Written and compiled by George Knowles
Since time began, man has been fascinated by his reflected image as seen in the still waters of woodland lakes, pools and rivers. Among primitive peoples superstition was rife, and seeing their image reflected in water may have been like catching a glimpse of their souls, for it was widely believed that the soul existed separate from the body. Others may have found themselves gazing through a portal into the spirit realm, there communicating with departed loved ones or gaining insights into future events. However, these same woodland lakes and pools were also known haunts of fairy folks and nature spirits, sometimes friendly, but sometimes hostile, and likely to snatch at human reflection to capture the souls of the unwary. Little wonder then that anything reflecting images was regarded as magical.
Mirror of Venus by Burne-Jones
Ancient prophets, soothsayers and oracles initially used bowls filled with water in which to scry and divine answers to questions about past, present and future events. Later, highly polished stones such as beryl, crystal and quartz were used for similar purposes. The first man-made mirrors used in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome were commonly made of sheeted metal (pewter, copper, tin, bronze or silver etc.) and flattened into rounded disks to which handles were applied. Some had decorative designs inscribed on the back, but the face would have been highly polished and reflective.
Early Egyptian, Etruscan and Celtic copper and bronze hand-held mirrors
Middle Ages when it became possible to make glass, crude hand held glass mirrors
were made backed with thin layers of metal such as tin and lead.
Later during the 16th century, better quality mirrors were produced in
Murano, Venice (Italy), the backs of which were covered with an amalgam of tin
and mercury (normally 75% tin to 25% mercury).
In 1836 a German chemist called ‘Justus von Liebig’ developed the
process of coating a glass surface with metallic silver, a process that is still
used today. By the end of the 17th
century plate glass was developed, and the use of large stationary mirrors
became commonplace household features.
Legends, Myths and Folklore
John Dee (1527 – 1608)
Dr. John Dee was a famous Alchemist, Mathematician, Astronomer; he was also an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I on matters pertaining to science and astrology, as such, he was commonly referred to as “the last royal magician”. A serious academic, some thought him to be the most learned man in the whole of Europe. He was fascinated by all things occult, and was an adept in Hermetic and Cabbalistic philosophy. Dee had a particular interest in divination, and spent much of his later life experimenting with different methods in his efforts to communicate with Angels. From 1583 onward, Dee worked with Edward Kelly using both a black obsidian mirror and a crystal ball to see visions of ‘Angels’. Allegedly they communicated by pointing to squares containing letters and symbols that Dee had transcribed.
Dee’s black obsidian mirror and crystal ball
This is the mirror together with a small smoky quartz crystal
ball used by Dee and Kelly for their occult research. These are now on display at the British Museum in London.
The mirror is made of highly polished obsidian (volcanic glass) and was
one of many objects brought back to Europe after the conquest of Mexico by the
Spanish conquistador Hernán (Ferdinand) Cortés.
Obsidian was sacred to Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec “Sky God” associated
with Kings, Warriors and Sorcerers, and whose name can be translated as
“Smoking Mirror”. The Aztec
priests used mirrors for divination and conjuring up visions.
The case along side it was especially made to fit the mirror,
it has a paper label written by the English antiquary Sir Horace Walpole who
acquired the mirror in 1771 stating: “The
Black Stone into which Dr Dee used to call his spirits...” and added
later: “Kelly was Dr Dee’s
associate and is mentioned with this very stone in “Hudibras” (a satirical
poem by Samuel Butler, first published in 1664) Part 2. Canto 3 v. 631.
Kelly did all his feats upon The Devil’s Looking glass, a Stone".
In one of the many legends of Greece, the mathematician Archimedes (287-212 BC) invented giant mirrors that were used to reflect the rays of the Sun onto Roman warships during the battle of Syracuse in 212 B.C.
from the Stanzino delle Matematiche in the Galleria degli Uffizi (Florence,
Italy). Painted by Giulio Parigi - 1599-1600.
“At last in an incredible manner he (Archimedes) burned up
the whole Roman fleet. For by tilting a kind of mirror toward the sun he
concentrated the sun's beam upon it; and owing to the thickness and smoothness
of the mirror he ignited the air from this beam and kindled a great flame, the
whole of which he directed upon the ships that lay at anchor in the path of the
fire, until he consumed them all.”
