Since lapis lazuli has been mined as early as the 7th millennium BCE, it has a long and rich history of folklore and legends. Due to its stunning shade of blue flecked with gold, it has long been associated with Godliness and supernatural forces. So, how can we talk about Lapis Lazuli and not talk about its most popular legends and its favorite fairytales?
In Ancient Rome, lapis lazuli was believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac. The stone often represented love, peace, and joy. It was ground into powder and mixed with liquids to be used as a compress in order to relieve negative emotions and energize the throat chakra. Creating a poultice out of lapis lazuli was used to draw out spiritual impurities.
Ancient Egyptians were particularly fond of the azure stone. The deep blue color stood out against the drab, desert tones. Since lapis lazuli often resembles a starry night sky, it was associated with the heavens and the supernatural. Priests would often dye their garments with lapis lazuli paint to solidify their status as Gods.
Lapis lazuli was often used in religious rituals. It was commonly employed in exorcisms. The stone was pulverized and mixed with gold and the mixture was then placed on the head of the afflicted individual. As the poultice dried, it would draw out the demons. Lapis lazuli was also a highly popular material for amulets. The image of Truth was always inscribed on lapis lazuli, which was worn around the neck of the Egyptian High Priest. The Egyptian Book of the Dead describes in detail the importance of lapis lazuli in funeral rituals. Lapis lazuli amulets were used to protect the deceased from evil spirits by placing amulets of the blue stone on the person’s body.
Many other cultures have incorporated lapis lazuli into their rituals and folklore. One famous legend states that King Solomon was given possession of a lapis lazuli ring by an angel. This ring allowed him to control an army of demons, which he used to build his temple. Lapis lazuli is described as a stone of great power and an ornament of the Gods in Assyrian texts. The Babylonians told of a tree of precious stones, which sprouted lapis lazuli from its top. In Summerian mythology, the goddess Inanna roamed the underworld and used rods made of lapis lazuli to measure the length of a person’s life. Lapis lazuli was commonly viewed as the physical flesh of the Gods.
Despite the differences and distance between these ancient cultures, they all held lapis lazuli in high esteem and generally granted it the same designation as a powerful and spiritual object. It seems clear that the gemstone has inherent properties that evoke strong emotions, and this holds true as it continues to be idolized for its beauty even to this day.
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In this post you will find
Lapis Lazuli Legends & Folklore
Legend of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Sumerian narrative in verse about the adventures of King Gilgamesh. It constitutes the oldest epic piece known to man. It tells the story of the king of Uruk, a Sumerian city that presumably gave the name to the present Iraq.
The epic begins with five Sumerian poems about “Bilgamesh” (Sumerian for Gilgamesh), King of Uruk. Only a few tablets of it have survived. Approximately two thirds of this longer, twelve tablet version have been recovered. The best copies were discovered from the library ruins of the 7th century B.C Assyrian King Ashurbanipal.
The Epic is divided in twelve tablets. The story is told by someone that shows admiration for the ancient king. Maybe a high priest of the Sumerian temples. He tells someone to look for a mysterious chest and to take the Lapis Lazuli Tablet that the King Gilgamesh left behind.
Gilgamesh was a hated King, son of King Lugalbanda and also of Goddess Ninsun. He mistreated the elders and also killed the young ones in mortal combat. His own people pleaded to the gods to stop Gilgamesh. The gods decided to create a wild beast named Enkidu, half man-half beast.
Enkidu lived in the forest with the animals. Also feared by hunters.
King Gilgamesh heard the stories of the beast so he sent a priestess to seduce the beast. Samhat seduced Enkidu and after that he became a human being.
Enkidu decided to go to Uruk and he fought with Gilgamesh. Nobody knows who won, although some consider Enkidu as the winner. What we know is that after the fight, the enemies became great friends.
They started a series of adventures slaying monsters.
When Gilgamesh placed his crown on his head, the Princess Ishtar raised her eyes to the beauty of Gilgamesh.
“Come along, Gilgamesh, be you my husband,
to me grant your Lusciousness’.
Be you my husband and I will be your wife.
with wheels of gold and horns of amber.
It will be harnessed with great storming mountain mules!”
The Goddess Ishtar (Innana) fell in love with King Gilgamesh and tried to seduce him. Gilgamesh rejected her because he knew that all Ishtars lovers ended badly. Not happy with the rejection Ishtar sent the Bull of Heaven to kill Gilgamesh but the two friends killed it.
