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smoky quartz - stone of power

cairngorm and morion
Scotland has a long historical association with smoky quartz (as well as its very close quartz relative, citrine).

scotland's cairngorms

The Celts, who began colonizing the British Isles around 300 BC, called the dark colored smoky quartz crystals they mined in the Cairngorm Mountains of the Scottish highlands morion and the yellow-brown to gray-brown crystals mined there cairngorm, after ancient mining localities in the Cairngorms.
Beginning in the seventeenth century, craftsmen of Scottish weapons began to incorporate "cairn" stones -- smoky quartz or citrines from the Cairngorm Mountains -- into shoulder brooches, kilt pins and dirk pommels, a trend whose popularity continued to grow with the relative wealth of the population.
the sgian dhub
The national gem of Scotland, smoky quartz was and is a favorite ornamental stone of the Scottish dirk or sgian dhub (Gaelic for "dagger" and "black" respectively) -- a long dagger with a straight blade that is a prerequisite of Highland costume. ("Black" refers to the dagger handle which was and still is often made of bog oak, a hard jet-black wood.)

sgian dhub with cairngorm
photo: best kilt shop

A man's sgian dubh (pronounced "skean dubh"), was invariably carried in a place of concealment, very often under his armpit -- leading some to conclude that dubh ("black") also referred to the fact that the small but deadly dagger was 'secret' or 'hidden.'

When calling on another household, Highland protocol called for men to deposit their weapons -- including claymore or broadsword, dirk, a pair of pistols and a horn -- at the front door.

However, even when visiting 'friends,' Highlanders kept their sgian dhub close at hand -- since in those days of rapidly shifting loyalties it wasn't safe to ever be totally unarmed.

Accordingly, while retaining his dagger, out of courtesy to his host the proper Highland gentleman would remove it from under his armpit and put it somewhere where his host could see it, usually in his stocking -- which may have made it even quicker to access if needed...
diviner to the queen
On the other side of Scotland's border, there lived the renowned Dr. John Dee (1527-1608), alchemist, mathematician, astrologer, magician, and court diviner to Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603).

dr. john dee
photo: cover of the queen's conjuror

Known for his astrological studies, Dee�s fortunes began to rise upon the accession of Elizabeth I, due to the fact that Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley (the Queen's favorite), asked Dee to pick a propitious day for her coronation. Always interested in the occult, Elizabeth met Dee and was so impressed with him that she had him give her lessons in astrology.
A sphere of smoky quartz in the British Museum is reputed to be the famous 'shew stone' of Dr. Dee, a crystal which he alleged was brought to him by angels. The book Visions & Prophecies talks of how this experience changed the course of Dee's life in 1581:

"[Dee] later wrote of how, as he knelt in prayer late one autumn, 'there suddenly glowed a dazzling light, in the midst of which, in all his glory, stood the great angel, Uriel'. The spirit reported handed Dee a crystal 'most bright, most clear and glorious, of the bigness of an egg' and informed him that by gazing at it he could communicate with otherworldly spirits."

However, Dee had little luck at scrying with this 'shew-stone'. He eventually resorted to employing others to do the actual scrying, associating himself with a number of charlatans, the foremost of which was Edward Kelly, who has been described as a "classic Renaissance scoundrel."
Dee, in his last years, was described by his Elizabethan-era biographer, John Aubry, as

"...a beaten old man with 'a long beard as white as milke, tall and slender, who wore a gowne with hanging sleves' [who] earned a pittance telling fortunes and even sold his beloved books, one by one, in order to eat."

He died penniless at the age of 81.
the 'honours of scotland'
A smoky quartz crystal ball, two and a half inches in diameter, surmounts the Royal Sceptre of the "Honours of Scotland' -- as the Crown, Sword and Sceptre of the Scottish Crown Jewels are known.
scottish sceptre
The oldest of the three 'Honours,' the Sceptre was a gift from Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503) to King James IV (1473-1513) in 1494, as a symbol of papal support for Scotland, a 'special daughter of the Holy See.'

Remodelled and lengthened in 1536, it is made of silver gilt and topped by a sphere of Scottish smoky quartz and a Scottish pearl.

The Sceptre includes several Christian symbols. Stylised dolphins, symbols of the Church, appear on the head of the rod, as do images of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Christ, of Saint James the Great, and of Saint Andrew -- the patron saint of Scotland -- holding a saltire (an X-shaped figure in heraldry).

'honours of scotland'

The 'Honours' were first used together at the coronation of the nine-month old infant Mary, Queen of Scots (daughter of King James V, 1566-1625) in Stirling Castle in 1543.
They were last used at the coronation of King Charles II (1630-1685) at Scone Palace -- ancient crowning place of the kings of Scotland -- on January 1, 1651, the last coronation to ever take place in Scotland.
Oliver Cromwell, determined to destroy the Scottish Crown Jewels, as he had the English, desperately tried to stop the crowning of Charles II in Scotland by taking Edinburgh. However, Charles II was successfully crowned in Scone instead, with the Scottish regalia. The 'Honours' were then taken, at great risk to Dunnottar Castle, with an unhappy Cromwell in hot pursuit.
While the English were laying siege, the regalia were smuggled out of the Castle and buried to prevent their discovery and destruction. They remained buried until Charles II returned to the throne in 1660, at which time they were brought back to Edinburgh Castle and brought out during getherings of the Scottish Parliament. However, after the 1707 Act of Union they seem to have been forgotten.

depiction of the 'honours' discovery
photo: scottish snippets

One-hundred and eleven years later, it was the prolific Scottish historical novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) who rediscovered the 'Honors of Scotland.'
In October 1817, Sir Walter Scott obtained permission from King George III to search for the missing 'Honours.' After months of exhaustive searching, they were found on February 4, 1818, when together, the castle governor and Scott opened a locked oak chest where they found the 'Honours' still in their linen wrappings.
They have remained on display at Edinburgh castle ever since, except for a short stint during World War II during which time they were again buried to protect them from possible German invasion.