Divination has fascinated human beings since the dawn of time, it seems. Life has always been uncertain, and we have always wanted to know what is coming. Perhaps it is impatience. Perhaps it is a desire to control the world around us. Whatever the reason, we seem to have always been able to find individuals with special skills and special tools to forecast our fates. Mirrors have played an integral part in the art of scrying to see the past, present, and future. Why? Where did this fascination with mirrors start? Why do so many witch shops carry these black disks known as scrying mirrors? Where do they come from? How do you use them? What's the point? Excellent questions all, and ones we will attempt to answer here.
A Brief History of Mirrors
The very first mirrors were nothing more than pools of still water. The reflections were seen as a "visual representation of the soul". The idea was that the soul was temporarily separated from the body & trapped in the reflecting medium. This put the separate soul in a position to be questioned about future events. However, it also left the soul vulnerable, and thus the body was vulnerable to attack. Any trembling or breaking up of the reflection was generally taken as a bad omen. If any harm came to the reflection, it was believed that harm would soon come to the reflection's owner. Many of these beliefs continued on in one form or another with the invention of man-made mirrors.
The earliest man-made mirrors were simply polished disks of metal or polished stones. It is believed that the Egyptian Goddess Hathor created the first mirror from her shield, which "could reflect back all things in their true light." Commonly known as "Hathor mirrors", polished silver for bronze were use to make hand-held mirrors with an image of Hathor on the handle. These metal mirrors were classically round and were the only mirrors available between the III and I Century BC. In the first century BC, Romans discovered the art of glass-making & fashioned the first glass mirrors. However, due to religious beliefs that the devil could watch us from the other side of the mirror, and the idea of compacts being made with the devil in this way, glass mirrors fell out of favor during the Medieval period.
Mirrors regained use in the 13th century when master glaziers devised a method of pouring hot tin into glass tubs and then breaking the cooled tin to make mirrors. It wasn't until the 16th century that the Venetian glass masters from the Island of Murano devised a way to attach tin to a flat piece of glass to make a mirror. These men created a guild known as the "Council of Ten" to protect their trade secrets. These Venetian mirrors were of such high quality that wealthy Europeans would pay premium prices to own one. The income to Venice was enormous, and other European monarchs attempted to learn the art of making these mirrors at all cost. Finally, in the 17th century, the minister of Ludwig XIV bribed three of the Murano masters to go to France to teach their craft.
The French picked up this skill very easily & began to create their own variations by pouring glass into cast molds & then rolling the cooling glass in order to obtain the ideal consistency. Soon mirrors were everywhere among the "rich & famous". Maria De Medici created a mirrored office for herself that contained 119 Venetian mirrors. Other royalty found mirror collecting an expensive & luxurious hobby. By the 19th century, less expensive methods of making mirrors developed, and they became very commonplace in home décor and even personal fashion.
Mirrors, Witchcraft, and Scrying
wasn't until the 16th century that mirrors became associated with witchcraft. As is often the case, this association came through misinformation and disinformation. Mirror writing was used for some 200 years by Spanish & French spies to communicate their secrets using a code system created by Leonardo Da Vinci. However, it wasn't until much later that they became recognized tools of the Craft.
Much of the fear of mirrors in regard to witchcraft comes from superstition ranging all the way back to the first natural water mirrors. Tales were told of Narcissus, who fell in love with himself & wasted away gazing at his reflection. The belief in the mirror as the container of the soul, even for a brief time, gave birth to all sorts of frightening superstitions regarding mirrors as portals to the "other side". Mirrors in a sick person's home were to be covered or turned to the wall, as it was believed the patient would, in this weakened state, may not be strong enough to attract the soul back to the body. Mirrors in the home of a departed soul were also to be covered or turned to the wall to prevent the deceased's soul from refusing to depart, or worse attempting to carry off another soul with her to keep her company on the journey. Some of these practices are still alive today in customs such as covering the mirrors in a Jewish home during shiva.
Mirrors also were considered magical tools that were taken from ancient practices of various pagan paths. The Egyptians, Persians, Celts, Greeks, and Romans, not to mention various shamans & folk magicians, used various surfaces to scry in order to determine events happening in the future, uncover hidden events, or to commune with spirits. Various surfaces were used to scry, depending on the culture and the materials available. The Egyptians favored water, oil and mirrors. The Persians used The Cup of Jamshid to "observe the seven layers of the universe." The European tribes and Greeks commonly used polished stones, water, and other reflective surfaces. Most notable were the famous scrying tools of Dr. John Dee, Edward Kelley, and Nostradamus.
