QUESTIONS OF IDENTITY AND PURPOSE MAY BEGIN TO CREEP UP AS WE CONTINUE THIS COLLECTIVE JOURNEY INWARDS.
Who am I? What am I? We are creatures of community. Extended isolation can invoke questions with challenging or foggy insight. However, there is magical opportunity here to safely look within, take time with ourselves, and wander deeper than we ordinarily may have the capacity for. Scrying, from the Old English word descry meaning “to make out dimly” or “to reveal,” is the act of gazing into a reflective surface- from oil on a fingernail, still water, metals, fire, clouds, crystal balls - and of course mirrors.
Long associated with spying into the soul, this is one of the oldest and most relied upon methods of self-witnessing and clarifying through a magical lens. It’s also one of the most ancient shared magics that is known. Early Egyptians, North Africans, the Magi, Greeks, and Romans all carried at a time the shared faith in the enchantments and earnest expressions of the mirror. They are mentioned by several ancient authors and thinkers of varying faiths, such as Apuleius, Saint Augustine, Pythagoras, Nostradamus, Spartianus, and Pausanias - famous for using scrying for healing purposes. The 10th century Shahnama, a written semi-historical epic, describes what was called the Cup of Jamshid used in pre-Islamic Persia, used by magical practitioners for observing the layers of the universe.
Through reflective magic, you are able to see deeper, and offer love to the being in your life that needs you the most: yourself. What would happen if you spent even a few short minutes giving yourself the attention that you deserve? Simply gazing upon your divine being is an act of love. Infusing this act with intentional magic is a very easy and effective bonus that is well worth doing. Some believe that mirrors are a tool of dark magic; that they steal souls. This is commonly based on a variety of counter-superstitions, borne from spooky games of telephone over time, as well as influence from religious doctrine. Seeing demons in a mirror has required that an individual fervently repent, and await acceptance again from the clergy.
Churches have weird ways of flirting, but they seem to always work! Another one that’s been known to freak folks out is seeing someone who has passed from the body in the place of their own reflection. It’s been feared that this is an omen of death - not, maybe, an ancestral or meaningful visitation. In my opinion, much of this is rooted in our human habit to lean into fear, skipping the lesson and seeing what’s most frightening. But what if we saw what frightened us and took time to find out why? What if we, in the time that felt comfortable to us, created space to understand it? To understand ourselves? Our magical fight-flight-freeze mechanism has been stuck in the clogged pipes of the primal brain for a long time. This is largely due to generations of demonizing creative processing and magical thinking. The resulting effects are a kind of invisible insanity; numbing us to the wonder we contain.
This manifested in my own life early on when I discovered how to hide from my own intuition. I remember how extremely not okay I would become when catching my own reflection during high school parties. I’d often be drunk or high, and seeing myself in an unrecognizable state was deeply unsettling. “Who is this mess? What happened to her? Did I do this?” Greeting me there in the mirror was a medley of shame, disgust, confusion, and denial. Not for having a good time - we’re allowed a little jovial stupidity - but for the self-harm I knew I was causing. It was a time when danger felt better than facing reality, so I opted for choices that were easy to burrow within, even if they weren’t smart ones. All I wanted was to feel comforted, and to get away from the pain of what was. I didn’t want to see the truth of the moment so I continued to look away- until I simply couldn’t anymore. That’s the thing about reflection. It’s always lingering just out of sight, and will continue to haunt us unless we agree that we are worthy of facing ourselves with love.
The queen in Snow White showed me how. Well, kind of. Ursula (my favorite) did too. And Rapunzel. And Beast even had one. These trashed-by-Disney fairytales of my youth, maintained by my inner child and reformed by my adult sensibilities, show me more than twisted archetypes of witches and magical beings - they showed me their tools and tricks of the trade. Each of these classic characters, demonized by religious fundamentalism, used their mirrors to spy the outside world - but is that what they were really for? Is that what they really got? It seems that they were much more effective in showing the inside world - the stresses, subconscious worries, and hidden truths. No matter how much we try to find guidance from external sources, the power of reflection will always step up to the plate, for better or worse. Perhaps all magic is this way. When gazing into the mirror, we may find deeper reflections in symbols suddenly made known, words, scenes or subtle changes in ourselves, perceived by our magical subconscious.
The mirror is a powerful tool, but merely used for focusing our own inner power, offering a new way of seeing. When asking to see the truth, the mirror dispassionately complies. It’s best to know what to do with this ability to see and feel, and learn how to use it with self-love in mind. Step slowly, and know that you are perfect as you are in this moment. When gazing upon yourself, take a time to truly understand this. You deserve it and always have. We make discoveries when we inquire within. Sometimes they are sudden, sometimes they take time to stew. This is a step towards radical self-honesty. Witnessing ourselves in our own process means to give and receive energy by the person in our lives who needs us the most: ourselves. Oh I’m sorry - did I already mention that before? I guess I must really mean it.
Witnessing ourselves as a form of magic and healing is like any other skill. A muscle. To be worked with consistency, patience, and care. For those who have experienced trauma, there may be things in our reflection that we don’t want to see, don’t remember, or simply aren’t ready for. It’s critical that we move forwards slowly, and in our own time. This is an essential part of understanding these difficult and complicated facets, meeting them with compassion, and learning to love ourselves for those too.