and amethyst, their structure, composition, and other properties are fundamentally alike. The only difference is that the amethyst has a minute amount of iron. Because iron is a different size than the silicon that its replacing, the bonds between the elements/ions are bent. This is the actual mechanism for coloring stones. Since the difference is so small, color only accounts for approximately 1/14th of the total energy to which any rock, mineral, crystal, or gemstone resonates.
In light of this, we can look deeper than color to find the properties of stones. Many black stones are indeed grounding, but I would posit that this is a result of their composition, as many black stones are rich in heavier, earthier elements such as iron, magnesium, manganese, etc. Many of today’s color-based correspondences for crystals are a result of the seven-color model for the chakra system, which itself has only been in use since 1977. Admittedly, the lore of crystals in both healing and magick is much, much older than that. Color can provide many clues, often to the composition or trace elements in a mineral, but it isn’t the sole authority in what properties a stone has. In spite of this, color has profound psychological effects, a topic that has been studied by modern science and medicine, so we can’t write it off entirely.
What determines a crystal’s correspondences and magickal properties?
This is such a complex question– one that I’m exploring more in-depth in a not-so-top-secret project I’m working on right now. To begin with, much of our magickal lore about the correspondences and properties of crystals is owed to our spiritual antecedents. Stones have been held sacred since time immemorial, and they have been employed for jewelry and talismanic use for at least 10,000 years. The original shamanistic practitioners who employed crystals invariably learned from the consciousness of the stones themselves, much in the same way that indigenous cultures today still commune with plant spirits to discover their medicinal and magickal values. Over the millennia, they have accumulated a lot of beliefs about their properties. Though many of these are framed in each culture’s myth, folklore, and psyche, there are several other ways that we can glean information about the magickal correspondences of a crystal.
For starters, the doctrine of signatures looks for clues in the shape, texture, appearance, color, and other physical characteristics of gems (and plants, animals, etc.). Beyond that, we can find even more information about what a stone does and how it does it encoded in the chemical formula and the crystal system (its inner geometry). For example, stones such as dioptase, malachite, chrysocolla, and turquoise are widely revered for their calming effects on the emotions, and each is reputed to be an effective tool for love magick. If we examine their chemistry, we find that each contains copper, a metal that has long been connected to Venus, the planet of love and romance. Exploring these connections between mineral science and their spiritual applications is my favorite part of working with crystals today.
Why should someone cleanse and charge their stones? How can one go about this?
Cleansing and charging (and some related terms like “clearing”, “programming”, and “activating”) are common buzzwords in the world of crystal lovers. Briefly, cleansing or clearing is the act of wiping the slate clean. Crystals are natural recorders, and they easily retain the imprint of energies to which they are exposed. This isn’t really a case of “good” vs. “bad” vibes; merely that not every energy is congruent with the goal you are trying to manifest. Cleansing gives you a blank canvas to work on your specific vision for magick or healing.
Charging can get a little more confusing. Though crystals do retain an imprint of the energy they meet, this is more of a memory than anything else. Unlike batteries, they do not “store” energy for later use. Crystals, by their very nature, are balanced chemical and electrical equations; if we put energy in, some has to come out. I think the term charging in this case may actually be more aligned with what we call programming in crystal healing. This is a lot like installing an app on your phone; the crystal, like the phone, can do just about anything, but it requires the specific instructions to carry out any given function. Crystals can be programmed through meditation, visualization, ritual, or with the breath. Programming, after cleansing, is really the piece of the puzzle that makes the biggest difference in your work with stones. It is through this process that we cultivate a relationship with the stone; simultaneously, programming a crystal programs our own minds.
The simplest way to use crystals and gemstones is to wear or carry them. Jewelry probably began as a means of wearing stones that were brimming with spiritual energy– perhaps a naturally pierced stone or a mysterious piece of amber. We can carry on the tradition by donning the crystals that support our magickal intentions. Stones can also be added to magickal pouches, placed on the altar, arranged around candles, and made into essences, elixirs, and oils for anointing yourself or your other ritual supplies. You can also place stones around your ritual space, perhaps one at each of the four directions. One of my favorite magickal acts is to craft a crystal grid or mandala to magnify the intention of my spellwork.