Dr. John Dee was a 17th century mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, and alleged member of the Illuminati. He was a man of science who also studied alchemy, divination, and Hermeticism. His fame lies in his role as adviser and tutor to Elizabeth I. His education and reputation as a respected scholar allowed him access to the social elite and to play an important part in British politics. Dee was reported to use a crystal egg and a black obsidian mirror in an attempt to contact angels. He met with scryers or crystal-gazers to act as an intermediary between himself and the angels. Later in his life, around 1582, Dee met Edward Kelley, a convicted criminal, but also an adept scryer, and took Kelley into his service. Crystal balls reportedly used by Dee & Kelley can actually be seen on display at the British Museum in London. Dee & Kelley together brought about a great interest in and popularity of scrying during Elizabethan and Jacobean times.
We all know Nostradamus as a famous prophet, as well. Some say he made his predictions from visions gleaned in water, flame, and mirror gazing. Other historians argue that Nostradamus only likened himself to the gazers of old & never actually did any scrying himself. Whatever the truth may be, his visions have fascinated humankind for centuries and questions of how, exactly, he received his visions will always abound.
These are but a few individuals who gained fame and notoriety from their work. However, as is usually the case in these situations, these men and many, many others feared for their safety and their work because they were seen as "dangerous" by the Roman Catholic Church. The Illuminati and Hermetics were actively sought out by the Church, and Nostradamus couched his prophecies in deliberately vague verse in order to avoid religious attack.
In addition to these, though, there are countless others who have practiced mirror scrying. "Blindfolded boys" existed in Ancient Rome as special diviners who gazed into mirrors "in order to experience visions of the future or of the unknown." In Victorian Times it was quite common, especially around Halloween, for a young girl to recite a charm & gaze into the mirror to see her future lover's face. It also became very common, around the 18th century, to see people wearing mirrors on their hats and clothing with the belief that these mirrors would deflect the evil eye. Mirrors with frames only on three sides were purported to be very powerful and to allow witches to see over "immense distances". Mirrors are also thought to be doors to other realms, portals through which spirits can be contacted, summoned, and may even enter into our world. Since such spirits may or may not be benevolent (who of us hasn't stood before a mirror & chanted hoping to see Bloody Mary appear & scare us?), this idea also gave mirrors a reputation as a powerful and dangerous medium.
But why are scrying mirrors black? Why are the black mirrors the most popular for scrying? When was the black mirror invented? All very good questions - and ones I asked myself. Unfortunately, in all my research I could not pin down a point in time when the magic of the black mirror was discovered. The only answer I have is that a black mirror, or a dark surface, absorbs more light so there is less reflection. It tends to draw one inside and allow the mind to more freely wander the realms without the distraction of a reflection. This is one reason many mirrors used for scrying are round - the corners of square mirrors are thought to be a visual distraction. I believe it is a personal preference, though. My personal mirror is very simply decorated because I struggle to still my mind for anything. Black mirrors are also thought to show the inner true self, which is one reason most scryers set their mirrors at an angle, with indirect light, so that they are not reflected in the mirror-unless they want to do inner work and see their true selves.
Yeah, but how do we do it? "That's all well & good, Mab, but how do we actually do this scrying thing?" You're asking yourself this right now, aren't you?
Scrying as a tool is often done in solitary practicing. Though in some instances group scrying can be done the results are varied as no to people will see the same things. The practice of scrying is done in a meditative state where the participant uses the third eye and subconscious mind to see images then interprets them later in a wakeful state. This practice is very mental so preparation for scrying should be done to prepare the body vessel for the work ahead. There are many things a witch may do to prepare for scrying the first step would of course be to set up an area for the scrying, preferably in a place where it is easy to make sacred space and to avoid the normal distractions of the mortal world.
After setting up a space for scrying and gathering all tools it is important to set the mood. This can be done with incense, candles, music, and other elements that make the area relaxing and stress free. Cleansing the tools to be used and other preparations ought to be done before scrying as well. If so desired a ritual bath in oils and herbs can help to prepare the body for scrying. If time is limited anointing can help to place the body into the proper state.
