In folklore, a mirror is a doorway or portal through which spirits, including ghosts and demons can gain access to the physical world where demonic infestations and hauntings occur.
In prehistory, any shiny surface was regarded as a spirit doorway and used to summon spirits into the world. They also are used for seeing visions of the future.
Much of the folklore about mirrors is negative. They are viewed by some as “soul stealers” with the power to suck souls out from bodies. In the Greek myth of Narcissus, he sees his own reflection in water and falls in love with it, staring hopelessly until he dies.
In some Christian beliefs, the Devil and Demons can enter through mirrors to attack people.
There are also numerous beliefs about mirrors and the dead. In many folklores, when a person dies, all the mirrors in a house should be turned over because if the soul sees itself in a mirror, it will not rest or can become a vampire. Corpses seeing themselves in mirrors will also draw bad luck upon the household. In some cultural beliefs, where corpses are laid out in homes, people still believe that souls linger about the body until burial.
Another folk belief is if a person sees his or her own reflection in a room where someone has died, it is an omen of their own death. Mirrors also should be covered in sick rooms in the belief that when the soul is weakened it is more vulnerable to possession during illness.
In other folklore, mirrors are believed to reflect the soul and must be guarded lest the soul be lost. These fears carry over into superstitious customs, such as covering the mirrors in a house after death to prevent the souls of the living from being carried off by the ghost of the newly departed through a mirror.
In some Russian folklore, mirrors are considered the invention of the Devil because they have the power to draw souls from bodies. Similarly, mirrors and in some places of the world all shiny surfaces, must be covered in a house after a death to prevent the soul of the living from being carried off by the ghost of the newly dead. Mirrors are covered in case one sees the corpse looking over one’s shoulder.
In an old Persian spell, ghosts may be seen in a mirror by standing in front of it and combing the hair without thinking, speaking or moving.
In then folklore of the American Ozark, the appearance of a distant friend in a mirror means he or she will soon die.
The famous folklore that breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck but also heralds a death in the family or household. For example, if a child breaks a mirror, one of the children in the house will die within the year.
If a home is plagued with unpleasant spirit activity, the mirror in the bedrooms should never be placed at the foot or head of a bed. To do is is considered a negative influence for a person to be able to see himself or herself from any angle in a mirror while in bed. Mirrors should also never reflect into each other as this creates an unstable psychic space. A folk remedy says a mirror should be placed so that it faces outward toward a door or window. The reasoning being when the unquiet spirit looks in a window or attempts to cross a door threshold, it will see its own reflection and be scared away. Mirrors can also be closed as portals by rubbing the edges of them or washing the surfaces in holy water.
Mirrors are also tools used in Divination and Magic. In divination, mirrors train the inner eye to perceive the unseen. Throughout history, mirror gazing has been used for prophecy, aid with healing, find lost objects and people and even to identify or find thieves and criminals.
The power of mirrors—or any reflective surface—to reveal what is hidden has been used since ancient times. Gazing upon any shining surface is one of the oldest forms of Scrying (a method of divination practiced by the early Egyptians, Arabs, the Magi of Persia, Greeks, and Romans). Magic mirrors are mentioned by numerous ancient authors, among them Apuleius, Saint Augustine, Pausanias, and Spartianus. According to Pausanias, divination for healing was best done with a mirror attached to a string . The string was dangled into water and the diviner ascertained whether or not a sick person would heal.
In ancient Greece, the witches of Thessaly reputedly wrote their oracles in human blood upon mirrors. Pythagoras was said to have a magic mirror that he held up to the Moon to see the future in it. Romans skilled in mirror reading were called specularii.
In the late Middle Ages, Catherine de Medicis reputedly had a magic mirror that enabled her to see the future for herself and for France. Pére Cotton, the confessor to King Henri IV of France, had a magic mirror that revealed to him any plots against the king.
In Christian folklore, mirrors enable demons to make themselves known. St. Patrick declared that Christians who said they could see Demons in mirrors would be expelled from the church until they repented.
In Vodoun, a magical mirror is called a minore. A minore is made of highly polished metal and is consecrated for the purpose of seeing visions in divination. Only a priest or priestess may use a minore.
For Magic, both flat mirrors and concave mirrors are used in magic. Other shiny and reflective surfaces work as well like crystal balls, good size crystals and bowls of water or ink. Franz Bardon taught precise instructions for making magical mirrors that would be “loaded” or empowered with the help of the elements, the Akasha, light and fluid condensers. The result of such a charged magic mirror should be stored wrapped in silk to protect its energies from contamination.
Mirrors are also used in Scrying which is accomplished by the astral and mental powers developed by the magician and not specifically the mirror. The mirror serves only as an aid for focusing such powers.
Visualising a person in a magical mirror enables contact. The scryer can then go to the astral plane to communicate with the dead. The living can be contacted through a mirror as well with the scryer visualizes the person intensely until they seem drawn out of the mirror.
The magic mirror can be used as a tool for investigating the past, present, and future. A mirror helps the magician transcend time to see events which is one of the most difficult aspects of mirror work.
The medieval magician Albertus Magnus recorded a formula for making a magic mirror: Buy a looking glass and inscribe upon it “S. Solam S. Tattler S. Echogordner Gematur.” Next, bury it at a Crossroads during an uneven hour and on the third day, go to the spot at the same hour and dig it up—but do not be the first person to gaze into the mirror. In fact, said magnus, it is best to let a dog or a cat take the first look.
The Aztecs used a mirror like surfaces to keep witches away. A bowl of water with a knife in it was placed in the entrances of homes. A witch looking into it would see her soul pierced by the knife and flee.