You mentioned crystal grids, can you elaborate on that?
Crystal grids are intentional geometric arrangements of stones. Though very popular among healers and New Agers, they have a place among occultists, witches, and other magick-makers, too. Grids can be thought of as mandalas or sigils crafted from stones. They can be temporary configurations, made for a specific working and taken down when finished, or left up more or less permanently, such as placing crystals around your home or ritual space to confer safety, happiness, purity, etc. Crystal grids have an synergistic effect; the sum of the energies of the stones is not additive but exponential. When we combine crystals in symbolic arrangements, we are engaged in a focused, magickal act. This magnifies the intention and, more improtantly, anchors it into the spiritual and material planes. Grids can be designed using any symbols that are meaningful; many people incorporate numerology and sacred geometry into them, but they can also be based on more classically recognizable magickal sigils and signs.
Why are certain stones and crystals sacred to certain deities and spirits?
If we examine myth and folklore, we find many connections between deities and the mineral kingdom. In many instances, a certain gem finds its mythic origins in the tales of a god or goddess, such as the tears of the Norse goddess Freyja turning to amber when they touched the sea. At times, these connections might be drawn from the doctrine of signatures, like holey stones being sacred to the Great Mother for their resemblance to the birth canal. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time immersed in myth and legend to explore the relationships that divinities have with crystals. After centuries or millennia of adoration and ritual use, that relationship between stone and deity has been firmly etched in the collective psyche. I imagine that even through the lens of hard polytheism, these deity-stone connections are the result of tapping into the energy of both spirit and stone, and finding the correlations through personal gnosis and ecstatic meditation or ritual. In the case of more recently discovered gems, can often find symbolic links between a mineral’s composition and structure and the stories related to a specific god or goddess, though the more analytical approach never supersedes the role of ecstatic practice.
Do you believe that the crystals themselves are or have spirit beings?
The belief that crystals are in some way alive is a virtually universal belief among indigenous people. For some tribal cultures, quartz crystal in particular is thought to be the dwelling of the gods or the reincarnation of the ancestors who have completed their time in human bodies. Medieval lapidaries also describe gemstones that are animated by or visited by the spirit world; these are usually the “phenomenal gems” such as moonstone, star ruby, and other materials with interesting optical phenomena. In my experience, all stones have a spirit or consciousness; we can meet with this in meditation or ritual, and it is the best way to learn how to use a particular stone. Interestingly enough, nearly all lab-created stones do not have this animating spirit; while they may have a “personality” or some sort of conscious essence, the spirit being is otherwise absent. I suspect that they could be a great vehicle for creating and housing an artificial servitor spirit, though.
Does cutting or polishing a stone change its energy as opposed to raw? If so, why?
In the most fundamental manner, changing the external form does not change the energy of a crystal. Since the energy of any crystal or gemstone is the result of its internal makeup and structure, no amount of cutting or polishing can change a stone’s chemical formula or crystal system. However, the external form a crystal takes can influence the manner in which its energy is distributed. In other words, polishing a stone does not change the content of a crystal’s energy, but it can affect the shape of the energy field. Spheres have a very unified and gentle energy field, while polished wands have a more directional flow of energy. the other forma crystal takes can also add layers of symbolism and energy via sympathetic resonance; this is what makes the energy and function of crystal skulls so different from raw stones.
So, let’s say someone needs an amethyst. How can they select the right amethyst for them among a selection of amethysts?
Just as no two snowflakes are alike, neither are any two amethysts or people. Finding the right stone for your work is a personal journey, one that should be undertaken with an open heart. Because we all sense energies differently, there is no universal method for determining which amethyst will be the right one for each of us. Sometimes we are just inexplicably drawn to a stone. Other times, it is a very tangible, kinesthetic feeling that we might experience when we meet the right stone. Some people may see the energy, internally or externally, while others could receive feedback through any of their other senses. Ultimately, there are practical considerations, too; no matter how much the six-foot-tall amethyst geode wants to come home with us, if we can’t afford it or don’t have the space, we will have to find a more appropriate stone. I always invite my students to trust their instincts when selecting a stone.