Mirror of Heaven: Tool of Magic

SARAH JANES
4 min readDec 14, 2022

Earthly Reflections of a Fluid Cosmos

Mirror: From Vulgar Latin *mirare “to look at,” variant of Latin mirari “to wonder at, admire”

Turkish woman using an Early Neolithic obsidian mirror // Çatalhöyük 6000–5500 BC

Ancient mirrors are extraordinary items of magic and prestige, they allude to intangible existences, otherworlds and alternate dimensions; to an archaic awareness of identity and self-image. Ancient mirrors reflect something of our ancestors’ perception of the universe (and themselves within it) back to us.

Some of the earliest known mirrors are made of obsidian and were grave goods in Early Neolithic Anatolia. These material objects demonstrate incredible intention. They show superb craftsmanship and skill, and in their perfectly polished surfaces we can also see there must be a real significance and importance behind their very time-consuming creation.

In early Anatolian culture (from the Bronze Age Hatti period) and especially when art and hieroglyphic scripts begin to describe ritual practices, there is a clear association between mirrors, women and sorcery. Mirrors were magical tools and symbols related to feminine will and foresight; and with divination, spell-working and future influence. The earliest mirrors are at least 8,000 years old, predating any known script, so their magical qualities must have already been very well established by the time writing came along. An old Ottoman Turkish word for mirror is gözgü — which derives from Proto-Turkic ‘köŕ’ — eye, sight.

Alongside mirrors, spindles are amongst the most ancient symbols of womanhood in Anatolia, of the divine feminine and creatrix archetype. From the spindle comes the thread of life, the principle of fate. The thread of life is woven together and becomes the fabric of consciousness and worldly experience. In Hatti Land women were always the premier dream interpreters. The ‘word’ of the Old Woman was sought out to resolve all manner of issues, from domestic squabbles to royal succession, dream oracles and nightmares to animal husbandry. As the primary weavers of life, women (and particularly old ones) have the innate wisdom required to untangle oneiric knots. As the gatekeepers of life, the female, the mother, will also be there with us when our thread runs out. When we are untethered from the maker and unspooled into an endless ether, the feminine guardian of life will lead us through the darkness, toward our rebirth with the light of a new sun.

Hathoric mirror with silver disk and gold sheathed wooden handle// New Kingdom Egypt ca. 1479–1425 B.C.

It’s hard to imagine a world without the reflective surface of a mirror, a world without the ever-present presence of self-reflection. I find it a fascinating world to contemplate, where one might glance the occasional imperfect glimmer of self in a puddle or pond. Such an everyday perceptual convention no doubt helped to construct a particular model of reality, delineating boundaries between self and other. In this context then, the mirror becomes a tool to redefine boundaries and anchor powerful magic in an otherworld - the shadow realm of a present moment. In a silent covenant between sorceress and the rest of the cosmos, the individual can preside over the mirror universe, the soul comes in to view and can exercise its will over the fluid fabric of material reality.

The words mirror and miracle derive from the same root, and to cast desire into a mirror is to make miracles happen, is to merge with the divine creative principle. When stillwaters reflect the stars, we can bathe in the luminous essence of the star gods. In light-infused water, we can blend with their creative power - as we can in the face of a mirror.

Hathoric libation bowl, echoing the form of a mirror disc // British Museum

In later traditions of the ancient Near East, Egypt and Greece, the mirror maintains its magical status. In ancient Egypt mirrors were made with copper, bronze, silver and gold, they were tools associated with Hat-hor and Ra, with rebirth and sunlight. They revealed the image of the soul, and like dreams they revealed the future. Mirrors and dreams offer an opportunity for immersion and incorporation into a parallel otherworld. Through the cultivation of conscious agency in this otherworld, we work our will, we actively employ the Ka.

www.themysteries.org

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SARAH JANES

Author, researcher, presenter and workshop host exploring the anthropology of sleep, ancient dream cultures and philosophy www.themysteries.org