Notes: Mirrors in history and mirror superstitions

Wikipedia entry “Mirror”

The first mirrors used by people were most likely pools of dark, still water, or water collected in a primitive vessel of some sort. The earliest manufactured mirrors were pieces of polished stone such as obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glass. Examples of obsidian mirrors found in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) have been dated to around 6000 BC. Polished stone mirrors from Central and South America date from around 2000 BC onwards.[1] Mirrors of polished copper were crafted in Mesopotamia from 4000 BC,[1] and in ancient Egypt from around 3000 BC.[2] In China, bronze mirrors were manufactured from around 2000 BC,[3] some of the earliest bronze and copper examples being produced by the Qijia culture. Mirrors made of other metal mixtures (alloys) such as copper and tin speculum metal may have also been produced in China and India.[4] Mirrors of speculum metal or any precious metal were hard to produce and were only owned by the wealthy.[5]
Metal-coated glass mirrors are said to have been invented in Sidon (modern-day Lebanon) in the first century AD,[6] and glass mirrors backed with gold leaf are mentioned by the Roman author Pliny in his Natural History, written in about 77 AD.[7] The Romans also developed a technique for creating crude mirrors by coating blown glass with molten lead.[8]

Symbolism & Superstition

Mirrors and superstition

There are many legends and superstitions surrounding mirrors. Mirrors are said to be a reflection of the soul, and they were often used in traditional witchcraft as tools for scrying or performing other spells. It is also said that mirrors cannot lie. They can show only the truth, so it is a bad omen to see something in a mirror which should not be there. Also there is a European legend that a newborn child should not see a mirror until its first birthday as its soul is still developing. If the child sees its reflection it is said that it will die.
It is a common superstition that someone who breaks a mirror will receive seven years of bad luck.[32] The reason for this belief is that the mirror is believed to reflect part of the soul. Therefore, breaking a mirror will break part of the soul. However, the soul is said to regenerate every seven years, thus coming back unbroken. To prevent a broken mirror from reflecting a broken soul during the seven-year interim, one of many rituals must be performed. Two alternatives include grinding the broken mirror to dust (perhaps the easiest approach)[33] or burying the mirror. It is also said that tapping the broken mirror on a gravestone seven times will allow the soul to heal. However, if the mirror is both touched to the gravestone and buried, the bad luck will remain. The only course of action for one in this position is to dig up the mirror and grind it to dust. This dust must be sprinkled around the same gravestone on which the mirror was initially tapped.
There is a Buddhist belief that negative spirits will enter houses through the door if they have triangular-shaped roofs. Hanging a small circular mirror in front of the door will prevent the bad spirits from entering.
In days past, it was customary in the southern United States to cover the mirrors in a house where the wake of a deceased person was being held. It was believed that the person’s soul would become trapped in a mirror if it was left uncovered. This practice is still followed in other countries (e.g., Romania), extending to everything that could reflect the deceased person’s face (such as TVs and appliances). Another explanation given is that the devil will appear in the reflection of the dead. Mirrors falling from walls or otherwise breaking or cracking mysteriously were said to be haunted. A similar custom existed in Greece, in the belief that use of mirrors is a sign of vanity that does not become mourning. (Other Greek mourning customs include not playing music, not entertaining guests, and using no festive decorations, e.g. on Christmas, during the customary year-long mourning period).
According to legend, a vampire has no reflection in mirrors because it is an undead creature and has already lost its soul.
Another superstition claims it is bad luck to have two mirrors facing each other.
A staple of childhood slumber parties is the game Bloody Mary, which involves chanting “Bloody Mary” three times in a darkened room while staring into a mirror. There are many versions of the game, but the general idea is that “Mary” will appear in the mirror and attempt to harm or kill the person who has summoned her. Thanks to a series of popular horror movies based on a supernatural killer who haunted mirrors, the phrase “Candyman” may be substituted for Mary.

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