Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Metaphysical Properties of Ammonites and Ammolite

Do fossils have metaphysical properties?

Fossils are neglected in modern stone books but they are a potent union of the mineral and animal kingdoms. Metaphysical properties can be drawn both from their geology and biology and many were used for spiritual reasons historically.

What is an ammonite?

The Ammonoidea or ammonites (“am-uh-nights”) are an extinct group of shelled cephalopods that lived ~400 to ~65 million years ago. The name may specifically refer to one branch of them, the Ammonitida, that lived ~200 to ~65 million years ago. Their living relatives include the octopus, squid, and nautilus.

Ammonites lived in an external chambered shell, usually in the shape of a coiled spiral. Depending on the species, it could also be straight, partially bent, or corkscrewed. Their body was in the last and largest chamber. As they grew they added progressively bigger compartments to the mouth of their shell, walling off the old ones.

This chambered shell is called a phragmacone (“frah-muh-cone”), from the Greek phragmo, “fence, enclosure, partition”, + konos, “cone”. A thin organ called a siphuncle (“sigh-fung-kuhl”) connected each segment to the body chamber like a strand of beads. The word comes from the Latin sÄ«phunculus, meaning “a little siphon”. They used this tube to maintain their buoyancy, regulating the mixture of water and gas in each compartment through their blood.

Ammonites may be found with a small curved shell called an aptychus (“ap-tea-cus”) or a symmetrically mirrored pair of them. The word comes from the Greek aptychon, “a folding panel with two parts”. There is debate among scientists if they were part of their jaw, a protective cover like the hood of a nautilus, or both. While ammonite shells were grown from aragonite, the aptychus was made from calcite. Although they are chemically related, calcite is more durable so many were preserved on their own, washed away from their shells. They were misidentified historically as a species of clam.

Although an incredible number of shells are preserved, very little soft tissue was fossilized. Therefore no one knows what an ammonite looked like exactly. Although their shells resemble a nautilus, their teeth are similar to the octopus and squid. So a spiral shelled animal with eight to ten tentacles is the best deduction.

What symbolism did ammonites have in antiquity?

The word ammonite references a historic name for the fossil. The first century CE Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder called them hammonis cornu, meaning “the horns of Ammon”. Ammon is the Latinized version of the name Amun, the ancient Egyptian god of creation, later interpreted as a form of Zeus by the Greeks. Amun was depicted as a ram, a man with the head or horns of a ram, or a ram headed sphinx. Pliny states:

The horns of Ammon [“ammonite”] is reckoned among the most sacred gems of Aethiopia [“the upper region of the Nile”]; it is of a golden color, like a ram's horn in shape, and ensures prophetic dreams, it is said.”

Do the historical lapidaries mention ammonites?

Many historical gem books include stones found in animals. Some actually come from living creatures like bezoars, mineral concretions produced in the digestive tract, while others have proven to be fossils. Most period “toadstones”, allegedly from the head of a toad, are instead teeth from the extinct fish species Lepidotes.

Likewise some scholars believe the legendary draconites, found in the head of a snake or dragon, could be an actual stone. Something with a resemblance, like the toadstone. Ammonites are a strong candidate since some draconites were described as displaying a serpent pattern. Depending on the text, it protected the wearer from poisons, venomous creatures, or adversaries.

Ammonites actually have a long association with serpents. According to English legend, the 7th century Saint Hilda of Whitby turned an infestation of snakes to stone to allow for the construction of an abbey. These petrified “snakestones” are ammonites. Sometimes artists would carve or paint a head on them, to produce pious souvenirs. English fossil hunters during the early 19th century called ammonites cornemonius, a corruption of their Latin name hammonis cornu.

Ammonites were used in folk medicine across Europe for snake bites, fertility, and birthing pains. In 18th century Germany and England they were added to water as “drakestones” (“dragonstone”) or “crampstones” to treat livestock.

What do ammonites mean in some Native American traditions?

