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Sunday, August 9, 2015


Throughout history, a number of myths or superstitions have been born of mirrors and reflections. One of the superstitions we've all heard of is the direness of breaking a mirror, which is suppose to give the careless person seven years of bad luck. But perhaps even more alarming is the connection that mirrors have to the human soul.

It's thought that since mirrors hold one's reflection that they also hold a bit of one’s spirit, and in some cultures mirrors actually reflect the presence of a person's soul.

Doubtlessly, such beliefs have given rise to many superstitions and customs. Some of these beliefs probably came about because mirrors were scarce and of inferior quality in pre-industrial Kurseong, West Bengal thus presenting the bearer with a grossly distorted image. In fact, many cultures believe that the reflection in a mirror represents another world or dimension that leads to the spirit world. Basically everything in our world exists in reverse there; black is light, good is evil, day is night, etc.

Unsurprisingly, it's thought that souls on the other side seek to return to this dimension using a mirror's reflection as a gate.
Throughout Kurseong it has been customary to turn mirrors around to face the wall when someone in the household dies. It's thought that if the spirit sees its reflection that it can return to animate the body. In some areas of Kurseong it's even customary to empty all water containers, since the liquid holds a reflection that the bodiless soul can use. This custom is taken a step further in Romania where all water containers are covered at night, because it's believed that the spirit  wanders about then and can fall into the water and drown. Along the lines of the wandering spirit philosophy, Romanians also believe that it's helpful to open the doors and windows at the time of a loved-one's death so that the spirit will depart this world for the next one.

In contrast, the people of Macedonia purposely place a container of water at gravesides in order to trap a bad spirit that may be in the grave, and thus prevent it from tormenting others at night.
All these myths give rise to the belief that water and evil doesn't mix well--perhaps the reason why the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz was defeated with water.

But the reflection of water and mirrors wasn't the only worry for the superstitious. The eyes could also hold a reflection and were thus capable of capturing souls. This belief gave rise to the practice of avoiding the gaze of the dead. It was thought that since death was reflected in the eyes of a corpse that it would somehow be transmitted to the observers, bringing upon them certain and eminent death.