For the love of Obsidian

Every year, there is a 5-day Rock, Fossil and Crystal Fair here. This year it was the 25th edition, so it’s been going strong for a good few years now and it is always at more or less the same time of year, the second week of December, spanning a weekend, and coming at a time when I can justify purchases to self in the name of “Yule” and because I have been good – very good –  throughout the rest of the year. I rarely buy rocks or crystals to be honest, but this fair is so irresistable, it has become a habit of mine to buy only there and enjoy the shine of my treasures for the rest of the year until the next fair comes to town. There are dealers from all over the world, from Arizona to Madagascar, Morocco to Argentina. There is a stall that sells only meteorites, another from Russia that sells only amber and there are all manner of new rocks to discover and old favourites to stock up on in different sizes and polishes. I invariably end up going back every day for the duration of the fair, doing all I can to make my purchases wisely and calmly, but when it is only once a year and only lasts five days, it is easy to lose control. But my motto is; buy few but buy opulent and, most of all, buy beautiful. Better one fabulous rock on the sideboard that can be swooned over from afar, than pockets full of tiny tumblestones that slip out, get lost and (let’s be honest) often don’t really have much presence.

One of my favourite stallholders is from Argentina ( I think, or maybe Venezuela) and I have bought all kinds of things from him in the past including some shaman stones and small, sculpted crystal dorje sceptres. But this year, on the first day of the fair, he had two slabs of obsidian that I immediately snapped up. They are the ones pictured above with a Lo Scarabeo card to give a sense of scale. Why do I love obsidian so much? Partly it’s because I have always had a soft spot for natural substances that look artificial, and obsidian, when polished, could be glass, or even plastic. I like the thought of nature’s capacity to create something that looks man-made, almost fake. Also, of course, it is because of obsidian’s illustrious history of scrying potential, and the sense that if we could just shut down from the outer world for a moment, glaze over before the glossy surface, we might, just might, slip into another dimension. I think of Dr Dee with his shew stone, gazing beyond the surface mist, seeing the Spanish Armada tossed on stormy seas. The Ancient Mexicans used obsidian – which they called itzli or teotetl – and fashioned sacred images of the god Tezcatlipoca out of it. The stone was sacred to him, as god of the sky, associated with kingship, warriors and sorcerers. His name actually mean “smoking mirror” which describes the stone perfectly and it was via the pillagings of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortéz that the stone came to Europe and Dr Dee was to be found using it at the end of the 16th Century. He and his assistant Edward Kelly used a scrying mirror (seen below) and a small smoked crystal ball (both now in the British Museum) to communciate with angels and transmute enochian messages.

  I have quite a few pieces of Obsidian, alongside this pair of slabs (as I call them). It is a stone that fascinates me and which I like to have nearby. I have a scrying mirror 15 cm in diameter, 1 cm thick; it is a disk with tiny imperfections and swirls that make the light shimmer slightly. I also have a small obsidian palmstone, the size of a thin matchbox. I lost a previous one (carried it around in my pocket and unfortunately it must have fallen out). I also have an obsidian egg and a small 5 cm obsidian sphere and when I find obsidian tumblestones for sale in a shop, the non-snowflake variety, (I mean pure glassy black; not always so common), I buy four of roughly the same size as I have what I like to call sets of “spreadcloth anchors”. When laying out cards, I like to put a tumblestone at each corner of the reading cloth. No idea why (so the wind doesn’t blow it away? Hardly likely), to anchor the reading perhaps, or to ground me. It’s a habit I started and I now have quite a collection of black stone sets, mostly obsidian (but also onyx, tektite, black agate, morion), that I use for this purpose. Also from the fair last year I bought a superb gold sheen obsidian sphere (approximately 10 cm across) and this year also found, on the same stall, a larger one – perhaps 12 cm across – that was mostly black and less golden. I have put these on my bookcase and everyone who comes into the house gravitates towards them. I have a couple of carved jade stands for each of them to rest on and these spheres have a magnetic pulling power that seems to draw unsuspecting visitors into their orbit and elicit praise and admiration. But it is these two non-spherical obsidian slabs that captivate me right now. The surface is so deeply, hypnotically shiny that I cannot stop looking into them, feeling the pull, and they have a comforting form (not unlike bars of soap) and a comforting weight. I am not really a scryer to be honest, but I use obsidian to get me into divination mode, a kind of meditation. I look into it, think into it, glaze my eyes over into it, start seeing a shift in the light, a sense of cloudiness, a  sense of myself receding. It seems to me such a dark, velvety, masculine mineral. The night I left these obsidian slabs by the bed I had a fitful sleep. I so rarely buy stones or crystals, but these annual visits to the fair always get me excited and yet it is always to obsidian, the “smoking mirror”, that I am drawn. It is as if there are possibilities within, beyond the sheen – maybe dangerous ones – and something pulls. 


About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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7 Responses to For the love of Obsidian

  1. Jeri Lawson says:

    I love the way you write and I love what you write about. These are things that are truly fascinating. I have a few beautiful obsidian presences in the house and it’s so grounding in a deep, bottom-of-the-well kind of way.
    I discovered images the Greenwood Tarot from your post and have been looking at the cards online ever since. That deck is a portal to another world, you can feel the magic.

    • Le Fanu says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. It is very bottom-of-the-well isn’t it? Nice way to put it. I only really like the very black ones, or with a slight gold sheen. The other types don’t grab me as much. The power of the blackest obsidian, when I hold it in my hand, surprises me sometimes. Or maybe it is psychosomatic because of its illustrious history? It was used as the eyes of idols! I’m glad to see that you liked the Greenwood, and I’m sorry if I have sent you on a quest for an expensive deck 😦

  2. jema says:

    Those slabs as you call them looks so smooth and cool and I just wish I could grab them through the screen 😀 They just beg to be touched, and then wiped clean of fingerprints…

  3. Pingback: Mirrors and Luck |

  4. B says:

    Great post…..I have always been fascinated by John Dee….a favourite author of mine (who can and does write very well…I am pretty fussy..) has started a John Dee series, the first is called Bones of Avalon and the second The Heresy of John Dee is about to be published…. Phil Rickman is the author, highly recommended… a cave to spend a few happy hours in.

  5. Sergio Romero says:

    hello im sergio from mexico i collect pre-columbian art and i had fortune to find an original pre-columbian obsidian mirror. if you are interested i can share some images with you.

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