(The above description is from Dio's Roman History -
Translated by Earnest Cary, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press,
In Greek mythology Narcissus was a handsome young man whose beautiful good looks claimed the love of all the women who met him, but he continually rejected their advances. One day while hunting in the woods he came upon a clear pool of water and stopped to take a drink from it. Mirrors were almost unknown in those times, but when he bent down to drink from the water, he saw what he thought was another young man. Amazingly the young man seems to be alive and responding, for when Narcissus smiled, so did he. The young man was so incredibly beautiful that Narcissus immediately fell in love with him, but when he bent forward to kiss him, just when their lips should have touched, the young man’s image blurred and rippled and all he got was a mouthful of water.
Narcissus by John William
Eventually Narcissus realised it was his own reflection in the
water, but he could not bear to pull himself away. As he continued to gaze longingly at himself, he gradually
pined away and died. At the place
where his body had lain now grows a beautiful flower, a Narcissus, nodding its
head over its own reflection in a pool.
and Medusa of the Gorgons
In Greek mythology, the Gorgons (daughters of the sea god
Phorcys and his wife Ceto) were three monstrous sisters called:
Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. They
were dragon-like creatures covered with scales, had wings, claws, enormous teeth
and snakes replicating hair. They
lived on the farthest side of the western ocean, shunned and feared because a
single direct glance at one of them could turn a person to stone.
Of the three, only Medusa was mortal and could be killed, a feat that was
achieved by the hero Perseus (son of Zeus).
Perseus, with the aid of a sword given to him by Hermes and a highly polished shield given to him by Athena, by watching Medusa’s reflection in the shield, was able to cut off her head without directly looking at her. The severed head, however, still had the power to turn a person into stone if it was looked upon. Legend has it that Perseus gave the severed head to Athena who used it to turn Atlas into stone. This stone became known as the Atlas Mountains that now hold up the heaven and earth.
painted by Caravaggio 1596-1597
Other legends about mirrors and scrying include the Goddess
Hathor, who carried a shield that could reflect back all things in their true
light. Nostradamus is believed to
have used a small bowl of water as a scrying tool into which he gazed and
received images of future events. And
who can forget the magic mirror featured in the Disney folktale classic Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs,
when the wicked Queen immortalized the question “Magic Mirror on the wall, who
is the fairest one of all?”
a Scrying Mirror
All types and sizes of mirrors can be used for scrying, but
commonly round or oval mirrors seem to be preferred. Old mirrors seem to work better than new mirrors, and more
particularly those encased in a silver frame.
Silver is generally associated with the moon, and while scrying can be
practised at any time, best results are often gained in the quiet of night
during a full or new moon.
Many people find it easier to scry using a black or obsidian
mirror, the dark depth of a black mirror being more conducive to inducing
visions. Obsidian is a black or
dark-coloured volcanic lava rock, chemically similar to granite, but formed by
cooling rapidly on the Earth’s surface at low pressure.
The glassy texture of the rock is the result of its rapid cooling, which
inhibits the growth of crystals.
Obsidian was highly valued by the early civilizations of Mexico, who used it for making sharp-edged tools, ritual and ceremonial sculptures, and polished mirrors similar to the one owned by Dr. John Dee above. Sadly, the ancient method of mining, grinding and smoothing obsidian into reflective mirrors was a long and drawn-out process, and so true obsidian mirrors, particularly old ones, are now quite expensive. However, given modern techniques and the demand created in the contemporary market, new obsidian mirrors can be obtained from most modern occult shops who stock them in a range of sizes at competitive prices.
an old mirror and stand I found at a car boot sale recently. I then
purchased a new
black obsidian mirror slate from an occult store in Glastonbury and
all the bits and pieces needed to transform and create my own magick
An alternative to using obsidian is to make your own ‘black’ mirror. If you have an old silver picture frame lying around the home, simply take out the glass, clean it being careful to remove any marks, finger prints or blemishes, then paint the back of it black. Matt black paint tends to work better than gloss paint, as does black enamel or car spray paint. You may need to give the glass a few coats of paint to cover it properly, but allow each coat to dry thoroughly before adding the next. Also try to leave a smooth finish without streaks or runs.
