The Delhi Purple Sapphire, in an arcane setting designed by one of its owners to contain its maleficent power with binding spells. Image Source: Live Science.
Today's Countdown to Hallowe'en post is about a curse of imperial plunder. Above, a gemstone with a reputation for leaving disaster in its wake. The gem is in fact an amethyst, stolen by a British soldier from a Temple of Indra - Hindu god of rain and thunderstorms - around the time of the 1857 Indian Mutiny. The current owner, the Natural History Museum in London, claims that it was stolen in 1855. From Kanpur, India, the stone made its way to Britain in the hands of Bengal cavalryman, Colonel W. Ferris. According to Live Science and The Indian Express, the gem spread misery to all who possessed it.
After coming into possession of the stone, Ferris and his son both suffered ill health and financial problems. A family friend who kept the gem for awhile committed suicide.
In 1890, the stone was given to Edward Heron-Allen, a lawyer, polymath and writer. He immediately started having bad luck. He gave the amethyst away twice to friends. One "was thereupon overwhelmed by every possible disaster", and the other, a singer, found "her voice was dead and gone and she has never sung since." Both times, the stone came back to Heron-Allen.
Heron-Allen came to believe that the Delhi Purple sapphire is "accursed and is stained with the blood, and the dishonor of everyone who has ever owned it." The Indian Express:
Heron-Allen surrounded the Delhi Sapphire with good luck charms. The Rosicrucians bound it in silver with mystic binding symbols. It was packed inside seven sealed boxes, and then locked inside a bank vault. Heron-Allen insisted that "under no circumstances must his daughter ever touch or be in possession of it." In 1921, he also published a collection of horror stories entitled The Purple Sapphire, which in 1932 was reprinted with additional stories as The Strange Papers of Dr. Blayre. One story in the collection, The Cheetah-Girl, about an animal-human hybrid, was deemed too shocking to see print, and Heron-Allen had to publish it with a vanity press in a separate limited edition.He even claimed to have thrown the amethyst into Regent's Canal only for it to be returned to him three months later by a dealer who had bought it from a dredger. In 1904, he had had enough. He declared: "I feel that it is exerting a baleful influence over my newborn daughter", and had it shipped to his bankers with instructions that it be locked away till after his death.
Images Source: Vault of Horror.
On Heron-Allen's death in 1943, his daughter donated the amethyst to London's Natural History Museum. She also gave them a letter that her father wrote cautioning future owners against directly handling it, which closed with the warning:
“This stone is trebly accursed and is stained with the blood, and the dishonour of everyone who has ever owned it….I am now packing it in seven boxes and depositing it at my bankers, with directions that it is not to see the light again until I have been dead thirty three years. Whoever shall then open it, shall first read this warning, and then do as he pleases with the jewel. My advice to him or her is to cast it into the sea.”
Edward Heron-Allen (1861-1943), English translator of the works of Omar Khayyam, expert in chiromancy or palmistry. He wrote horror and science fiction novels under the pen name, Christopher Blayre. His horror stories are reviewed here.
The Delhi Purple Sapphire remains part of the Natural History Museum's Vault Collection of precious gemstones. It was last exhibited in 2007. During a recent History Channel show about the museum, a contributor to the show pointed out the meaning of the occult binding symbols around the gem, but refused to hold or touch the gem.
A morning mantra (Ganesh Maha Mantra) of protection against evil to the Hindu deity, Lord Ganesha, led by Gen Xer Shankar Mahadevan. Other Ganesh mantras can remove obstacles or bring good luck. Video Source: Youtube.
On the video above, from Meditation Quest: "Each mantra contains certain specific powers of Lord Ganesha. When chanted with the proper pranayama (rhythmic breathing) and sincere devotion, they will yield good results. In general, Ganesha mantras will ward off all evil and bless the devotee with abundance, prudence and success. Evil spirits dare not enter the home or the mind of the devotee where Ganesha mantras are recited."
Incidentally, Canadian researchers have just discovered that a superstition - such as the belief in a curse - may serve an evolutionary purpose. Superstitions are often counter-intuitive and encourage believers to miss opportunities and waste resources. The fearful engage in anti-hex rituals, based on the assumption that they can thereby change their fates. But as a result of this surely-misguided assumption that the occult allows us to alter the future to our benefit, or can put us on a better destined path, these fears and corresponding rituals seem to inspire innovation, social confidence and communal bonding. Moreover, other creatures besides humans display superstitions as a form of fear and ritualized activity that is wrongly assumed to control the future. From Live Science:
researchers are finding evidence that superstitions may not be as pointless at all. By adopting a belief that you can -- or cannot -- do something to affect a desired outcome, you're among the cadre of beings that learn. By the way, that cadre includes pigeons.
Superstition is an evolutionary surprise -- it makes no sense for organisms to believe a specific action influences the future when it can't. Yet superstitious behavior can be recognized in many animals, not just humans, and it often persists in the face of evidence against it. Superstitions are not free -- rituals and avoidances cost an animal in terms of energy or lost opportunities. The question becomes how can natural selection create, or simply allow for, such inappropriate behavior?
"From an evolutionary perspective, superstitions seem maladaptive," said Kevin Abbott, biologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario and co-author with Thomas Sherratt of a recent study published in Animal Behaviour.
The study suggests multiple reasons for such anomalies to exist: perhaps superstition is adaptive as a placebo, or for social bonding. Or maybe it really is maladaptive now, but is "the outcome of traits that were adaptive in ancestral environment; sort of like cognitive wisdom teeth," said Abbott.
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