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(Gypsum Series - Part 1 of 7)
Much has been written about Arkansas quartz crystal, but there are many other important minerals to be found here in Arkansas. Gypsum is one of those “not to be overlooked” minerals that has equally important collector, commercial, and metaphysical value. While the world's largest gypsum dune field is found in White Sands, New Mexico, there are several deposits right here in Arkansas.
As one travels south out of the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas, they leave behind the Paleozoic rocks with their quartz crystals and enter the West Gulf Costal Plane of shallow sediments from the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. These deposits, ranging from 2.5 to 145 million years old include lenses of sedimentary gypsum.
Natural gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O) is a sedimentary mineral formed by cyclical evaporation and rehydration of soils rich in calcium and sulfates. The source of the calcium and sulfates may be from the local soils where the gypsum occurs or from distant calcium salt and sulfate deposits eroded and transported to the site over time by flowing water. Either way, as the mineral carrying water evaporates or percolates away into the ground, the calcium and sulfate combine to form molecules and crystals of hydrated calcium sulfate or Gypsum, the most common of the sulfate mineral class. The mineral is soft and lustorous, with a Mohs hardness of just 2.
Gypsum chalk is generally found around more compact or dense deposits of limestone, alabaster, or selenite and has the appearance and feel of plaster of paris, which is exactly what plaster of paris is. Whether it is powdery or compact and carved into statuary, jewelry, or other art pieces gypsum retains its basic composition as hydrated calcium sulfate. Due to inclusion of trace minerals, its color may range from colourless to white, gray, yellowish, reddish, greenish, or brown.
The uses of gypsum are diverse and historic, dating back to early civilizations who prized it for use in construction, statuary, art, and even as windows. Today, it is classified as a non-toxic mineral for use in farming, foods, healthcare, and building materials, it’s primary use. Nearly half of gypsum produced in the United States is now manufactured as an environmental remediation for removing sulfur from coal and natural gas consumption, but natural gypsum is still mined right here in Arkansas. I’ll be visiting one of these mines later this week and will include the results of my visit in the next post as I continue in this series about gypsum.
Though not part of its etymology, the word “gypsum” reminds me of one definition of the term ‘gypsy’ - “a nomadic or free-spirited person,” which is so characteristic of the formation and habit of the gypsum mineral itself. I like to refer to gypsum as the stone of flowing energy, not just because of its intimate relationship with water, but due to its structure that channels energy in both linear and planar directions.
The word “gypsum” actually derives from Greek ‘gypsos’, meaning ‘chalk’. While some gypsum is chalky (plaster of paris), other forms are compact clear crystals or larger clear windowlike panes and tabular blades (selenite), fibrous rods (satin spar), delicate rose or flower shaped crystals (sand roses), and massive, compact, and somewhat translucent alabaster.
Because of its polar molecular structure, metaphysically, gypsum is a strong energy conductor that encourages energetic flow, cleansing, removal of blockages, and strengthening and repair of damage to desirable energetic balance. It is an excellent tool for clearing other crystals and auric entanglements. Gypsum can interact with and support all living things, both physically and energetically. The ability of gypsum to easily dissolve in water and then reform over time demonstrates its ability to assist one to move, evolve, and change, without ever losing who they really are. In its various forms, gypsum may acquire some additional metaphysical properties, but it never loses any of the ones associated with its most basic form.
Placing gypsum, in any form, at the center of a medicine wheel ties the six directions of sky, earth, north, south, east, and west and leads to greater unity, right thinking, and alignment of purpose. Because gypsum readily absorbs water, it is often used in rain ceremonies, where in powdery form it is thrown into the air to absorb its moisture and then fall to the ground. It becomes a conduit, path, or vessel to carry the water (or energy) just as one goes to a well, draws the water, and carries it back to the home, or crops, or livestock.
Below are selected pictures of the many forms of gypsum, all of which we have here in our shop and which will become the subject of upcoming posts in this series.
Authors: Jerry & Lisa Griffin
Rocks and minerals are at the core of what we do here at Real Earth Creations. We collect them, cut them, polish them, make jewelry with them, and wear them. They connect us to the earth and the universe and they connect us to you when you walk through the door of our shop.