Masks, jewel boxes, pendants, figurines… there’s a wide range of artistic designs among which you can choose the ideal souvenir after your visit to Mexico. Yet, don’t go back home with just an object; take back its history too. DINKtravelers will help you discover the origins and uses of obsidian in the territory where Mesoamerican cultures developed.
What is Black Obsidian
Something that only a few people know about obsidian is that it’s not a mineral, but a type of volcanic rock with a predominant dark and brilliant color that earns it the name of volcanic glass. Although most of the times you’ll find black obsidian, its contact with some minerals may give it reddish, greenish and brownish hues. This actually represents impurities, but for a traveler, peculiarities and differences are always deemed as an advantage that gives the chosen souvenir a unique touch.
Where in the World Can Obsidian Be Found?
Even though there are obsidian deposits in numerous destinations including Argentina, Canada, Greece, Australia, the United States and Turkey, among others, this stone was utterly important in pre-Hispanic Mexico where it even acquired a magical value.
Uses of Obsidian
If you choose to buy an obsidian ornament as a souvenir from your trip, transport it with great care because when obsidian breaks, its edges become extremely sharp. Truth is, you can say it’s fine, fragile and unruly. Actually, the indigenous profited from this property by elaborating cutting tools, and weapons like knives and arrows. Obsidian can make such fine cuts that it has even been used as a type of surgical knife! Of course, it would be sad that your souvenir broke, but if that were the case, you’d have the rare chance to hear the peculiar sound obsidian produces when it shatters. The indigenous considered it such a special sound that they compared it with a raging and unruly current that even inspired them to write poems!
Properties of Obsidian
In your trip to Mexico you’ll discover that even nowadays people attribute healing and therapeutic properties to obsidian. This also comes from a pre-Hispanic tradition. You see, polished obsidian was used as a mirror, thus the native cultures considered it a tool for self-discovery. Also, because of its volcanic origin, which they related it with fire, and its beauty, they believed it had esoteric qualities.
Obsidian Rock in Mexico
Obsidian was used by diverse cultures including, among others, the Olmec and the Maya. For this reason, you’ll find it in different parts of the Mexican territory such as Veracruz, close to the Gulf of Mexico; Oaxaca, near the Pacific; Yucatan, the peninsula that’s engulfed by the Atlantic, and even Teotihuacan, home of the famous pyramids. Remember that each of these figurines of gods and warriors is a work of art, and that it’s all handmade. Usually, the craft is inherited from parents to their children. Therefore, Mexican artisans who work obsidian are considered sophisticated sculptors.
Finally, if you wish to buy an exclusive souvenir and you don’t mind paying a high price for it, ask for works made in rainbow obsidian, a rare variety of this fine material.