Amethyst Symbolism

amethyst symbolism - fantasy cut
Rose de France Amethyst, 11.3 ct, faceted with an Ultra Tec V5 and Fantasy Machine. © Hashnu Stones & Gems. Used with permission.

The Story of Bacchus and Amethyst

One of the most popular bits of amethyst symbolism and folklore involves the stone’s purported power to prevent drunkenness. The story goes:

Long ago, a beautiful maiden was on her way to worship at the Temple of Diana. However, she had the misfortune of crossing paths with the god of wine, Bacchus. Angered since he’d just suffered some slight, he’d vowed to take revenge on the next person he met. He spied the maid and unleashed his two guardian tigers upon her. As the great beasts bounded towards the hapless lass, the goddess Diana intervened. To spare her such a terrible fate, she turned her into a pure, clear stone.

Immediately, remorse seized Bacchus. To atone for his actions, he poured his wine over the stone, staining the crystal a deep, violet hue. And so, the maiden Amethyst lent her name to the crystal.

Although presented in a Classical guise, this myth dates from the Renaissance. The French poet Remy Belleau created this story in 1576 as part of a poem on gemstone beliefs. Nevertheless, the idea that the stone could guard against drunkenness does go back to the Ancient Greeks. Amethystos means “not drunk” in Ancient Greek. They believed you could drink all night and remain sober if you had an amethyst in your mouth or on your person.

Amethyst Symbolism and Spirituality

Perhaps this association with calming physical passions led some early Christians to associate the amethyst with Christ. The gem’s purple colors represented purity of spirit. Its purplish and reddish hues represented the chastening and purifying effects of suffering. Some believed the colors alluded to the wounds and suffering of Christ. Thus, amethysts were used to aid the healing of wounds.

Many cultures find spiritual overtones in amethysts. Often viewed as a stone of peace, amethyst’s calming presence is thought to produce soothing dreams by bringing the dreamer more in tune with the Divine. This clarity and peacefulness also extends to the waking mind. Amethysts are said to help the mind flow freely in both mental and metaphysical dimensions. Many psychics keep this gem with their tarot cards or other oracular instruments.

amethyst symbolism - intaglio
“Amethyst Intaglio,” a portrait of the Roman Emperor Caracalla, changed in the Byzantine period into a portrait of St. Peter with the addition of an inscription and a cross, ca. 212 CE, from the Cabinet des Médailles in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, by Clio20. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

Amethysts and Protective Amulets

The Ancient Egyptians worked amethysts into amulets as both a form of prayer and protection against harm. While later Egyptian artisans created elaborate and breathtaking pieces, early jewelry makers kept their designs more practical. At first, carnelian and beryl gems as well as amethysts were carved into the shapes of animals. These devices were likely protective fetishes designed by early magicians. In later times, an organized priesthood produced these amulets.

People have valued and worked amethysts for ages. An ages-old cure for an ages-old affliction, rubbing a moistened amethyst on pimples is said to cure them.

amethyst symbolism - crystal
“Gemstone Called Amethyst” by Chris Bartnik. Licensed under CC By-ND 2.0.

The February Birthstone

Amethyst is a busy stone. Ruled by the planet Jupiter, it’s the zodiacal gem for those born under the sign of Pisces. Both traditional and modern birthstone lists include amethyst as the February birthstone. On the subject of February, St. Valentine was said to have worn an amethyst ring carved with Cupid’s likeness. This may seem an unlikely pairing, given the gem’s reputation for calming passions. However, keep in mind that in Medieval times, chaste love was highly valued as true love. Amethysts signified this vision of love.

Since we started with a poetic tale, let’s part with a poem on amethyst, author unknown:

The Amethyst.

From passion and from care kept free

Shall Pisces’ children ever be

Who wear so all the world may see

The Amethyst

amethyst symbolism - brooch
“Making a Brooch 12/12,” silver and amethyst, by Mauro Cateb. Licensed under CC By 2.0.