The Folklore & Legends of Mirrors

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

We all know that phrase and not just because of the Snow White trend that has crept into pop culture in the recent past with the likes of two Snow White movies (Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman) and Once Upon a Time, a fairy tale themed TV series with Snow White leading the list of main characters, but because we grew up surrounded by these legends and lore.

And we’re surrounded by plenty of mirrors these days, too.

Now, some of us may enjoy taking that glimpse in the mirror, but if you think too long on any of the tales, superstitions and beliefs that surround mirrors, mirrors could end up seeming pretty terrifying. I mean, mirrors are kind of spooky whether they’re in a funhouse or in your bathroom. They have that perpetual sense of anticipation and, perhaps, even fear due to the stories we’ve grown up on and the ways we’ve seen them come to life in entertainment.

After all, there is plenty of material to work with and expand upon. One of the oldest and most common beliefs about mirrors, that our reflections contain part of our souls, underlies nearly ever mirror tale there is. A soul is nothing to mess around this and many ancient cultures believed the soul in danger of getting trapped in a mirror due to this connection to one’s reflection.

While this premise is not exactly the base of the Magic Mirror in Snow White (although if you watch Once Upon a Time and know the danger and evil that we’ve seen in Sidney Glass you may see a connection), it is indeed the root of many other superstitions around mirrors.  Check out these familiar scares below.

 7 Years Bad Luck:

We all know this one. Break a mirror and you’ve got 7 years of bad luck! So, who do we have to thank for this nagging thought in the back of our minds every time there’s a crack in our mirror? The Romans! Believe it or not, this superstition dates all the way back to when glass mirrors were first created. Believing the connection between reflection and soul to be true, the Romans likewise believed that to break a mirror (ie. One’s reflection) was to break a piece of the soul of the individual as well.

But why 7 years? Again, it’s all about the soul. The Romans attributed the seven years worth of bad luck to the belief that life renewed itself every seven years. Thus, breaking a mirror is breaking a soul which is breaking your health. (Follow that?) It was only after seven years that the soul is regenerated and the bad luck washed away.

Vampires:

Especially with the current trends in pop culture, there is no doubt that we’ve all seen our share of vampire movies, TV shows and more, which means that at some point in time we’ve likely encountered that revealing moment when the vampire (or someone suspected of being a vampire) is standing before a mirror and yet there is no reflection.

Again, this has everything to do with the soul. After all, vampires are the undead and if you know anything about vampires, you know they do not have souls. So, if we follow the belief that our reflection contains a part of our souls… a soulless being would have no reflection.

Bloody Mary:

This myth is perhaps one of the scariest and best known of our time. It’s an urban legend and thus, by nature, surrounded by a variety of different tellings, but the general idea is that if you if you stand in front of a mirror and say “Bloody Mary” repeatedly, she’ll appear in the mirror to cause you harm. Whether you’re most familiar with this tale from your torment-loving siblings or any of the depictions on screen (be it in Candyman, Paranormal Activity 3 or The CW’s Supernatural), you know you don’t want her coming around.

Bloody Mary is a soul trapped in a mirror, looking to cause harm to those who invoke her.  She’s been harmed herself and looking to bring that pain to others.

Other Mirror Superstitions at a Glance:

– Falling asleep in front of a mirror is dangerous, because the soul leaves the body while sleeping and upon return may get confused by the reflection and enter the mirror rather than your body.

– Many cultures break the mirrors of the deceased or cover them up so that the dead would not see their reflection and decide to remain back and haunt their home.

– Other cultures will cover mirrors at a wake so that the soul of the deceased does not become trapped. All reflective surfaces – including water and household appliances – would need to be covered up.

– Mirrors were often used in traditional witchcraft as tools for scrying or performing spells.

– A newborn child should not look into a mirror until their first year due to the belief that the soul is still developing at that time.

– It is bad luck to have two mirrors facing one another.

– The mirror has ties to water due to both of their reflective natures. This brings to mind myths and folklore like the story of Narcissus.

– Mirrors cannot lie. (Hence the Magic Mirror of Snow White fame…)

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