In one of my videos* I used a mirror as a prop and symbol for the unconscious mind.
In myth Narcissus loved his reflection so much that he lost his will to live and admired himself to death. In our dreams mirrors can represent vanity, self-consciousness, a reflection of our self-image, an entry into the soul, or the need to reflect on our lives.
Whether in our waking world or in our dreams mirrors have always been seen as mystical, magical, metaphors for what lies within us.
For thousands of years mirrors and reflective surfaces have been used for divination and magic. They have been used for Scrying, developing clairvoyance, to repel evil, and in fact, mirrors have an ancient tradition of being associated with superstition, fear and evil.
1) Prior to the thirteenth century and as far back as the 3rd century BCE, mirrors were predominantly polished pieces of metal e.g. gold, silver and brass. These pretty much disappeared when the Christian church banned them during the middle ages because it was thought that the devil was watching from the other side of the mirror. This idea was probably reinforced because witches were said to use them for all kinds of dark spell casting. Glass mirrors showed up again in Venice in the 1200s.
2) Those ancient black Scrying (from descry–to see or perceive) mirrors used for divination by witches and sorcerers were once made black by using asphaltum painted on the glass three times. These were used for foretelling the future, or being able to “see” what is happening from distances, but is this real?
I imagine the staring at crystal balls, or Scrying mirrors to be similar to a focused meditation. Try closing your eyes in a meditation and focus on an individual, place, or event and “see” what you get.
Some studies have suggested the possibility that at least some individuals can see from distances beyond the physical abilities of the natural eye. Though these studies are not conclusive, they do provide tantalizing evidence for the technique of “remote viewing.”
Dreams too are like projections onto a darkened mirror some of which defy an explanation of anything other than what might be called precognition, or a shared viewing with someone else.
In short, meditation can often quiet the chattering mind just enough for us to see what the unconscious has picked up, but the conscious was too busy to notice. Thus too the Scrying mirror may act as a focusing instrument to still the mind and lay open the secrets of the inner psyche.
3) Today some tribal societies believe that to expose your self to a mirror is to render the soul vulnerable to misfortune, or even death. There used to be a widespread custom, and in some areas there still is, to remove all the mirrors from the house when a person is sick so as to prevent the mirror from stealing their soul.
When someone has died there was a tradition of turning the mirrors to face the wall because to see your reflection in a mirror after someone’s death will cause that person’s death as well. There was also a legend in the southern United States that suggested that an uncovered mirror in the house of a person who had just died would capture the soul of that person.
4) In the case of necromancy (communication with the deceased), the mirror represents absorption of the soul and then reflection, or its return, Could this reflect the concept of death and resurrection?
5) There is a myth concerning years of ill fortune surrounding the breaking of a mirror, but did you know that there is also a superstition that says if a mirror falls on its own accord and breaks, it is also a death omen? On the other hand a girl who sees the reflection of the moon in a mirror will learn the date of her wedding (given that women generally determine the day and then tell the man when it’s to be, this is no surprise).
6) There is also an old superstition that if you were to stare into the reflection of yourself at night, one would see the devil. Though I don’t believe this, I also have an aversion to staring at my reflection in a darkened room for too long–something creepy always seems to hover close by.
7) However, I have heard it said and have tried this myself, that if you are feeling blue, or anxious with no one around to talk to, try staring into your eyes reflected in a mirror. After awhile the negative mood will disappear.
8) Some Buddhists believe that if you hang a mirror on the wall directly facing the front door, evil spirits will be reflected out of the house.
9) In Tarot reading the Mirror Spread is used to work with existing relationships, e.g. the cards are placed with the 1st, or querent card, placed at the top and then 3 cards in descending order to the left of it and 3 cards in descending order to the right and the result card placed at the bottom between these two rows. In this way the reader and querent can see the relationships in opposition i.e. The way you see the other person in the relationship; The way they see themselves; What the person represents to you; What you represent to them; Obstacles within the relationship; Strengths within the relationship.
I spell all this out because I think this isn’t a bad way of looking at relationship symbols in a dream, or in a person’s waking life as well.
10) In Corinthians 13:12 is the line, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” Which some have taken to mean that to see something reflected in a mirror is less of the reality of that thing than to gaze upon it directly. This can happen when one looks back upon their childhood, or try to see what the child saw of the world, or to assign meaning to past events, or to look at God’s works through ones biases. To look through a window, or gaze at a mirror that has been darkened by your judgments and self-criticisms makes it difficult to see your true nature or what lies beyond your projected biases. This also reminds me of the saying involving “rose colored glasses.” To look through either does not give a true picture of the world.
As Rumi, the 13th century Muslim poet was purported to have said,
“Maybe you should glimpse your most beautiful face…Maybe you are the bearer of hidden treasure. Maybe you always have been.”
*See facebook.com/darcharithinn and click on the Video section then click on the 4th video on the top row. This is “Beginning Shadow Work #6”.