As you may be working spells or other magic along with scrying it is important to be cognizant of breathing. Since scrying is very similar to meditation it can be very helpful to start any scrying exercise with some deep breathing exercises and even a short grounding or chakra clearing. A good breathing exercise is to take a breath in through the nose making sure to breath with the diaphragm and try to fill the abdomen with breath, hold the breath for as long as possible then release purposefully through the mouth. Doing this several times will send oxygen to the body and clear the mind of clutter making it easier to begin scrying. When ready you want to look into your mirror allowing your eyes to relax and your third eye to see. Visions can come in all manner of forms, from scents to sounds, tastes, and even visually. Enjoy all you see, feel and hear as all are a part of the scrying experience. This experience will often not be the same for you on different sessions or if in a group. Do not worry about what you do or do not see scrying is a truly personal form of divination. With practice it becomes easier to access the subconscious mind and to waken the pineal gland used in meditation. This will aid in scrying.
Though it is possible to scry for other people there are times when the questions they seek may not fall in the realm of your ability to tell. Sometimes this can happen as you scry for self. The reasons for not having visions vary but often are linked to the question we are seeking answers to. Some questions are not meant to be answered at the time asked or the scryer is not yet ready to deal with the answer. As this is a personal divination technique it is important to remember that scrying sessions that bring no results are not failures but simply indication that the question is not answerable or that more practice is needed to find the answer. Personally I like to scry with out having a previous idea of what I am looking for. This allows me not only to see more things, but as my visions are not being driven by my conscious minds desires I am better able to relax and just enjoy the experience.
Finally the best thing to do when scrying is complete is to reach for a handy note book and write down all you remember. Just like dreams scrying tends to fade with time so it is important to take notes while you are still slightly attached to the subconscious state and the details are still fresh in the mind. Even if you choose to read the notes and try to figure out what has been seen later writing down the details will aid in later viewing. Preparing a scrying notebook before hand with a pen or pencil can help to avoid loosing insights while hunting for these important things.
Scrying need not be done alone it can be very powerful with others as comparing what has been seen may lead to many insights. This can be a very interesting activity with others. The activity of scrying also can be combined with other forms of divination. Pendulums can be used to seek further explanation or answers if visions do not come. Tarot decks can help to explain visions if chosen randomly from the deck. These tools can also be a focal point to start scrying. A tarot card pulled at random could be the first image focused on as the subconscious shows more insight about the card and what it may mean to your current path. Crystal balls and bowls can also be used as they are also forms of scrying, or if preferred runes and I Ching may tie in with the solitary practice and experience. There is no right or wrong way to divine, nor are there rules against using combinations to strengthen your visions and understanding. Scrying can be a powerful tool and a very fun way to get connected to the subconscious mind.
Another wonderful tool for scrying can be working with a deity. There again is no right or wrongs in choosing whom to work with but there are some deity's with visions, and abilities that would compliment scrying well. Goddesses good for scrying are:
Here are a variety of Scrying spells, from Fire and Mirror Scrying, to a specific Full Moon Water Scrying Spell. I've also included a tea you can make and drink as well as use to assist with water Scrying. Many of the herbs and materials included aid with divination as well as open the channel to the Universe and Goddess to receive what she has to say to you regarding your question or situation.
Water Scrying Spell
Take a deep bowl/cauldron of water and place it in your ritual space.
Place 3 black candles around you but not too close.
Place these herbs in the water (it is best if you use very hot/boiling
water in the cauldron for this)
Here is A recipe for Psychic Tea - to be drunk before all divination.
"Tea of richest psychic power Enhanced awareness on me shower. Bring the visions I should see. As I will, so mote it be!"
Here is another chant for Scrying:
Take a small round mirror and dip it into water, natural flowing water or streams are best but a bath will do. As soon as wet pull it out and catch your reflection, if it is disfigured, trouble is ahead, if it is clear all should be well!
Protective Visualization using mirrors; If you feel someone is being nasty to you - visualize a bubble of blue light covered with mirrors all around you and see it send any bad energy back to who sent it.
Fire Scrying Spell
Full Moon Scrying Spell
"Lovely Lady of the night,
Look down at the coin shimmering in the cauldron's water. With your eyes half closed, adjust your vision as if you were looking into and through the coin. Don't try to analyze anything you might see or that might come into your mind. Just accept it. Some people, rather than seeing actual pictures within the cauldron, will have mental impressions, feelings or pictures. When you have finished, bow to and thank the Moon. Pour the water out on the ground.
Now, we have the history, we have the rituals, we have some spells. What we don't have, is a mirror, right? So, let's make one.
Making Your Own Scrying Mirror
You can make a scrying mirror out of just about any piece of glass. For our project today we will be using clear glass salad/desert plates. However, the glass from a lovely picture frame, or a piece of beveled glass works very well, too. All you really need is a piece of clear glass.
Resources & References