Let’s talk about mirrors… objects that have always been wrapped in a magical aura of charm, mystery and enchantment. Protagonists of stories, fairy tales, legends, they have been present since the beginning of human civilization.
The first mirrors made in antiquity were simple plates of metal, often silver, copper or bronze, perfectly polished.
In the 14th century in Venice, in particular in Murano, mirrors were produced by combining a plate of polished crystal with sheets of tin and mercury: the thin layers of tin were joined to the glass by means of a mercury bath and exerting pressure; this process was expensive and complex, making the mirror a luxury product. The famous Venetian mirrors spread to noble palaces and palaces. In 1634 the Murano artists in fact gave their very important contribution for the creation of the Mirror Gallery in Versailles.
Today mirrors consist of a glass plate on which a thin layer of silver or aluminum is deposited, fixed to the glass by electrolysis. The metal layer is deposited on the opposite side to the reflective one and is covered with a paint for protective purposes. In this way, however, a second, slight, reflection caused by the front surface of the glass is obtained.
The most intuitive use of the mirror is to mirror yourself, to see your own reflected image. Before the invention of the mirror, the only way to know one’s own image was probably to look at oneself reflected in the water.
The mirror is the most common symbol in Shintoism, in a shrine it can become an object of worship.
It has a pure light that reflects everything as it appears. In Shinto it symbolizes the unblemished mind of the kami (deities) and at the same time it is considered the symbolic embodiment of the worshiper’s faith in the kami.
We find the mirror among the Egyptian gods as a symbol of physical and spiritual reflection, they were in fact depicted with a mirror in their hand. They were able to see the consequences of the events that those figures who saw there were able to “trigger”. It would be important to use our “spiritual mirror” in the same way, to observe our thoughts and actions.
Mirrors are also of great importance in mythology:
Vulcan, the Roman blacksmith god of fire, created a magical mirror that showed the past, present and future. He also made one for his wife Venus, goddess of love. She used it to hide her actions and to be able to carry on a relationship with Mars, god of war.
Perseus used his shield as a mirror to defeat Medusa. No one could look directly at Medusa and live to tell it. The “rules” say that you will be turned to stone if you meet his gaze. Instead, Perseus never looks at her, only her reflection .
The Aztecs used obsidian to make their mirrors. Their mythology included Tezcatlipoca, the lord of the smoking mirror. He even wore a black mirror on his chest. As the god of communication, the mirror allowed his followers to speak to him (Morris 1993: 173).
Even the great wizard Merlin had a magic mirror.
There are various methods of making magical mirrors. The most common is to leave a mirror outside in the moonlight at night. Sprinkle a magical infusion of mugwort iced tea on the surface. Mugwort is a herb traditionally used to boost psychic powers, so it’s a good choice for these occasions. Always keep it covered and protected when not in use (and you’ll understand why later in the article).
Mirrors reflect things, be they things that are, things that were or things that will be. Look at Perseus. He can only defeat Medusa because he sees a copy of her reflected in her shield. This saves him from looking at her directly.
But they also act as doors . Watch Tezcatlipoca, who peeks out of his obsidian mirror to speak to his followers. Or people covering mirrors to prevent souls from getting trapped inside when a person dies.
The symbolism of the mirror is linked to the belief that the reflected image reveals and contains the soul of the beholder or is simply reflected in it. The breaking of this object is a bad omen since it is received at the fracture of the soul. In many countries, it is believed that letting a child look in the mirror is a practice to be avoided, as it will shorten their life. This is because the mirror is conceived as something that “captures the soul”, the essence, capable of imprisoning the spiritual energy of the subject, so that a vulnerable person, especially a child, can find himself in a certain sense “empty”.
In ancient times it was in fact in use, in the room where a deceased was composed, to cover the mirrors, to allow a peaceful passage into the afterlife. From this certainly also derives the traditional recognition of “he who wanders without a soul”, the vampire, the non-reflection par excellence and also the safest way to kill a basilisk (reptile that according to medieval beliefs gave death with a look , a bit like Medusa), instantly struck by his own image in the mirror.
The mirror is also used to communicate with spirits, and for divination, abilities similar to those of the crystal ball are attributed.
The diabolical incarnations avoid mirrors as their soul would appear in all its ugliness, as in an x-ray. The mirror is also a symbol of vanity and pride, as the myth of Narcissus recalls. In Christianity it is the Magdalene who is often represented with the mirror, the sinner who washes and anoints Christ’s feet with perfumed oil. In ancient Greece, the witches of Tessalya wrote their predictions, with human blood, on mirrors. Pythagoras taught that the Thessalians, presumed witches, were able to do wonders with the magic mirror, and even created the moon . The Romans knew how to read on mirrors, which they called “speculum”.
In Taoism the magic mirror shows the nature of evil influences but also has the power to remove them and that is why an octagonal mirror is placed above the doors of the houses. On the other hand, some traditions held that demons could not reflect each other and that, therefore, seeing each other they would die. Hence the use of mirrors also as tools of protection from evil forces (but we repeat: YOU MUST KNOW HOW TO USE THEM).
Even Feng Shui has its own philosophy regarding mirrors, believing that they reflect the Ch’i, the vital energy, favoring its circulation. For this reason, their use is recommended with the exception of some rooms, such as the bedroom, where an excessive flow of energy is counterproductive for sleep. Even in the Alexandrian catacombs, mirrors were found on which the formula ” Nosce ti Ipsum “, know thyself , was engraved , indicating that the only way to access this knowledge is to re-enter oneself.
In the field of divination, the mirror has been used since ancient times to ask spirits questions, just think of catoptromancy , divination with mirrors. Having said this, we can understand the intrinsic value of this tool which, apparently, allows us to understand who we really are, sending us an inverted image, the other half of ourselves, as if it were a door to another world . As long as we don’t get trapped in that image, because the mirror, like the crystal ball, can show us our inner ghosts and, of course, seeing them is not always pleasant …
The reflection is the beginning of the journey and the discovery of how illusory everyday reality is. In the mirror we can recognize our invisible parts, which are nevertheless no less real than those we are confronted with on a daily basis.
A solar symbol, but also a lunar one, as it is ambivalent : if the reflection can show us our true nature, it can also confuse us, make us lose. It is interesting that originally we were reflected in the water, an element intimately linked to the essence of things: a portal to access parallel worlds that would otherwise be closed to us .