Amethyst Mythology • The Story of Amethyste and Bacchus

An amethyst crystal geode against a black background.

Amethyst in Greek Mythology

The most popular myth involving amethyst is a rather recent phenomenon. French poet Remy Belleau’s (1528 – 1577) poem “L’Amethyste, ou Les Amours de Bacchus et de Amethyste” is a story about Amethyste, a maiden, and her unfortunate encounter with the god of wine and revelry, Bacchus.

Amethyste Pursued by Bacchus

Bacchus was heedlessly pursuing Amethyste, who had been rebuffing his advances. She wished to remain chaste and petitioned the gods to help her remain so. Diana granted her request, turning her into a clear quartz crystal.

Bacchus Turns Amethyste Purple with Wine

Realizing her dedication to chastity, Bacchus was humbled. He poured wine over the crystal in tribute to Amethyste, turning it purple.

A lit amethyst-encrusted lamp sitting on a woven mat, with a person sitting cross-legged in the background holding a sage smudging stick.
Amethyst Intuition Lamp from Conscious Items.

Other Variations of Amethyst Mythology

However, there are other variations of this story. One would have it that Bacchus was angry over an insult. Therefore, out of rage proclaimed that the first person to cross his path would be fed to his tigers.

Amethystos Protected from Tigers by the Gods

Unfortunately, this fate fell on the head of a maiden named Amethystos. She was on her way to the shrine of Diana as she crossed Bacchus’ path. As she was fed to the tigers, she petitioned her goddess for protection.

Bacchus Cries Purple Tears Over Amethyst Crystal

In turn, the gods transformed her into a clear, white crystal. As Bacchus’ ruthlessness became evident to him, he mournfully cried violet tears over the crystal, turning it purple.

Amethyst Mythology is a Recent Phenomenon

It is important to note, however, that this myth is a rather recent phenomenon. There is no mention of it in classical sources. The Amethyst gem is mentioned in a historical text, but as a gift from the titan Rhea to Dionysus to help him preserve his sanity.

Fun Facts About Amethyst

Amethyst is February’s birthstone. Its name comes from the Greek word amethystos, which means “not intoxicated.” The stone is a purple variety of quartz and owes its distinct color to irradiation and iron impurities.

How Do You Keep Amethyst from Fading?

The depth and intensity of Amethyst’s color are mutable and can change when overexposed to light. Likewise, there are ways to artificially enhance amethyst’s color using radiation.

Amethyst cluster sitting on a wooden counter.

What Did the Greeks Use Amethyst For?

The Greeks would drink out of vessels carved from amethyst, believing it would help stave off drunkenness.

Keeping Cool with Amethyst

During medieval times, European soldiers wore amulets made of amethyst. This is because they believed it would heal them and keep them cool-headed.

Amethyst and Pentecost

Anglican bishops often wear rings set with Amethyst. This is symbolic of the apostles being “not drunk” during Pentecost in the biblical book of Acts. 

Amethyst heart clusters from Conscious Items sitting on a lavender-colored mesh cloth.
Amethyst Love Heart Cluster from Conscious Items.

Buddhism and Amethyst

To the Tibetans, Amethyst is sacred to Buddha. They often wear prayer beads fashioned from Amethyst.

Where Can You Find Amethyst?

You can find the best amethyst gem specimens in Sri Lanka, Siberia, and Brazil. A notable abundance of amethyst comes from Minas Gerais in Brazil. You will also find Amethyst in mines in South Korea, Uruguay, Austria, and certain areas of North America.

South Carolina State Gem

The Amethyst gem is the official state gemstone of South Carolina.

A person with long, manicured nails holding an amethyst cluster in the palm of their hand.

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