History of Hematite

Hematite has an extremely ancient historical record and is included in the majority of ancient and medieval lapidaries, texts that describe gemstones and their powers. While Hematite typically looks shiny silver, when it is powdered or captured in Clear Quartz, it is bright red. Hematite’s streak, or the color it shows when used as a drawing instrument, is also red. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that name “Hematite” comes from the Greek word haimatitis, meaning “blood red.” During the European Middle Ages, Hematite was sometimes called “Bloodstone” and it has been known as the “stone which bleeds” in countless lapidaries.

Hematite’s history stretches back to the Neolithic period, and probably far beyond that. It has been found in Neolithic burials in both Europe and Asia. In Europe, mummified remains have been found with powdered Hematite smeared on the skin, creating a reddish tint. In China, skeletal remains surrounded by pieces of Hematite have been uncovered. Since such burials were made before the invention of writing, it is impossible to know, for certain, why the Hematite was used. It could possibly denote a spiritual significance. It could also be purely aesthetic, since Hematite is used to create red paint, and is used to decorate pottery worldwide

Centuries later, the great Mediterranean civilizations were all well familiar with Hematite’s various metaphysical properties. According to the late Egyptian text, The Magical Papyrus of Leyden (c.200 CE), Hematite could be used to treat eye wounds, small growths, and reduce inflammation. It could also heal cuts, when powdered and mixed with cat feces, goat fat, and honey. However, this mixture would only work if the proper spells were said! Powdered Hematite could also be taken orally in an elixir to cure illnesses that causes a person to cough up blood. In addition to these medicinal remedies, Hematite was also a key ingredient in a mystical ink, composed of various ores along with seven perfumes and seven flowers.

In Mesopotamia, a lapidary written by Azchalias for King Mithridates the Great (135-63 BCE), included a through examination of Hematite. In addition to its medicinal properties, Hematite had several additional uses. It was said to bring good fortune to anyone petitioning the king, and also brought victory in legal battles. Azchalias recommended that all lawyers, judges and other members of the legal profession wear Hematite jewelry and use Hematite signet rings. Numerous archaeological digs in Mesopotamia have found Hematite seals, jewelry and other small decorative items.

Hematite was closely associated with several of the Greek Gods. At the beginning of creation, the primal sky god, Uranus, was married to his mother, the earth goddess Gaia. They had several children, including the Titans, the Cyclops and the Hekatonkheires (100 armed giants). Uranus hated his children and banished them to Tartarus, the Greek equivalent of Hell. Gaia responded by freeing her son Cronus, the king of the Titans and the god of time-eternal, and gave him a diamond sickle. Cronus used this weapon to castrate his father Uranus and threw the genitals down into the sea, where they gave life to various beings, most famously the Furies, goddesses of vengeance, as well as Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. As Uranus’s blood dripped down from its wound on to earth, it was petrified as Hematite. Cronus immediately took Uranus’ place as king of creation and in turn sired many children, including several of the most important Greek Gods including Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia. Cronus was terrified lest one of them kill him and so he swallowed each divine child as they were born. Once again, Gaia was determined to save her innocent children and so when her last child, Zeus, was born, she hid him away. When he was old enough, he returned to kill his father and rescue his undigested siblings. Zeus then became the new king of the gods, god of the sky and god of measured-time (days, seasons, etc.). Zeus’ own son, Ares, god of war, never attempted to usurp his place. Hematite was a sacred stone for Ares, since it was believed to heal cuts and other wounds. As a result, Greek soldiers smeared powdered Hematite on their skin before going into battle.

By the Roman era, Hematite was thought to be five distinct stones, rather than a single gem or mineral. According to Pliny the Elder(CE 23-79), in his lapidary, The Natural History of Precious Gemstones, each variety of Hematite cured different problems. The best variety, Ethipic, could heal eye wounds and treat burns. The second best variety, Androdamus, could cure illness that caused nausea and vomiting. The third variety from Arabia could ease pain, particularly nerve pain from burns. The fourth and fifth Hematite varieties were best used in a powdered form mixed in oil, and imbibed as a tonic to heal blood-related disorders. Modern metaphysical healers still use Hematite to treat a variety of blood-related diseases and disorders. Fascinatingly, there is a scientific basis for this longstanding medical tradition. Hematite is an Iron oxide which has strong astringent and styptic properties. Hematite powder does in fact cause blood to coagulate!