Illustration by Katherine Killeffer

The Care and Keeping of Crystals

Stressed, lonely, or psychically blocked? Here's how to curate your personal crystal collection.

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Feb 12 2016, 4:27pm

Illustration by Katherine Killeffer

An intuitive human attraction to crystals and gemstones has existed for centuries. Ancient Egyptians used crystals to manufacture makeup and combat night terrors, while ancient Greeks wore them to protect against war and hangovers. ("Amethystos," the Greek word for amethyst, means "not intoxicating," if you're in the market for a new pre-game ritual.) Today, those "ancient" concerns can still be addressed by modern crystal usage. Healing, protection, energy, communication—there's a crystal for that. And if you're at all enticed by the resurgence of witchcraft, chances are you already own a couple.

Owning crystals and knowing what to do with them, however, are not the same thing. But who could blame a novice for using orange calcite as a decorative paperweight? It's not like crystals come with manuals. We may be instinctively drawn to them, but their care and usage depend on the intent and education of their owners. One person's paperweight is another person's creative inspiration—the only thing that separates the former from the latter is information. Here's how to elevate your crystals from glorified eye candy to spiritual symbol.

Stoned Shopping 101

If you already own crystals you know nothing about, you've accidentally chosen a widely-recommended method: relying on intuition. Many people believe crystals choose you—so getting spend-drunk at your local spirit shop is a fine way to choose your new talisman. Keep your intentions in mind while browsing and allow your gut to guide you. (You should note the names of your crystals so you can research them later. Many people find the crystals they're drawn to accurately represent what they're struggling with.)

You can also take a more proactive approach and make a shopping list. Sometimes we want crystals for specific spells and purposes; sometimes we simply want a couple of all-purpose stones to learn on before going full-mystic. Some good starter stones include:

Clear Quartz
The most universal, multi-purpose crystal, clear quartz is thought to absorb, direct, and amplify energy, which makes it an ideal crystal to program (we'll get to that). It's also known for balancing environments, charging other crystals, and dispelling negative energy.

If you have a more specific goal in mind, do a little research on stones best suited to your goals.

Citrine
An abundance stone used to channel success, prosperity, joy, and happiness.

Rose Quartz
A stone for manifesting love for yourself and others. If you're casting a love spell, you should have rose quartz in your corner.

Amethyst
A calming stone to keep on your nightstand. Aside from protecting you from hangovers (maybe), amethyst is known to enhance sleep, lucid dreaming, meditation, and your own psychic abilities.

If you have a more specific goal in mind, do a little research on stones best suited to your goals. Most of my crystal collection was curated with a focus on creative success, for example, so I keep the following stones on my desk:

Pyrite
A grounding stone that enhances intellect, mental stability, creativity, logic, and the ability to follow through. It's infused with positive energy and also, pretty to look at.

Jet
A powerful protector on many levels, including the cash-flow level. It's also a great stone for the anxious and depressed, but because it protects against negative energy, it needs to be cleared regularly (we'll also get to that).

Labradorite
A stone of transformation and magic, Labradorite stimulates imagination and new ideas. Use it to manifest adventures when things are in need of shaking up.

Got anxiety? Disillusioned with Tinder? Need protection from psychic vampires? Find a crystal recipe that best suits your needs and grow your collection from there.

Clear Crystals, Full Hearts, Can't Lose

You (probably) wouldn't wear a thrifted corset without washing it first—same deal with crystals. Crystals act as sponges that soak up the energies of their environments, so they need to be cleared before you can use them in your work. Crystals should be cleared after purchase and, generally, when they don't feel good anymore. A cleared crystal should be cold and tingly to the touch. If you get a warm, heavy sensation from holding a crystal, it's time for a cleansing.

There are a couple of approaches you can take, the favored method being a moon bath. Simply place your crystals on a windowsill under the new moon. They'll need at least a night of moonlight, but you can put them out each subsequent night until the full moon arrives two weeks later. The amount of time necessary for a crystal to recover depends on the amount of drama it's witnessed, so use your instinct and keep clearing until the heat subsides. (You can also bathe your crystals in sunlight, but prepare certain stones to lose their color or crack.)

If you don't have a safe outdoor space for your crystals, you can smudge the bad omens out with sage, cedarwood, palo santo, or sweet grass. Simply pass each crystal through the smoke until they feel purified and ready to program.

Getting with the Program

Once you've got your crystal squad assembled and cleared, it's time to infuse it with your own energy. This is called programming, and there's no one way to do it. All you need is your crystal(s), a clear intent, and a focused action. If possible, program on the full moon to take advantage of lunar manifestation powers.

First, choose a place to sit with your crystal. Programming near a personal altar is ideal, but if you don't have one, pick a place where you won't be distracted.

If the crystal stops cooperating, give it another cleanse and start over.

Hold the crystal in your dominant hand and start to clear your mind of everything except your intention. Choose some descriptive words to say aloud that reflect your intention. No need to get fancy. If you're trying to release anxiety, say, "release anxiety." Repeat your words in whatever tone of voice feels comfortable. Next, repeat them into your non-dominant hand, then place that hand over the crystal to transfer the vibrations of your intention. Hold your hand in place and repeat the intention until your intuition tells you your message has been received. Thank the crystal and place it in its "home," wherever that is.

When you need to retrieve the crystal's programming, simply hold and rub the crystal, asking it to release those energies. If the crystal stops cooperating, give it another cleanse and start over.

Yes, crystal work is an ongoing process, but it's more fulfilling than keeping a decorative rock collection.