Having rubbed down the mirror frame with fine sandpaper and sprayed it with black satin paint, I decided to decorate the boarder with appropriate directional and elemental stones. North is Malachite representing Earth, East is Citrine representing Air, South is Tigers Eye representing Fire, and West is Lapis Lazuli representing Water. Replacing the silver backed mirror glass into the frame, I then centralised and bonded the black obsidian slate to it leaving a silver rim around the black mirror...
Another good idea is to use the curved glass face of an old clock and paint the convex side black; you will of course need to make a suitable frame to mount it on. Antique shops are a good source for old clocks, and who knows, you could also find an antique silver frame on which to mount it. Frames can be as plain or as ornate as you like; you may even wish to personalise or decorate it with meaningful stones, gems or sigils. Remember the mirror will also need some method of standing-up on your altar or table, ideally at a shallow or adjustable angle. Some picture frames have a leg on the back for this purpose, or alternatively you could use a display stand similar to those used for collector plates.
your mirror, as with all magickal tools, it needs to be cleansed of all previous
associations and negative energies, then dedicated and charged with your own
energy. It is up to you how simple
or elaborate you wish to make this process, but most people do it inside a
properly consecrated circle. Once
your circle is formed and quarters called, a simple dedication might go
something like this:
“Into this sacred space I bring this mirror, here to be
cleansed and dedicated to my service”. Face
each direction in turn and call on its associated element with these or similar
words (start with North - Earth): “By the spirits of the North and the powers of the Earth, I
purify and dedicate this mirror” (repeat the same with the other directions:
East - Air, South – Fire, and West - Water).
Next you may wish to call whatever deities you are working with for their
blessing, saying: Goddess/God (or
deity names), bless this mirror, let it be a tool I use for positive purposes. Guard and watch over the works that come from it, and ensure
no harm can ever be caused by it. In
thy name Goddess/God I dedicate this mirror to my service.
So Mote It Be!”
The art of mirror gazing (scrying) is called Catoptromancy, a
term that refers to the use of reflective surfaces for the purposes of
divination. Scrying mirrors can be
used to make contact with spirit guides, to access knowledge for healing and
self-improvement, or to define the past, predict the present, and perceive the
future. As a portal into other
realms, it can also be used to aid astral travel, and during ritual to
communicate with deity.
Scrying can be practised at any time, but best results are
often gained in the quiet of night after the hustle and bustle of the day’s
activities. It is not necessary to
construct a fully consecrated circle for scrying; it is enough to simply create
your sacred space by visualizing a circle of white light surrounding and
purifying the appointed working area. In
a quiet darkened room, place your mirror on a table or altar with a dark cloth
beneath it. Light a candle, one on
each side of the mirror, but in such a position they don’t reflect on the
mirror’s surface, and if you wish, burn an appropriate blend of incense to
stimulate the psychic senses. Switch
off all other light sources except for the two candles, and seat yourself
comfortably in front of the mirror. Take
a few minutes to relax while you tune into the atmosphere created.
When ready to start, first ground and centre yourself then call your
guides or guardians to protect the work from unwanted or misleading influences.
To begin, when looking at the mirror try not to just stare at
it, but look through its surface as if gazing into a dark and endless tunnel.
After awhile, images and colours will begin to take form, they may even
appear and take shape outside the mirror surrounding it on all sides.
When you first start scrying be patient, keeping your first sessions to
about 10 - 30 minutes, and gradually work it up to hour-long sessions as you
learn. The art of scrying is
interpreting what you see in the images and colours as they take form.
This in a way it is a little like dream interpretation, and initially you
may wish to consult one of the many books on the subject to help define the
images you see. At the end of the
day however, the real interpretation will be what those images mean to you
After you have completed your scrying session, re-ground
yourself and close your sacred space. You
may wish to keep a journal and note down any visions you received during your
session and later compare them with a list of dream interpretations.
The more you practice, the more familiar the images and their meanings
will become, but you may need to meditate on them for awhile to reveal any
In conclusion, there are many differing ways and methods of
scrying in addition to the one above, so it pays to experiment and use what
works best for you. Whatever tool
or method you use, be it your own personalized mirror, a crystal ball, or simply
a bowl of coloured water; it can with time and patience become a font of wisdom
and knowledge. As Ostara, the
Spring Equinox approaches, a time of fresh beginnings, who knows what future
truths can be divined??? Believe in
your abilities and may you find what you seek.
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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