To the Niitsitapi nation (“Blackfoot”), portions of ammonites, baculites, and other fossils are iniskim, meaning “buffalo stone, buffalo calling stone”. Baculites are a variety of ammonite with only a slightly bent shell. Fossil ammonites often come apart, breaking down into their individual chambers. Those with sutures become lobed, roughly resembling an animal, traditionally a buffalo. According to legend the first iniskim revealed itself during a famine to a young woman. It taught her the songs and ceremonies required to call the buffalo to be hunted. They reveal their presence by chirping like a bird and are associated with abundance, good luck, and healing.

What do ammonites represent in Hinduism?

Stones can have a special relationship to the divine in Hinduism, like the egg shaped linga of Shiva and the rounded black shaligram shila or salagram shila of Vishnu. Shila/Sila means “stone” in Sanskrit, shaligram/saligram is a regional name of Vishnu, and shalagram/salagram refers to a location where they are found. In Hindu thought God takes on different forms for the benefit of humanity. Vishnu is the divine as preserver. He is typically depicted as blue skinned, carrying a mace, lotus, conch shell, and a discus like weapon called a chakra.

The shila or salagram is a fossil concretion from the Gandaki River in Nepal, often with prominent ammonites. They are typically black in color but pyrite inclusions may make them golden. The fossil patterns are believed to represent sacred symbols like the attributes of Vishnu, especially his chakra. In mythology Vishnu transformed into vajra kita, aquatic worms as hard as diamonds, to carve them. An interpretation of the snake like ammonites found inside. The stones are traditionally used for devotion.

What do they mean in Chinese culture?

Some feng shui practitioners recommend ammonite and ammolite, an iridescent ammonite shell used as a gemstone, as wealth cures. Ammolite may be known by the trade name “kirin stone”, after the mythical Chinese composite animal, more commonly spelled qilin or ch'i-lin. They symbolize non-violence, virtue, and longevity. The iridescence of ammolite is said to resemble their fiery scales.

19th century English texts say the Chinese call ammonites the "kosmos stone", for its resemblance to their symbol for the cosmos.  They mean its comma-like shape resembles the black and white sections of the taijitu (“yin and yang symbol”), especially as a pair.  The spiral of an ammonite is believed to draw in chi (“spiritual energy”) and radiate it out, promoting abundance, health, and well being.

The Hidden Virtues of Ammonite

The metaphysical properties of a fossil are revealed in its geology, cultural associations, and effect on the chakra system:

1. Fossil: Because of their literal connection to the past, fossils support longevity, memory, and past life recall. They are also used to contact spirit guides, honor ancestors, or connect to ancient sources of knowledge. Ammonites are especially well suited for past life work since they are used as an index fossil. They help date the rock layers in which they are found because of their wide distribution, large numbers, and specific time span.

Ammonites only lived in the last chamber of their shell, using their phragmacone to stay afloat. Sometimes we are so focused on the future or the past, including our past lives, we neglect today. Use ammonites to regain perspective on the present, to integrate information about the past or potential future, or reorient after altered states of consciousness like shamanic journeying.

2. Shell: Because they come from the ocean, shells are connected to the Moon, water, and qualities culturally associated with the feminine like intuition, emotions, and the unconscious. Because ammonites are fossilized shells, they help transform the emotional past, releasing dysfunctional family patterns, childhood trauma, or suppressed feelings. Lunar materials are also associated with sleep, dreams, and techniques like lucid dreaming. This is especially true for ammonites since they were used historically for prophetic dreams.

3. Home: Both shells and materials ruled by the Moon symbolize the home. A lot of ammonite terminology is domestic: their shell is a phragmacone, Greek, “a cone of fences”, each chamber is a camera, Latin “a vaulted room”, and the dividers between them are septa, Latin, “walls”. Because of this architectural connection, ammonites are used for the spiritual protection of a house. Since the animal moved from chamber to chamber as it grew, walling off the old ones, they support individuals selling a home, in the process of moving, or adjusting to a new location.

4. Spiral: Both ammonite and nautilus shells are commonly used to illustrate the golden spiral, a growth pattern based on the Fibonnaci sequence with a ratio of 1.618. Unfortunately research suggests this is only rarely true. The nautilus is a logarithmic spiral but its average ratio is 1.33. Because these numbers are close, the inner chambers resemble the golden spiral but the outer ones deviate from it. While an individual shell may be a golden spiral, it is not true for all of them.

