Mirrors: The Magical and the Haunted
Let's Reflect: A Brief History of Mirrors
For as long as there have been people wanting to look good there has been a mirror of some kind. The mirror as we know it today was invented in 1835 by a man Von Liebig and is technically the "silver-glassed mirror", but mirrors made of various stones and other elements date back to at least 6000 B.C. Mirrors in ancient times were made of precious metals or stones that were able to cast a reflection. Some of these materials included: obsidian, copper, bronze, and iron. But what did the women do when they couldn't afford such an exquisite luxury?
Water was poured into a bowl and used as a looking-glass for those who were not royalty. Or they did it the old-fashioned way - took a trip down to the river or local body of water and had a look at themselves. Funny enough, mirrors were not only used as a means to gaze upon one's physical reflection, but they were also used as a means to gaze into the future. To have visions of what was to come or what had been. In that lies the mirror's magic...
The Ancient Magic In Mirrors
Why is it that cultures all over the world dating back to ancient times believed that mirrors were magical? Mirrors are directly related to the water element. Depending on the culture's beliefs, the water element was representative of different things but mostly including love, dreams, creativity, and intuition. Water was thought to be a barrier between this world and the spiritual world, and therefore was connected with the afterlife.
Water reflected our images back at us, which to the prehistoric human being would have been magic in and of itself. But the magic lied underneath of that reflection. It is thought that the first mirror was probably a pool of water that was designated as a mirror to check one's reflection or even to use as a means of divination. Therefore, mirrors will forever be associated with the water element.
In Ancient Rome, mirrors were mentioned in quite a few of their godly tales. Medusa and Narcissus were associated with mirrors. The story of Narcissus tells of this god looking into a mirror and falling in love with his reflection, not realizing it is himself that he is staring at. Roman gods were sometimes killed by mirrors, as in the case of Medusa. Archimedes used a mirror in warfare in order to set ships from Syracuse ablaze circa 212 B.C.
But the Romans weren't the only ones to have used and produced mirrors - the ancient Egyptians also used mirrors made of copper and other metals. Egyptians felt mirrors were very important, as they wore a lot of make-up for spiritual purposes. Eye make-up was applied to protect one's eyes which were the opening to one's soul. Many mirrors from ancient Egyptian times have an image of the goddess Hathor adorning them, and mirrors were associated with sexuality and rebirth when made with a handle. The Anatolians (modern day Turkey) were thought to have made the first mirrors out of a volcanic black rock called Obsidian. Mirrors found from this time date back to 6000 B.C.
Being that a mirror can be a portal to the other side or other dimensions, it is no wonder that there are many stories of haunted mirrors. In fact, a movie is being produced called Oculus, which goes into the gory details of a mirror so haunted that it actually has the ability to take human beings' lives. But haunted mirrors are not a new concept.
On an old plantation in Louisiana, it is said that three souls are trapped in a mirror to this day. This mirror is located within the Myrtles Plantation home of which is said to be one of the most haunted homes in the United States. Legend has it that after the woman of the house and two of her children were poisoned to death, the mirror in question was not covered with a cloth and so their souls were trapped inside. Their images and even handprints have been seen in the mirror from time to time, frightening the eyewitnesses half to death.
In February of 2013, a reportedly haunted mirror in England was auctioned off on EBay for $155. The sellers had acquired this antique haunted mirror by saving it from the dumpster outside of their home. They claimed that their landlord had thrown it out and once they brought it into their home they experienced all sorts of bad luck. Bad financial problems and illness consumed their lives for a period of a few months until they decided to get rid of the mirror. In addition to illness and bad luck, the sellers claimed they saw shadows and experienced feelings of doom while around the haunted mirror. They sold it on EBay and haven't had problems since.
These are just a few of the terrifying stories revolving around haunted mirrors. My friend told me a story about her friend's mother who owns a haunted mirror...some people refuse to even enter the home because of that haunted mirror and the effects it can sometimes have on the atmosphere within the home...and similar to scenes shown in Oculus, light bulbs have shattered on occasion.