The bull had thickly coated horns of Lapis Lazuli. Gilgamesh filled them with oil and offered it in sacrifice to his father. The Bull of Heaven is what we know now as the constellation called Taurus.
The Gods were angry with them but they couldn’t kill Gilgamesh because his mother was a Goddess. So they decided to kill Enkidu.
After the death of his best friend, Gilgamesh went on a quest to discover the secret of eternal life.
He found the mythical Utnapishtim who told him how he survived the great flood on a vessel he made. Nobody doubts now that Utnapishtim was the inspiration for biblical Noah. Utnapishtim told him where to find the flower of youth. Gilgamesh was determined to take the flower to the council of elders of Uruk. This showed us that Gilgamesh was no more a cruel and selfish king. On his was back to Uruk a snake stole the flower….
We find many mentions of Lapis Lazuli in Gilgamesh, always as a way of making us understand the extraordinary worth of the object within which it is embedded. Gilgamesh is one of the earliest references in the history of mineralogy where precious stones are mentioned.
This is only one of the beautiful stories of the Gilgamesh Epic.
Other Legends of Lapis Lazuli also involved the Goddess Ishtar..
Lapis Lazuli Legend of Ishtar & Tammuz
Ishtar descended to hell to free his brother-lover Tammuz. Goddess Ereskigal had kidnapped Tammuz. Legend tells that Ishtar had a Lapis Lazuli necklace that protected her from the dangers in her voyage through the under world and the seven guardian doors.
On the first door she left her shoes to the guardian demon which symbolized giving up her Will.
In the second door she left her ankle jewelry that symbolized giving up her Ego.
On the third door she gave her cloth that meant giving up her Mind.
On the fourth door she gave up the golden bowls covering her breasts. This meant giving up her sexual activity.
And on the fifth door she gave up her Lapis Lazuli necklace that meant breaking off from the ecstasies of illumination.
Did somebody noticed that Lapis Lazuli was used to enter the Fifth door? In our post Lapis Lazuli Magical Properties we told you that lapis lazuli was a fifth stone on the Aaron’s Breastplate. Looks like a hell of a coincidence, don’t you think?
On the sixth and seventh door she gave her earrings and also her thousand petal crown that meant giving up her magic and her divinity respectively.
Ereshkigal killed Ishtar who was later revived by the gods.
Legend of Shipwrecked Sailor
Another incredible story is the one about the Shipwrecked Sailor. Our main character was a sailor that shipped out of Egypt on a trading voyage to the mines of the Pharaoh Amen-em-het. The great ship was rowed by a hundred and fifty sailors.
A terrible storm hit the ship and drove it to land. Our sailor seized a piece of wood and fling himself into the sea just as the ship ran aground. A moment later it was smashed to pieces and every man perished.
The sailor thanked the Gods because this was an island as no man has seen. He found within easy reach, figs and grapes, all manner of good herbs, berries and grain, melons of all kinds, fishes and birds for the taking. But it was empty from human companion.
On the third day he kindled a fire and cooked meat and fish. Suddenly he heard a noise like thunder. He saw the trees lashing and the earth shook beneath him. When he raised his head he saw a horrific site. Moving towards him he saw a serpent over a hundred feet long and with a great tail.
“All his body shone as if it was covered with gold, and his eyebrows were as if they were inlaid with real Lapis Lazuli”.
The serpent coiled around him and asked the sailor, “what has brought you, what has brought here, little one? Say, what has brought you to my island? If you do not tell me at once I will show you what it is to be burnt with fire, what is it to be burnt to nothing and become thing invisible? Speak quickly, I am waiting to hear what I have not heard before, some new thing”!
So the sailor explained the reason he was in the serpent’s island and how lucky he was to have survived.
The serpent told him he was there for a purpose and that he was going to stay there for four months when a ship from Egypt will arrive. He told the sailor that he will die of old age.
He also told him that he lived with his brethren and children, that they were seventy five serpents in all.
So the four months passed and the Egyptian ship arrived. The serpent gave him gifts and precious perfumes, incense, ivory and other precious things.
The sailor promised to visit him but the serpent told him that when he left the island will vanish away.
This magical tale is immortalized on an Egyptian papyrus dated back to circa 2,200 B.C. This papyrus can be found in St. Petersburg.
Lapis Lazuli Fairytale – “The White Cat”
Countess D’Aulnoy (1605-1705) wrote “The White Cat”. D’Aulnoy was a French fairy tale writer.
