Mirrors are fascinating when you think about it. In reality, it’s simply a reflective surface behind a layer of glass, but then, why does it have such a strong pull toward the unknown? (Maybe that’s just me). Mirrors have been around since ancient Egypt, or perhaps, even before. So, mirrors shouldn’t have freaked anyone out in the last 4,000 years. Why did it then? Why did people, in the last handful of centuries, develop such strange beliefs and traditions with them? Perhaps it’s because mirrors seem to reflect an almost other-dimension-like quality. They do, indeed, look like gateways. I have heard, many times, that hanging a mirror on your wall makes the place feel bigger. It’s no surprise, then, that writers like Lewis Carroll, have written entire books about worlds beyond the mirror.
There are many myths surrounding the object known as the mirror, such as that of a trapped soul: Bloody Mary, The Candyman, and the slave in the magic mirror are all prime examples. Only a certain incantation will bring them to the surface. Some cultures go as far as to cover their mirrors when someone has died, fearing that the spirit might become trapped instead of going to the next life. Other cultures cover the mirrors every night in an effort to keep their dreaming souls from getting stuck. Still, other cultures believe that burying a recently dead person with a mirror will keep the spirit from escaping…. In the Constantine stories, the main character uses a mirror to draw out a demon, that’s possessing a child, and trap it inside. In the ancient Chinese culture, mirrors were used to ward off spirits. This idea still persists, as some “ghost hunting” websites will tell you to put mirrors in your windows, facing outward, to scare spirits away.
Traditionally, mirrors are also said to be portals of revelation. There were many rituals conducted around the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries where young, single women tried to divine their future husbands, or “true loves”. Other legends say that mirrors were used to divine future events, the same way tarot cards, supposedly, can. Most notoriously, they are said to reflect a person’s true nature. This is, allegedly, why vampires and demons have no reflections. The same also goes for the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Harry only sees what he truly desires, deep down. Rumors say that holding a candle up to a mirror in a darkened room will reveal whatever spirits haunt that particular place.
This list is, by no means, complete. There are many other traditions, beliefs, fears, and superstitions surrounding reflective surfaces. Maybe the idea of being trapped in a mirror is only a metaphor, like the way Narcissus of the ancient Greek myth stared at his own reflection; a person could be trapped by his own vanity. On the other hand, maybe they are gateways to other worlds, where things are only the tiniest bit different from ours. A tossed stone will cast ripples when thrown into a perfectly still lake. Perhaps, given the right instrument, a mirror will do the same thing. That is, certainly, food for… reflection…..