Mirror Mirror on the Wall


Mirror Mirror on the Wall Why Do You Bring Bad Luck!

By Chitraparna Sinha


Mirrow mirror on the wall, who's the prettiest cat of all?


Mirrors, a source to see your reflections, have been in existence since 6000 BC. You will often find that any object of antiquity that we still use today often has a vast amount of history behind them. With time, people somehow forget the line between history and myth, and turn them into objects of superstitions or let’s say, try to associate the objects with beliefs bordering on good luck and/or bad luck.

Before mirrors were ‘discovered’, early civilizations use to see their reflection in still water. Interesting! Don’t we still do that? I am not exactly sure how mirrors were discovered but evidence shows they have been in use by Mesopotamians and Egyptian civilizations of past ages. The first evidence of mirrors were found in modern day Turkey (earlier called Anatolia); that time mirrors were only polished stone, called obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glass. Let’s skip some thousand years and we find use of mirrors mentioned by historians and ancient authors like Ptolemy, Pliny, Ibn al-Haytham, Ibn Sahi and others.

Let’s take another quantum leap and come to modern day use of mirrors. You would recall reading stories in childhood about how mirrors were used for witchcraft, how devil lurks in the mirror and how you can see ghosts if you look long in the mirror! Scary, right! Oh, how can we forget Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the evil queen imploring mirrors to do her dirty work?

Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Who’s the fairest of them all?

Well, as it turns out, the source of these conceptions / stories lies in our superstitious beliefs which several groups practice even in this age. Intrigued?

Examples of how mirrors are good / bad omens (mostly this!):

*  Breaking glass brings 7 years of bad luck. How? If an adult breaks the glass, it is a ‘prognostic of family death’. If a child breaks the glass, the child or servant in the house will die within a year. If a cat breaks the glass, they pay penalty (not sure how!)

*  Never preserve broken pieces of glass; totally bad luck for the family. In a way, it is symptomatic of future disintegration of relationships.

*  A sick person should not be kept a room having mirror/s or if there are mirrors, they should be covered completely. It is important to regain good health.

*  When a person dies, all mirrors in the house are covered because it symbolizes death of all vanity after the death. In Scotland, the same practice is still followed. In fact, when people meet for funeral rites, every clear or shining object like looking glass or pictures are covered with white cloth.

*  After death, the soul may see itself in the mirror or if a live person looks closely in the mirror for long, he can see the dead person peeping over his shoulder. Yikes! Who wants this?

*  If the mirrors are kept uncovered, the soul of the dead will linger in the real world until buried!

*  During thunderstorms, mirrors and photos should be turned to the wall. Seeing the thunderstorm through the mirror is extreme bad luck.

*  Now this is really spooky – light a candle, stand in front of the mirror, eat an apple, comb your hair, and you will see the face of your better half. I am not even going to try this!

*  Through mirrors, devils and witches can incite young boys and girls into the belief that they love chastity, whereas they hate it.

*  If an infant is allowed to look at a mirror before he/she turns a year old; it is extreme bad luck because the child will die before he matures, become cross-eyed or suffer from rickets disease – this is something I have seen in my own home!

*  In the south of England, brides should not be allowed to see her own reflection in the mirror after she is fully dressed. Otherwise, it is unlucky for the bride.

*  If a cat looks in a looking glass, it is unlucky.

*  A woman who ties her night-cap before the looking glass will die an old maid.

*  If two people look into a mirror together at the same time, they will end up quarreling.

These beliefs are scattered across all cultures. The foundation of these beliefs or superstitions lies in the ancient past of all humanity. Before writing these off as something meaningless, consider the purpose why these still exists. Maybe they do have some amount of ‘truth’ in them!

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