Magic Mirrors in Fairy Tales & Folklore
Many of us see our true selves reflecting back from the mirror every day...while others see a mere glimpse into their true selves. Some even see a person staring back that is someone else entirely. Mirrors were thought to be magical in many ways for many years and this magic has been passed down through the ages via fairy tales and folklore.
Lewis Carroll's classic story "Through the Looking Glass" paints a terrifying picture of a little girl named Alice who walks into another world simply by walking through a mirror. She finds that there is an alternative dimension just on the other side of the looking glass, full of realistic yet surreal monsters and beings. She realizes that our reflections aren't always truthful.
One of our most popular and beloved fairy tales, Snow White, tells us of an Evil Queen who consults her magic mirror when she has a question. Usually the question is in direct relation to her vanity, and she finds that the mirror will never lie...it always tells her the truth. Even if it's not what she wants to hear. This depiction of a magic mirror ties into the ancient divination technique known as "scrying" or "seeing".
In some countries, vampire folklore involves mirrors in that vampires have no soul and therefore cannot see their own reflection in the mirror. This legend has been used by Hollywood in a number of vampire films, including The Monster Squad and Fright Night. It is said that if you place a mirror in the doorway, it will keep vampires away.
Ruthie dies in Fried Green Tomatoes...notice the mirrors are covered upon death.
In addition to being present in our fairy tales, folklore, and even ancient history, mirrors have also permeated our old wives' tales and superstitions. Here are just a few examples:
Who hasn't played Bloody Mary at a sleep-over as a child or teenager? Bloody Mary is a popular urban legend involving mirrors that children in the United States play to scare themselves and each other. The steps to take vary from person to person, but generally what one would do is go into a bathroom and turn off the lights, say "Bloody Mary" three times or more. And then when the lights are turned back on, a ghost known as Bloody Mary is supposed to appear in the mirror. I have never met Bloody Mary in the mirror...have you?
One popular superstition is the seven years of bad luck belief. If you are to drop and shatter a mirror or even crack a mirror, it inevitably means you will have seven years of bad luck in any and all matters of life - love, money, health, etc. This belief is thought to date back to Roman times as the Romans believed that the soul can re-generate itself within a matter of seven years. And, well, if a mirror reflects one's soul back it only makes sense as to why a shattered mirror could cause harm to one's life.
Certain traditions after a death in the family have been upheld for hundreds of years, and are even very similar across the board of cultures. Many people would cover all of the mirrors in a house when someone would die for fear that their souls would be trapped in the mirror and not move on to the afterlife. This tradition is still being upheld in places throughout the world, including Ireland and parts of the United States. If you watch the clip to directly above, you'll notice that at about two minutes in when Ruthie dies, the woman stops the clock in the house and also covers the mirror with a cloth.
Mirror Scrying Basics
We can see why the mirror has long been regarded as one of the most magical and powerful items in a person's home. This is clearly for various reasons dating back thousands of years.
Today we are able to use mirrors to attain certain answers to our questions, including what lies ahead of us in the future. This practice of gazing into a mirror and acquiring supernatural knowledge is known as "scrying". One can purchase a scrying mirror online (like the one shown above) or one can use their own mirrors in order to do this.
Here's a quick step-by-step guide on how to use a mirror to scry:
- Have your mirror ready in hand or in front of you.
- Turn down the lights and light a candle or use the light of a Full Moon.
- Relax your body completely and clear your mind.
- Allow your eyes to slightly close and gaze into the mirror.
- Focus on your question or intent and allow any images to take shape in the mirror in front of you.
This could take some practice and will also take at least 20 minutes or more to allow for the images to appear in the mirror. Don't give up if you don't get results the first time!
Test your magical mirror knowledge.
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© 2014 Nicole Canfield