Onyx is mostly thought of as a black stone — how many times have you read the word “onyx” as a synonym for “black?” In reality, it’s a banded type of chalcedony that can exhibit dramatic colors and striated patterns.
Long prized as an ornamental stone for carvings and cameo jewelry, it’s also held in high esteem by magic practitioners and crystal healers.
Onyx is very similar to agate. Both of them are types of banded chalcedony, but onyx has parallel bands, while agates can form more complex patterns.
Black onyx is the most commonly known and famous variety, but is actually far less abundant than onyx of other colors. For this reason, a good portion of black onyx on the market is actually dyed to artificially darken its color.
Sometimes, the word “onyx” is applied to materials that aren’t onyx at all. Any stone that exhibits parallel bands may be labeled and sold as onyx, so collectors should exercise caution.
Sardonyx is a variety of onyx with bands of sard, a dark type of carnelian. Sardonyx typically exhibits dramatic bands of bright red and orange.
See also: Check out Onyx stones here.
Onyx Healing Properties & Benefits
Onyx is a grounding and stabilizing stone. It’s said to provide a calming influence in chaotic situations, and makes a great pocket stone for those suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.
It’s also helpful for self-confidence and releasing destructive behavioral patterns. Onyx can also help with the grieving process, and is a useful tool during periods of mourning.
Physically, crystal healers use onyx to strengthen the nervous and immune systems. It’s purported to help sharpen the senses, increase vitality, and strengthen bones. Some healers use this stone to increase nutrient uptake and regulate fluid levels within the body.
See also: Check out Onyx jewelry here.
Onyx Magical Properties
Black onyx is primarily used as a grounding and protective stone. It’s said to have a very defensive energy, capable of guarding against misfortune and malevolent magic alike.
This stone is also regarded as a tool of spiritual wisdom. It’s said to instill the user with discernment and the ability to make informed decisions.
Some sources indicate that it’s also useful for compelling or controlling magic. Historical resources say that onyx could be used to control demons. Some modern schools of magic turn to onyx for spells to gain the upper hand in a situation, or dominate another’s will. To a lesser extent, this stone can also induce nightmares in a target.
An onyx amulet, worn around the next, is believed to help the wearer remain chaste. In a more general sense, onyx is also helpful for workings to break bad habits or addictions.
As far as color magic goes, onyx’s domain depends on its color. Black and white striped onyx is associated with both black and white color magic. Black is tied to banishing, protection, rebirth, and stability.
White is associated with cleansing, protection, and spirituality. Sardonyx is also ruled by red or orange, which are associated with ambition, vitality, vigor, lust, creativity, and confidence.
In terms of chakras, onyx is a very root chakra stone. This energy center, Muladhara, governs survival and serves as the first gateway for energy to flow through the body. When it’s blocked, it can manifest as intense fear.
Since a blocked root chakra also deprives the other chakras of energy, it disrupts the entire lifeforce flow. Wearing or working with onyx near this energy center is believed to help open it, restoring a healthy current of energy.
Onyx History & Folklore
The word onyx comes from the Latin “onyx,” meaning “fingernail.” The ancient Romans believed that onyx stones were clipping from Venus’ nails. The Fates turned them into stone so no part of her divine body would ever decay.
Onyx is a classic stone for use in cameos. Artists carve scenes or portraits into the top layer, revealing the (usually darker) layer below as a background. Since onyx forms parallel bands, it’s more predictable for use in cameos than agate.
Medieval German mystic and saint Hidegard of Bingen advocated placing onyx in the mouth for cases of depression. It was believed to remove negative feelings from the user.
How to Cleanse Onyx
Onyx is a fairly hard stone, at 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Care should be taken with specimens that have been dyed, since some cleansing methods might cause them to leach their colors. That said, there are plenty of good cleansing methods for this stone.
Some methods for cleansing Onyx include:
- Bathing it in fresh, running water. Use caution with stones that may be dyed.
- Bathing it in an infusion of cleansing herbs. As with water, be careful with dyed stones.
- Setting it briefly in the sunlight.
- Setting the onyx in the light of the full moon.
- Placing the stone at the base of a live plant. If the stone is dyed, avoid letting it get wet — it might release dye into the soil.
- Burying it in soil.
- Fumigating it with cleansing herbs or incense smoke.
- Using your personal energy.
- Playing music, chimes, bells, or singing bowls. As with other crystals, avoid setting onyx directly inside of a singing bowl. The vibrations may cause cracking or shattering.
Getting Started With Onyx
Onyx is a pretty abundant mineral, so it generally isn’t expensive or difficult to find. The only tricky part is telling the difference between natural and dyed onyx.
The tricky part here is that dyed onyx is still onyx. Unlike natural citrine and heat-treated amethyst, there’s no real difference in color or growth habit. Unlike sodalite and lapis lazuli, there’s no difference in a streak test, either.
The only real way to conclusively prove that an onyx has or hasn’t been dyed is to get past the top layer. This involves either grinding away part of the outer layer, or cutting the stone in half to see the interior.
Since onyx bands are always parallel, an onyx that’s black on the outside and another color inside will always have been dyed. Unfortunately, this involves damaging the stone.
As with other crystals, it’s important to buy your crystals from an ethical supplier. If your metaphysical or crystal shop can vouch for their crystal sources, they should be able to tell you whether their onyx has been color-treated or not. It’s up to you to decide if this is important for your practice — some practitioners don’t mind if their onyx is dyed, as long as it’s still onyx.
It’s more important to choose a stone that resonates with you, rather than worry too much about whether it’s naturally colored. If possible, try to select your stone in person. That will let you hold it, examine it, and see how it feels.
Pick it up in your non-dominant hand, and explore any sensations or emotions that come up. A good stone should feel pleasant, or at least neutral. Avoid stones that are uncomfortable to hold, or make you feel suddenly angry, sad, or anxious. Each crystal is an individual, so a stone that doesn’t work for you might be perfect for someone else.
After choosing your onyx, you should cleanse it. Stones that are highly protective and grounding tend to pick up a lot of negative energy. They don’t necessarily store it, but it can alter their natural energetic baseline. Cleansing removes this influence, returning the crystal to its natural state. Choose whichever method seems the best for you and your individual stone.
Once the onyx is cleansed, you can choose how you’d like to work with it. Try meditating with it, and see what comes up. Place it over your heart, or near the area of your root chakra. Place it in a charm bag and carry it with you for protection. Use it as a magical tool for banishing negative influences or getting rid of old habits.
Onyx is a versatile stone with a very dramatic appearance. Large specimens are particularly eye-catching, and great for warding a room or home. Choose your onyx well and work with it often, and it will become a valuable and powerful ally.
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