The 17th century Swiss mathematician Jakob Bernoulli called the logarithmic spiral the spira mirabilis (Latin, “miraculous spiral”) because of its importance for living things. It allows shells to grow larger, without having to change their shape. Bernoulli wrote:

... since our spira mirabilis [“miraculous spiral”, ie. logarithmic spiral] remains, amid all changes, most persistently itself, and exactly the same as ever, it may be used as a symbol, either of fortitude and constancy in adversity, or, of the human body; which after all its changes, even after death, will be restored to its exact and perfect self...”

Ammonites are associated with change, resiliency, and overcoming obstacles. Like the labyrinth, the spiral represents the journey of life, death and rebirth, and repeated cycles like the seasons and movement of celestial bodies. The spiral shell of the ammonite literally represents their life, created as they added chambers to the open end of their shell. Cross sections of an ammonite are popular wedding gifts because they represent a journey and two parts coming together to make a whole.

5. Animal Totems: An octopus in a nautilus shell that looks like a ram, snake, dragon, or buffalo. Rarely does one fossil have so many animal relationships. Ammonites can be used to connect spiritually to any of these medicines or animal totems in general.

6. Abundance: Ammonites represent abundance in several cultures. The Zeus and horn connection even suggests the cornucopia (Latin, “horn of plenty”). One variety of ammonites is named after it. When he was an infant, Zeus was hidden in a cave from his tyrannical father Cronus. A goat named Amalthea nursed him. When he accidentally broke off one of her horns, it became a symbol of divine generosity, overflowing with food and drink.

7. Aligning the Chakras: Energy follows the structure of a material, producing a similar effect within us. An ammonite shell is a series of chambers, connected together by the siphuncle tube, which regulated the balance of water and gas in each section. The chakra system is very similar. In the original Hindu and Buddhist models, spiritual energy flows through the subtle body along channels called nadi (Sanskrit, “flow, river, conduit”). The body has three main nadi, one in the spinal column and two that wrap around it. The chakras occur where they intersect.

Because of this structural similarity, ammonite and nautilus fossils are used to adjust the flow of energy in the nadi, aligning the chakras. In most nautilus species the siphuncle tube is centrally located. In most ammonite species, it is found along the bottom of the chambers instead. This suggests that a nautilus is better suited for the central nadi and an ammonite the side channels, although either can be used. They can even be combined to balance the entire system. However the snake symbolism of ammonites associates them with kundalini, which is produced in the central channel by joining together the energies of the side ones.

8. Balancing the Chakras: In many spiritual traditions clockwise motion is used to open and counter clockwise is used to close. Clockwise vs. counterclockwise is always a matter of perspective. On one side of an ammonite, moving from the mouth to the center of the shell is clockwise, on the other side, counterclockwise. From the center to the mouth instead is reversed. A chakra that is too open or too closed is out of balance. Running energy through an ammonite in a specific direction can help regulate a chakra: out or clockwise to help open, in or counterclockwise to help close.

9. Healing Properties: Ammonites were used historically for fertility, pregnancy, and birth in both people and animals. Fossils in general are related to Saturn, astrologically oriented healers recommend them for parts of the body ruled by it like the legs, bones, joints, teeth, skin, and hair. Because they come from the ocean, ammonites are also linked to the Moon, which rules the breasts, stomach, digestive system, and womb.

Healers who use the modern chakra system instead associate fossils with the Root Chakra. Because most ammonites are brown, reddish orange, to golden yellow in color, they connect to the Root (brown and red), Second (orange), Third (yellow), and Crown (gold) Chakras. They support parts of the body below the heart and the top of the head.

This article is part of a series for Enter the Earth, located in Asheville, North Carolina.  To find some incredible ammonites, check out both their retail and online stores:

1 Page Avenue
Suite 125
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 350-9222

Online Store: http://www.entertheearth.com/

On Ebay: http://stores.ebay.com/entertheearthinc
On Etsy:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/EnterTheEarth

The spiritual use of stones is one tool among many for helping us with our problems. This information is not intended to replace the care of your doctor or mental health professional.

© 2012, C. L. Matthews

To recognize the difference between an ammonite and a fossilized nautilus shell, read Ammonite vs. Nautilus.

No comments:

Post a Comment