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Observations placeholder

Michael Harner - On quartz crystals



Type of Spiritual Experience


a rather confusing mix of the symbolic and literal, however, quite interesting

A description of the experience

The Way of the Shaman – Michael Harner

The Quartz crystal is considered the strongest power object of all among such widely separated peoples as the Jivaro in South America and the tribes of Australia. Peoples as distant from one another as the aborigines of eastern Australia and the Yuman-speakers of southern California and adjacent Baja California consider the quartz crystal "living," or a "live rock."

The widespread employment of quartz crystals in shamanism spans thousands of years. In California, for example, quartz crystals have been found in archaeological sites and prehistoric burials dating as far back as 8,000 years.

The quartz crystal is, like other power objects, viewed as a spirit helper, whether in Australia or in the Upper Amazon. Jivaro shamans recognize that the quartz crystal is in a class of its own among spirit helpers, not only because of its power but also because it always appears the same to the shaman. In other words, its material and spiritual natures are the same.

Quartz crystals are in a sense "solidified light" involved with "enlightenment" and seeing. For example, a phenomenon not unlike the "third eye" concept occurred among the Australian Wiradjeri. Shamans in training had a piece of quartz "sung" into their foreheads so that they would "be able to see right into things.".  Also in Australia, quartz crystals were often pressed or scratched into the skin of such trainees, or rubbed over their bodies, to give them power, and among the Wiradjeri "liquefied quartz" was poured over their bodies. Among the Wiradjeri, quartz crystals were put into water for shaman trainees to drink, so that they "could see ghosts”.

…In native Australia, the quartz crystal is associated with the sky and may be found by a shaman at the foot of the rainbow where it ends in a body of water. The Australian Kabi or Wakka shaman "with many crystals in his body" could journey down into the deepest water holes, where the rainbow spirit lived, and receive more quartz crystals. Such a shaman would arise "full of life, and be a medicine-man of the highest degree."


The crystal ball with which people in our culture are familiar, at least by name, is simply a polished descendant of the old shamanic crystal. Among the Yualai (Euahlayi) of Australia, the best shamans practiced crystal gazing to "see visions of the past, of what is happening in the present at a distance, and of the future."

Both the Yualai and the distant Gimshian of the Northwest Coast of North America sent the quartz crystal or its spirit to fetch the image of a particular person.

The shaman normally carries his quartz crystals concealed from other persons and from the rays of the sun. The Jivaro shaman keeps them in his monkey-skin shoulder bag, …. The Australian aborigine shaman similarly keeps his quartz crystals in his bag, along with other power objects. He may also keep them in his stomach, the way a Jivaro shaman often keeps spirit helpers.

The source of the experience

Shaman unspecified

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps



Using crystals and crystal balls