The world of mirrors that supposedly inhabits beyond them has been linked to humankind’s general way of thinking since their invention.
Mirrors, Chinese mythology and its ubiquitous presence /
I see them as infinite, elemental
Executors of an ancient pact,
To multiply the world like the act
Of begetting. Sleepless. Bringing doom.
Fragment from “Mirrors” by Jorge Luis Borges
From the very beginning of humanity, anything that could reflect reality was associated with the occult and esoteric. The mirror, used by ancient Egyptian and Greek civilisations, was soon considered to be a portal that communicated this world with another, one where nothing is what it seems. According to Juan Eduardo Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols, the mirror is the “door for dissociation” to “crossover to the other side” and at the same time it is the “symbol of the twins” because of the duplicity it reflects. Through the Looking Glass is perhaps the best example to reflect on this symbolism. Alice finds her double in a world where the rules are bizarre and symbolic. The horrific element (that which Borges referred to as the horror of duplication) is one of the most shared connotations among the cultures of the world. This also has to do with not being able to see the mirror, but knowing it is there, what happens in the dark, when the mirror is not reflecting anything? What happens to the other you, when he is not gazing back at you? We know our reflection was never actually us.
Chinese mythology used to believe in the existence of a world of mirrors known as “the fauna of mirrors”, which is also mentioned in Borges’ The book of Imaginary Beings. The myth tells of a time when there was harmony between this world and the world of mirrors, although the latter existed independently from human beings. Travelling back and forth from this world and the next was possible, until one night, the people from the mirror world invaded Earth and the Yellow Emperor had to use magic to send them back. They were imprisoned in the mirror world as a punishment. From that moment onwards, the world of mirrors had to reflect this world, since this was the sentence they had to serve. Their enslavement, however, will not last forever; a time will come when the spell will lose its power.
This emotional response to mirrors —that are an essential part of vampire and terror films, an element of psychic fortune telling, a communicative portal between the people of the shadows and a (faithful?) platform where we can look into our eyes —will continue to permeate the world until the Emperor’s spell is broken, and we will not find our reflection staring back at us, instead, there will be someone else. People who cover their mirrors at night or that bury their dead with one, know it is hard to explain (As Borges and Poe knew well); they know or feel some sort of absorption coming from the mercury, or perhaps, they are waiting for that moment in which the concurrence between worlds will suddenly be interrupted, changing everything.Tagged: mirrors, mythology, Chinese mythology, Metaphysics & Mysticism Credits: Image (“Sky Mirror”, Anish Kapoor, Brighton)