Who would have thought, seeing this round obsidian ball, that this volcanic glass, formed out of cooled lava, one day polished with sand, glued together with bat’s pooh, framed and decorated, was once the base of the most wanted mirror in the world for rulers and the European aristocracy. Weird as we’re talking about a black stone, black meaning the absence of light, where in order for a mirror to cast a reflection, it requires light. Were it not, that obsidian is known for its bright reflective power.
Pure magic, it must have been for the first of mankind, to see their reflection in the surface of still water. The obsidian gemstone was known for its powers, giving a person the ability to gaze into ‘other’ worlds. Still considered today by many, to have healing, protective properties, blocking all negativity, for those that are sensitive, soft hearted and ever so gentle.
Wickedness, destruction or even death, are often connected in mythology and legends to mirrors. We all know Medusa’s end caused by Perseus’ mirror and the Roman warships’ fate, set on fire in Syracuse by Archimedes’ giant mirrors. Superstition warned people in the old days, to cover mirrors when a corpse was in the house, to avoid other deaths occurring, other souls captured.
Vanity and seduction are the other mirror associations: how to know you’re the fairest in the land, was shown to us by Snow White’s wicked stepmother and the danger of falling in love with oneself, by Narcissus. A mermaid’s favourite attribute was known to be her comb and her mirror, anybody in the Middle Ages could have told you that! Secrets were always revealed in famous paintings through the mirror present in the room.
Copper for the ancient Egyptians, polished metal or stone for the ancient Mesopotamians, tin and copper, bronze even, for the Chinese, blown glass with lead backings for the Romans, no matter what they used to create the effect, it was only the rich that could afford it.
And last but not least, linked forever to women, the mirror is. Do we hold Venus’ symbol responsible, still used to represent the female gender?
It’s Alfred Tennyson, who allowed us to gaze into other worlds, using his poetry to tell us about “The Lady of Shallott”’s tragic fate, caused by a cursed mirror! Imagine being locked up in a tower surrounded by water and forced to be sitting in front of a mirror with your back to a window, knowing you can never look upon the real world but through that mirror or an early death will be your curse. It only took a knight such as Lancelot, to seduce the lady with his handsome presence, resulting in a broken mirror and her dying in a boat on the way to Camelot.
Is nothing but negativity surrounding mirrors then? Aphrodite showed it as the mirror of the soul, a means to acknowledge the truth in oneself. Alice in Wonderland showed the mirror as a link between the conscious and unconscious self, two different worlds connected.
Don’t forget, to mirror we need light and the latter always symbolizes illumination and thus has to lead us to enlightenment, wisdom.
Ah but you’ll tell me you’ve heard of the famous seven years bad luck, when breaking a mirror. It was believed it would break the part of your soul captured in it and a soul needed seven years to regenerate. On the other hand knowing mirrors were very expensive, breaking them could bring servants really bad luck: losing their job!
Christianity took that belief even further: only a creature lacking a soul ( a vampire!) would not produce a reflection in its mirror.
Let’s talk positive here: without a mirror there would be a lot less scientific instruments around, think telescopes (yep no lenses), cameras and lasers and many others.
It’s the Renaissance and more specifically the Florentines, that created our modern mirrors, later followed by the Venetians the leaders of the, in that time very lucrative, mirror-making trade. The secrets of their glassmaking were not to be sold or the person in question would find himself assassinated.
Old mirrors nowadays still cost a fortune, modern ones are more affordable and always and everywhere in reach for us humble humans. We can’t even begin to think of not having a mirror in the house or a world without science and progress not using the mirror effect.
They always attract, seduce me in brocante shops, must be magic!
Still believing in the power of our inner soul, reflected in mirrors