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Mirrors and Luck

Before mirrors came along any reflective surface was said to be magical. The idea of capturing a persons reflection may well have been akin to the notion of capturing someone's soul, or personality

Here’s an interesting question..

I would like to know more about the myth of breaking a mirror gives you seven years of bad luck, were did this originate and was there a mirror god in any culture ever?

So from my initial ‘reflections’, pun obviously intentional, here are some thoughts….

Before mirrors came along any reflective surface was said to be magical. The idea of capturing a persons reflection may well have been akin to the notion of capturing someone’s soul, or personality whichever mystical construct was the most relevant.

There are numerous ancient myths about Gods and Goddesses looking into still pools of water to see what the future may hold. The magical ‘tradition’ of scrying comes from this idea. (Scrying is a form of divination where the prophet gazes into a reflective surface to see the future). Some say that it was Queen Elizabeth the 1st magician and astrologer John Dee who made scrying popular, but it was firmly part of magical practices well before the 1600’s.

Mirrors and other reflective surfaces also have been attributed with the idea of deception. Magicians deceits are ‘done with mirrors’, but in story we have the mirror featuring in the story Narcissus and Snow White.

Interestingly mirrors are also seen as being transformative. There is a magical practice of sitting in candle light and meditating upon your reflection in a mirror. The low light levels and the properties of human visual perception mean that after a short while the image will change, it can appear that the looker has become someone else. This idea of ‘transfiguration’ is well represented in spiritualist practices.

So Mirrors have been seen as gateways between the material world and the world of the spirit, or of the world of the future. Hence breaking a mirror will have an effect on the future (or fate) of the person who breaks it OR it will allow access of spirits from the ‘other side’ into this world.

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Other mirror superstitions:

  • To see your reflection in a mirror is to see your own soul, which is why a vampire, who are without a soul, have no reflection.
  • If a couple first catch sight of each other in a mirror, they will have a happy marriage.
  • If a mirror falls and breaks by itself, someone in the house will soon die.
  • Any mirrors in a room where someone has recently died, must be covered so that the dead person’s soul does not get trapped behind the glass. Superstition has it that the Devil invented mirrors for this very purpose.
  • Before mirrors, in ancient societies, if you caught sight of your reflection or dreamt of it, you would soon die.
  • Someone seeing their reflection in a room where someone has recently died, will soon die themselves.
  • Babies should not look into a mirror for the first year of their lives.
  • Actors believe that it is bad luck to see their reflection while looking over the shoulder of another person.
  • To see an image of her future husband, a woman is told to eat an apple while sitting in front of a mirror and then brush her hair. An image of the man will appear behind her shoulder.
  • There’s an ancient superstition that says all mirrors in a house where someone has died must be covered. This prevents the soul from getting trapped in the mirror. And anyone else who’s admired his or her reflection in the mirror risks losing his or her soul, because the ghost of the dead person will take it!
  • If a mirror falls from a wall it means someone is going to die.
  • A mirror framed on three sides means a witch has used it to see over long distances.
  • Ancient Chinese believed that mirrors frighten away evil spirits who get scared when they see themselves; and if the mirror was broken the protection was lost.
  • If a couple’s first sight of each other is their reflections in a mirror they will have a happy marriage.

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In terms of Gods and mirrors…

The name Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec God, is literally translated as smoking mirror. In one of the stories Tezcatlipoca impersonated a god named Titlacauepan in order to shame Quetzalcoatl into getting drunk enough to rape his sister. He then showed Quetzalcoatl’s true image as a feathered serpent in his “smoking mirror” and shamed him into exile with the Mayan Gods in the underworld.

Tezcatlipoca is often considered a rather sinister character, more like Seth or Loki. It is suggested that his cult consisted of sorcerers and he was venerated by thieves, murderers, adulterers, and others who needed night to cover their misdeeds.

Quetzalcoatl is a very ancient god known to the Mayas and ancient Teotihuacan ruins. He is often depicted with a mirror in his chest. He was Lord of Healing and magical herbs, known as a symbol of thought and learning, of the arts, poetry, and all things good and beautiful. Lord of Hope and Lord of the Morning Star. He has been likened to England’s King Arthur, both a real person and myth. According to some ancient sources a series of nine different Toltec kings succeeded the original man/god all calling themselves Quetzalcoatl.

When linking the stories of Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl we notice there is a little discrepancy… the feathered serpent image does not seem to sit with the notion of a beneficial God. This is perhaps because in the Tezcatlipoca stories we see a rival God attempting oust a respected God (hence the trickery). Quetzalcoatl’s association with the feathered serpent is interesting.

The quetzal bird, native to the western area of Guatemala and Mexico, was regarded as the most beautiful bird and called Quetzaltotolin, meaning “most precious”. The symbol of the feathered serpent was Quetzalcoatl, meaning not just feathered serpent, but “most precious serpent”. Quetzalcoatl is not the feathered serpent but the one who emerges from the serpent as Venus rises from the morning horizon. Herein lies another link to mirrors, the ‘Morning Star’ and the Goddess Venus are linked to mirrors and reflective surfaces.

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One last point. In Biblical tradition we are all considered to be ‘made in Gods image’ – in some sense then we are reflections of God. This notion of creation being a mirror image of the creator is an essential theological component of many traditions.