Crystals ~ Amber

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Amber

Amber is not actually a crystal, but is fossilized tree resin many millions of years old. It is believed to be the first substance ever used by humans for decorative purposes, and archaeologists have found it in the form of talismans and amulets.
Its origins suggest some of its spiritual properties. A tree is a being whose roots sink deep into the earth and whose top rises into the sky. Thus, it serves as a bridge to connect the energies of heaven and earth, of the spiritual and the physical. Sap, the lifeblood of a tree, carries and transmits its energy.
Thus, amber is considered to be a material which can be used to ground spiritual energies into the physical body and fill it with light. It can also work in the opposite way. If you're not feeling enough earth energy, i.e., too much in your head, amber can help you feel more connected to the physical plane.
For this reason it has been found to be helpful in relieving depression. Depression can feel either like being earthbound or like not being connected to the benefits and blessings of physical existence. Many people have used amber for either purpose.
Amber can also be helpful in dissolving energy blockages. Although for purposes of chakra balancing, it is placed on the navel area, it can be placed at any point where you feel that you need to be revitalized.

GEOLOGY

Amber is the fossilized remains of tree resin. When a tree is injured or fighting a disease, it often exudes a resin which tends to seal the injury. The process is similar to a blot clot in the animal world. Anyone who has worked around pine trees and become sticky, can attest to resin’s persistence against all attempts to rid oneself of the stuff. In the past, insects and small animals that became en-mired in the sticky resin mass, and unable to extricate itself, became trapped. These formed inclusions, along with leaves, vegetable matter, and bubbles.
When resin is exposed to the atmosphere, it forms a skin, dries out, then crumbles. But under certain circumstances, a large mass will form, somehow become buried, and time will turn it into amber. These masses of amber result from burial of the forest floor, or the semi-hard resin being washed down to it’s burial place. In either case, resin must be buried to protect it from oxidation. Rather unique conditions must be present at the beginning, and continue throughout amber's history.

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In the case of the Baltic region, scientists suppose that an ancient forest in a lagoon environment, and producing a large amount of resin. Whether this was due to disease or just the natural process of the trees themselves is unknown. In either case, the resin was left behind in enormous quantities, as the forest was buried under a layer of silt. The bed of resin/amber protected form oxygen, and further buried for many millennia, forming today's most prolific deposit of amber. In the process of being buried, an entire ecosystem was trapped; the insects, some small animals, vegetation, and the actual atmosphere in the bubbles.

Jurassic Age, about 200 million years BCE
By the Jurassic period, trees were exuding resin which was destined to become amber, and of course this is the time of the dinosaurs. Mosquitoes are found in Jurassic amber.

Cretaceous Age, about 140 to 65 million years BCE
By the Cretaceous Age, resin began to include insects of a more advanced biology, as bees and moths which were dependent upon modern plants. Obviously you needed flowers before the modern bee could survive. Amber of this age is found in Russia.

Tertiary Age, about 65 to 2 million years BCE
The is the age when small mammals and birds dominated the scenery. While birds are not found, feathers sometimes are. This age is not well known for amber, as formation of amber tends to take 20 million years or so. There is no exact length of time required although much time is needed to transform the resin into true amber. What is found is called copal, an intermediate state between amber and resin.


Fossil Inclusions
First off, the inclusions in amber are not true fossils. Geologically, fossils are remains which have been replaced by some other mineral. A tree becomes fossilized in a process of cell-by-cell replacement of the original cells by silica. In amber, the inclusions are still the original organism. They are not fossils, they are the actual animal or vegetable remains. Further, for some reason not completely understood, the inclusions retain their original shape, and colour. Remember, the inclusions are at least 20 million years old