The story is about a prince that got lost as a result of looking for his father the king. He seeks refugee inside a castle. The castle had walls made of crystal and doors made from Lapis Lazuli and covered in pearls. The owner of the castle was a beautiful white cat with many servants.
The prince fell in love with the cat after visiting her several times. The prince chopped the cats head because it was the only way to break the spell the cat-princess was on. He married the princess and went back to the castle.
These beautiful stories full of mysteries and enigmatic messages have numerous references of lapis lazuli. The gems symbolized royalty and great wealth. We can appreciate the importance Lapis was to the ancient civilizations.
And it is also important for us in Nammu.com where you can find the best quality jewelry of Lapis Lazuli.
Pamirian Legend of Lapis Lazuli
There is a great deal of legends dedicated to this magnificent blue stone Lapis Lazuli. An ancient Eastern legend tells about the origin of lapis lazuli. When God created the earth, water and sky, he looked at the fruits of his labor, and was unhappy: the earth looked too dark and gloomy. But the blue water and the blue sky delighted the eye. Then he took a little of this marvelous blue and sprayed it on the ground. The sky-water azure has hardened and has become a stone of lapis lazuli.
But the most interesting and captivating one is about Pamirs. For a long time, legends of lapis lazuli, kept at the height of the “Roof of the World” – the Pamirs, have been walking along the land. They were carried by rare travelers, who visited the Firgamu field in Afghanistan with a danger to life. This was secretly reported to each other by the old Tajiks who went hunting for arhars to reach mountain peaks. Finally, this confirmed the geological structure of the Pamirs. Predictions and hopes were justified. In 1930, a deposit in the Pamirs was discovered. The lapis lazuli was of high quality and had beautiful deep blue. It was not inferior by quality, but superior to Chilean and Afghan.
So in the azure blue “Roof of the World”, as if it merges with glittering glaciers and the blue southern sky, a bright gem appeared. Life has replaced legends.
Thousands of years ago, high up in the mountains of the Pamirs, amidst majestic glaciers, lay the gorge. Surrounded by a mountain, so high and steep that no traveler, shepherd, or any animal could penetrate to it. And yet the mountain goats trod the path there. The path went narrowly, looped at high altitude above the abyss, in places the legs of the animal slid, and it fell into the abyss.
Time passed. The mountaineers reached the house of lapis lazuli. They settled there, because sheep and goats were drawn to the waters from melting glaciers in the gorge. From time to time the water of the Shahdar River washed away pieces of lapis lazuli. Highlanders picked up pieces of the sky and looked at the mountains.
Time has passed again. Those who found lapis lazuli, got a good luck, health, strong family ties, harvest and immortality. The stone was considered sacred. Beliefs about its impact reached the valley. The first getters came. They extracted the stone in an ancient fire way: they built a fire, then abruptly cooled it with water, an explosion occurred, and the block fell to pieces. On asses, lapis was taken under cover of the night with great precautions to preserve the secret of the location. Only the secret of the silkworm was kept with the same care.
But the mystery was revealed. The Pamir’s lapis lazuli fell into the world, and people realized immediately that it was better, cleaner and more beautiful than the Afghan one. Greedy eyes caught fire and wanted to enslave the Pamir mines.
The path to the mountains to lapis lazuli still existed, but almost collapsed, so the mountaineers rarely used it, but there were no strangers. Evil people in black came from India, yogis were believed to endure all the difficulties of the path. They came with great hopes and nothing stopped them. Then stubborn people climbed on the rocks, trying to climb over it. But failed. Then they, according to their ideas about the gods (idols), decided to sacrifice, so that the rock parted.
They took peacefully the briar firewood from locals and took away two innocent children – a boy and a girl, and burned them on a sacrificial fire near that rock. Sacrifice did not help, and then people in black, completely crazed by the greed for profit, began to take livestock from the inhabitants, cut it and put raw bleeding meat to the rock. Since the height of the mountains was impressive, and it was very cold almost all year round, the meat carcasses quickly crept to the stone, forming improvised steps. Along these steps the strangers climbed higher and higher up the cliff. However, the cattle was over, but the goal is not reached. People in black clothes began to kill people and continue to “build” the steps.
Pamirians became known as irreconcilable proud hermits. They rebelled and killed a few starngers.
Since then, the path has been completely destroyed, the course was forgotten in the mines, the deposit was considered to be a dying, cursed and became a sacred place.
We hope you were inspired by these legends and if you feel like you need to own a lapis lazuli piece, do not hesitate and visit Nammu where you will find a lot of jewelry pieces from lapis lazuli.