I recently attended a rock show out in Issaquah, Washington with my coven-sister W. and her husband. It was a blast, and I do have to admit to coming home many dollars lighter. One of the many highlights of the excursion was my introduction to this stone, bumblebee jasper.
Now, this stone comes from the solfataras surrounding Mount Papandayan in Indonesia, a 150 mile drive southeast from Jakarta, and the natives there call it batu badar blerang, which can be roughly translated as ‘coal becoming sulfur.’ It is essentially a sedimentary rock matrix of volcanic ash–deep earth mud with sulfur layers. It is largely composed of layered gypsum, sulfur, hematite, all glued together with tuff. Lapidarists suspect that the yellow sulfur layers contain realgar and orpiment, both arsenic sulfides, and therefore take a lot of caution when working with the material. It is a fairly soft stone–softer than travertine marble–so many also stabilize it with materials and epoxy akin to concrete sealant before working with it. It has grown in popularity in the west since the mid 1990s when an Indonesian rock dealer first shipped a few samples to rock shows in Arizona under the more whimsical name of “bumblebee jasper.”
The name has stuck, much to the dismay of many rockhounds as it is definitely not a jasper (a cryptocrystalline form of silica with intergrowths of quartz and moganite). Others call it bumblebee agate, but as agate is a very similar stone to jasper, this really doesn’t solve the nomenclature problem. Personally, I rather like the poetry behind ‘coal becoming sulfur’, but that is a bit of a mouthful.
Metaphysically, I think it is fairly safe to say that bumblebee jasper combines the energies of sulfur and hematite. Melody’s Love is in the Earth notes that both are fairly positive minerals. Sulfur, in particular “assists one in the removal of negative wilfulness and in the elimination of distracting intellectual thoughts and emotions that could affect the emotional and intellectual bodies” and can therefore ground the reasoning faculties and promote an abundance of energy and flashes of inspiration. Melody also notes that sulfur “can help to gently ‘melt’ the barriers blocking progress” and that Native Americans had used it to bring together the four directions, Mother Earth, and Father Sky. Hematite is also mentally-focused and can “help one to ‘sort-out’ things in one’s mind” and help with “mental attunement, memory enhancement, original thinking, technical knowledge, and mental and manual dexterity.” Yet, while it sharpens the mind, it promotes a calming atmosphere that still encourages one to “reach for the sun” and see that “the only limitations are those self-limiting concepts within the mind.” As such it helps to transform negativity into the light of love, balance yin-yang energies, and balance the energies between mind, body, and spirit.
Overall, then, it would be safe to assume that bumblebee jasper can help sharpen the intellect by helping to maintain a clear focus without the flotsam and jetsam of constant multi-tasking, by balancing mental energies in proportion with body and spirit, by opening one to inspiration, and by melding our barriers to join with those of greater forces.
I also think that bumblebee jasper a stone that can’t be used lightly. I myself am repulsed by it as much as I am drawn to it. Perhaps that is because the stone itself incorporates a couple major warning signs in western culture: the combination of bright yellows and black, and the smell of sulfur. While individually the colors of yellow and black are very positive–yellow being associated with the heat of the sun, the intellect, optimism, and warmth and black being associated with mystery, rest, and refinement–the combination spells out danger. This is something that even carries out to biology where aposematism, or warning coloration, makes abundant use of yellow and black, particular with stripes. With just one look, you know that most black-and-yellow creatures are not to be handled lightly. Evolution has hard-wired us to see these colors and immediately feel wary: there’s a reason we’ve co-opted these colors for our ‘caution’ signage. So, too, do we go running when we smell sulfur. It’s the smell of body odor and infections, rotting meat and eggs, skunks and flatulence. When we get a whiff of any one of these, we are instantly repelled. And if you put your nose up to an un-sealed sample of bumblebee jasper, you’re going to get quite the brimstone bouquet.
Because of this, I feel that bumblebee jasper is also a stone of courage and fear. It draws you in, but puts a healthy, respectful reserve in you. It can open you up to great adventure and experiences beyond your wildest dreams…but you’ve got to go in with your eyes wide open.
Based both on the properties of sulfur and hematite and the attraction/repulsion factor of the stone itself, I actually think it is a great stone for helping you learn how to safely work within magical space. You’ve got to have a great mental focus, but one that is in balance with your emotional and spiritual selves, and you’ve got to break down barriers and merge with other energies. You’ve got to put aside your own mental limitations to reach for the sun. You’ve got to have courage, but you’ve also got to have respect and caution. In my opinion, it would be difficult to find a better stone for promoting a good mindset for circle work than bumblebee jasper.