The group of insects which are trapped are of necessity those which could not escape after being stuck in some way. The same holds true for animals. Small lizards have been found, and animal parts. Small bones which have been dropped in the resin after being eaten by some other animal have been found, as well as the teeth of larger animals. Speculation has it that the resin dripped onto the animal carcass. Hair has been found, although from which animal we can only guess. There is also one case where a footprint has been found, thought to be that of a cat.
These inclusions have spawned a branch of palaeontology devoted to study of ancient biology as represented in amber. An entire ecology can be reconstructed by inference from the contents of inclusions. Thus, flowers existed in the time when resin trapped bees, as the bees needed the pollen from flowering plants. Mammals with blood could be inferred from mosquitoes. The ancient ecological environment would not be a perfect match, as not all insects are trapped, but nonetheless, we get a view of what it was like.


Depending upon the sources, amber has been worked by early man from 7000 to as much as 11,000 years ago. The occurrence of amber with human artefacts goes even further back, possibly to 30,000 years, in Germany. We can be assured that from the first time man found amber lying in a streambed, he associated it with his religious world and carried it around. One can imagine his surprise when the ‘rock’ melted if placed too near a fire.
Amber reached all corners of the world, known or otherwise. Baltic amber pieces were found with Pharaoh Tutankamon, dating form 1400 BCE. We can assume it was also included with earlier Pharaohs, and later lost. Amber from 900 BCE has turned up in Mesopotamia.
Man began to alter amber with carvings, and using amber in ritual at an early date. Amber is found included with the grave goods of important persons. From this time forward it possessed an intrinsic value, much as incense in the Middle East. Amber was used as a good luck charm by Europeans, and legends grew as to its origin. Literally thousands of find spots attest to its importance. Trade grew as Greece and later Rome acquired a taste for the gem. In Lithuania and Poland, many settlements have been identified where it is thought the amber craft was centred, dating from 2100 BCE to 1700 BCE


Legends centring around amber grew up in many different cultures. Northern Germans thought amber was the sun’s rays striking the oceans surface. The Greeks built a legend involving the teardrops of nymphs in the sea. The Greeks and Romans used amber as jewellery, and as adornment on personal items. That it was considered lucky was an extra attribute.


Ancient Lithuania
The Lithuanian legend ascribes amber as the teardrops of a Goddess of the Sea. She is prevented from marrying her true love, Kastytis, who is killed by the Thunder god. These tears fell to the bottom of the sea and are today washed up after storms.


Ancient Greece
The Greeks associated amber with not a goddess, but with the tears of a nymph. By 1600 BCE the Greeks were importing amber down from the Baltic area by way of the Black Sea. The Alps still presented a problem for the trade caravans. Pendants and necklaces begin to appear with grave goods indicating it’s importance to the owner. Amber was thought by the Greeks to cure some disease, especially if worn close to the skin. However, much like a rabbits foot, if the person dies the amulets power is in question. Might as well bury it with it’s owner.
The Greeks seem to be fascinated with it after Thales, in c.600 BCE described the ability of amber to attract small pieces of anything organic, as seeds and dust. By rubbing amber with wool, it becomes charged with static electricity, and will attract things of opposite polarity. Since many organic compounds are bi-polar, very small pieces are attracted. To the Greeks, unaware of electricity, this was a gift of the gods. They called amber electron, and from this word we describe electricity.


Greek mythology wrapped amber with many legends. The son of Helios, Phaeton, drowned in the River Eridanus, and his sisters were transformed into pine trees on the riverbank. The tears they shed for their brother were transformed into amber by the sun. One could probably trace the origin of this legend back to Lithuania.
A more involved legend concerns Atlas, who slew a dragon guarding an apple tree with golden fruit. Upon eating the apple Atlas became immortal, and the dust of amber was called Ambrosia, which is the root word for immortal. From this comes the belief that amber, worn as a necklace, or eaten as dust, could cure disease. Amber became known as the "gold of the north", and merchants could turn a profit by carrying it to customers along the Aegean coast.

