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Monday, July 20, 1998 Published at 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK

UK Politics

Cherie's 'magic pendant'

"A matrix of specially-cut quartz crystals"

By BBC News online's Nick Assinder.

Cherie Blair must be one of Britain's most successful women.

She not only works as a leading QC, but also manages to fit in the duties of a prime minister's wife and mother of three.

The stresses must be enormous and it is little wonder she seeks help to relieve the strains of her daily life.

But of all people, Mrs Blair is the last anyone would suspect of turning to the wacky world of mystic medicine.

Yet the evidence appears to be there for all to see. When she attended last week's premier of Doctor Dolittle she was sporting what is claimed to be a magical pendant.

Hearing voices

The BioElectric Shield is said to surround the wearer with a "cocoon" of energy that combats the harmful radiation from computers, mobile phones, hairdryers - and even some people.

It contains the latest fad of all New Agers - crystals. And in this particular case "a matrix of specially-cut quartz crystals".

The man who invented the shield, American Dr Charles Brown, claimed he made the first one after hearing voices in his head telling him what minerals to use.

In Britain, the pendants come in silver or gold and you don't need to be psychic to guess they will be expensive - between 105 and 749 to be precise.

Mrs Blair is said to have been put on to the idea by Hillary Clinton. But there are plenty of precedents for politicians and their wives turning to alternative treatments and even the downright barmy.

Alternative practices

Ronald Reagan allegedly did nothing before his wife Nancy had checked it out with her personal astrologer.

Margaret Thatcher used some type of special "electric" bath to keep her going at her legendary pace.

And even William Hague has admitted to resorting to meditation to ease away the strains of office.

Some so-called alternative practices are in common use and, while dismissed as superstitious mumbo-jumbo by doctors and scientists, are widely seen as harmless and even beneficial.

But others see the eruption of New Age twaddle in the run-up to the millennium as a worrying sign that the world is losing its marbles, never mind its crystals.

Downing Street has refused to speculate about the pendant, insisting it is "just a piece of jewellery."

And there is no confirmation from the prime minister's wife that she has turned to New Ageism - or even knows what the pendant is.

We will probably only know for sure if a pyramid turns up in the rose garden at No 10.

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