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The Beliefs and Legends of Various Cultures in Mirrors

In many places mirrors are called “gözgü”, a word derived from “göz” (eye). Mirrors, which also have different names like özgö, küzgü, güzgü, gözgeç, have an important place in folk beliefs. Many different meanings have been added and they have been the subject of many legends, stories and beliefs.

According to the Altay Türeyiş legend the Moon and the Sun were nothing but mirrors. Cengiz Khan’s son was named Toluy, which meant mirror. The Moon and Sun did not have a power that was their own. They could do nothing but reflect the light and heat that God provided. There were people who thought that this was why Shamans would tell fortunes by looking at a mirror. According to Shamans; whatever happened, whatever would happen, everything and every event would appear in this mirror. The mirror in the Shaman’s hand was a symbol of the Moon and Sun. The Shaman would tell fortunes by looking at the sun and reciting their ideas about the future. The mirror would reflect all of the souls and powers in the universe and when the souls of shamans went to the world of souls it would show them the way. The belief that a mirror should be given as a gift when moving into a new home comes from shamanism belief.

In Alexander’s Mirror legend various stories are encountered about “ayine-i alem-nüma” or in other words the mirror that shows the world. When Alexander established the city of Alexandria the scholars there named Belinas, Hermis and Valines made a mirror and placed it in a high place. According to the stories ships that were on course towards Alexandria could be seen from this mirror when they were only 1 month out and incoming enemy ships could be burned by reflecting the sun with this mirror.

It is also among the stories that this mirror was made by Alexander’s teacher Aristo at his demand and when the guards were sleeping it was stolen and thrown into the sea. In some sources, it is said that this mirror is among the four valuable objects gifted to Alexander by the Indian King Kaid. Some sources say this mirror was round, some flat and could show both sides and if a person who looked at it was a liar their image would not be seen. Alexander found out who was lying to him by using this mirror.

The Symbolism of the Mirror

It is said that the mirror is the symbol of imagery or of awareness. The mirror has the ability to copy the visible reflections of the world in its own figural reality. Scheler and other philosophers associated mirrors with thought because it is a mental instrument that is the reflection of the universe and enables you to observe yourself. Mirrors are also associated with the image of water and the myth of Narcissus.

Also mirrors frequently emerge in legends and fairytales; mirrors could show what happened in the past or what will happen in the future or what is happening now from a very far distance.

Also the magic mirror would always tell the truth. Without need for the masks we people wore to protect ourselves, mirrors would reflect only what they saw; they were able to see the soul as it is without cover.

Other than its association with water, mirrors are associated with the moon due to their passive and reflective feature. The Moon takes on images like the Sun. The best mirrors are made with the metal silver which is associated with the moon. Prehistoric people thought silver was made of the beams from the Moon. At the Coricancha (Cuzco) temple there was a holy place completely covered in silver devoted to the Moon. Thus, mirror and silver were connected with the lunar gods. Gods had the features and symbols of the moon.

According to Loeffler, mirrors are the magical symbols of unconscious memories (like glass palaces). As the completing part of mirrors glass mirrors combine with the symbol of purity, excellent insight and being able to enlighten yourself.

Glass in alchemy represents spiritual excellence, but the only thing that enables glass not to be seen is its transparency. Glass turns into an instrument between the worlds that can and cannot be seen and thus shows itself by transforming into a symbolic foundation of the secret powers of people, the prophecy and wisdom with all its skills.

Mevlana and the Mirror

The mirror has always had a significant meaning to Mevlana, a great thinker and poet. He frequently used mirrors as a metaphor in his stories, thus decorating his beautiful narratives and thoughts with similes. Below we share a story he has written in his work called Mesnevi, in which Mevlana speaks about mirrors.

The Story of Mirror and Soil

    Soil said to the mirror:

  • “Oh mirror! I envy you! Because everyone that looks into you sees themselves; everyone who looks at me only sees me!”

    The mirror responds to soil:

  • “Oh black soil, what a futile problem you have concerned yourself with. Do you not know that I show the people who look into me what they are today. But you give the people who look at you, news from the future…”

    Although this answer may have delighted soil, it asks the same question:

  • “Oh mirror! Maybe these words of yours are to console me. Tell me, would those who look at you bother to turn and look at me?”

    The mirror says the following in response with a pained smile:

  • “Do not worry Mother Soil! Those who no longer have the face to look at me will always turn to look at you…”

The day will come when the face of all mortal humans will turn from the mirror to mother soil. However most of these will not even be given this chance. The time for death may come when least inspected and put an end to the whole test. That is when it is understood how important life in the world is.