Herodotus scorned the belief in the legends, and by 700 BCE interest in amber began to wane. But by this time, the Greek merchants had spread amber to the Middle East, and amber was found with Pharaoh Tutankamon form about 1400 BCE. Amber from around 900 BCE turns up in Mesopotamia, but they may have imported it direct from an outlet on the Black Sea, near the mouth of the Danube River.

Ancient Rome
As early as 750 BCE, the Romans were the barbarians relative to the Greeks, and eventually took over much of their culture. Doctors were Greek, not Roman, as were the philosophers and scientists. The belief in the curative power of amber was transferred to the Romans. It was used as a medicine and believed to protect against illness. As the Roman power grew, so did the demand for more amber, what with everyone eating it. Even gladiators were wearing it, and women tried to dye the hair to match its colour.
The campaigns of Caesar was pushing toward the source of amber, although not his primary goal. He named one of the islands along the Atlantic ‘Glessaria’ after the German name for amber. A few centuries later, Emperor Nero sent a Roman expedition north to find the source of the "gold of the north". At this time the Germanic tribes which lie along the trail to the Baltic were not always friendly. Shortly after his return, loaded with amber, the Amber Route was established. This route began at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, at Aquileia; struck northeast around the eastern flank of the Alps; crossed the Danube west of Budapest, at Carnuntum; then went due north to the Baltic.
Although a route was established, it was under Emperor Claudius that the territory was annexed to the Roman Empire, up to the Danube. From there north the Celts still controlled the amber trade. In the area of Poland, where many sites have been found where amber was processed, more than 70,000 Roman coins have been found. Later yet, Claudius opened a more direct route across the Alps, called, aptly, Via Claudius, but was still dependent upon the tribes north of the Danube River.
The demand for amber became so intense that Pliny the Elder complains that a small statue of a man in amber was more expensive than the cost of a live and healthy man. The rich were using amber for all sorts of useless adornment. The amber fad apparently began to die off around mid-1st century CE, about the time of Christ. Perhaps because the Empire had splurged in it’s orgy of wasteful spending and luxuries began to become expensive beyond the average rich man’s pocket.
Incidentally, by the time of Pliny the Elder, the Romans had a general idea where amber came from, that is from the resin of the pine. They knew it was fished from the Baltic, and guessed at the rest. This information died with the Roman Empire, and was not again discovered until after the Dark Ages.


Later History
By c.400 CE, the Roman Empire was effectively dead, the Dark Ages was setting in, and the history of amber shrivels. Amber was still gathered and processed into jewellery, but knowledge of writing was lost. The Celt craftsmen in the Baltic region still made jewellery, some of the most attractive from the times. Amber did not return to the public eye until the medieval period. Local rulers, lords and kings tried to control the amber supply, erecting gallows along the Baltic. Removal of amber was a hanging offence.


While I generally stop around 400 CE, the history of amber has an interesting story from around 1713 CE. Fredric William the First built an entire room panelled in amber, called of course, the Amber Room. The room was later presented to Tzar Peter as a gift, who was duly impressed. Then it disappeared, last heard of in 1944, about the time of the invading German army. The Russians dismantled the room and hid it away in Novosibirsk. The Germans found it anyway and moved the amber to Kaliningrad. That is the last information available. All else is rumour.
Amber slipped in importance, becoming so common as to be melted and used for varnish on ships. And possibly as an ingredient in some of the famous varnishes for which we have not been able to find the formula. General amber was melted down and reformed into cheap jewellery, called amberoid. Even so, the good quality pieces were still made into fine jewellery; but if it had inclusions, it went to the melting pot. Today, things have reversed!


Biblical
Amber, chasmal in Hebrew, occurs only in Ezek.1:4,27-8:2. While chasmal may denote a metal, it is thought by many to refer to amber.


Etymology
Amber is found all around the world, and every culture had its own name for it. Arabia: anbar; Prussia: gless; Persia: karabe; Rome: succinum, glesum; Greece: elecktron. Tibetans called this gem pö-she, which meant perfumed crystal.


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