Wednesday 12 October 2016

Mirror, mirror

Another of the Cardiff University monthly public lectures - this time one of my favourite lecturers, folklore expert Juliette Wood - talking about mirrors. Not just for seeing yourself in, but for divination and magic.

We got a whistle stop tour through natural surfaces, water, polished stones, to polished metal and then to the invention of mercury mirrors and on from there, and including superstitions such as the many variations about looking in mirrors and seeing a future spouse.

One of the things about attending a lecture is that it sparks ideas, and/or points out connections you might not have made. Something I learned - the frequency of mirrors, or materials that were probably used as mirrors, in ancient burials - and their probable magical significance. And that these occur all over the world, from Europe to Japan.

The other thing that I particularly took away was the incidence of mirrors in art. One of those things you kind of knew, but had never really thought about. The Pre-Raphaelites and Caravaggio were highlighted, and as I'm a fan of both and have dark plans to involve their art in some future books, this was one of my bonuses of the evening. Apart from enjoying myself, of course. I'm an especial fan of John William Waterhouse and he has quite a lot of slightly sinister stuff, involving mirrors and water and divination with themes from myths and fairy stories and legends.

I made notes, and am looking forward to using them in the future.


  1. Mirrors are fascinating things, I suspect because we don't *quite* know how they work? I've always been interested in that scene from Alice through the looking glass, when she passes through the mirror and life isn't quite the same on the other side...
    Interesting stuff!

    1. And it's only relatively recently that we've had mirrors that produce a clear representation, before that the image must have been a bit murky. No wonder they were mysterious!