Sunday, July 16, 2017
The Witch As Mirror
The mirror as we know it today is a very recent inventions - only eighteenth century, I believe. These first glass mirrors were fantastically expensive and thus the preserve of the fantastically wealthy, who had the necessary means and also the relative leisure required to sit there looking at themselves. Even before that invention the efforts to polish stone and metals to make them reflective without distorting also involved great expense. Mirrors are therefore luxury items devoted to the beautification of the individual.
And yet...they don't show the objective truth, they reverse it. But that said, they will certainly show closer to the truth than the person looking into it might want to see. In today's world of heavily edited images, we can project the image we want to the outside world but when we look in the mirror first thing in the morning we still get the unvarnished truth.
And that sense of discomfort exactly relates to the witch figure in so many ways. I have been thinking about how the ambivalence and discomfort around the witch figure is related to the way the witch reveals the truth, faces people with what they are doing, and also has the power to change what is happening. No wonder people are never exactly comfortable around witches.
The person's response to what the witch shows her is an interesting part of this. We have all read folklore of entities who don't show up in mirrors, of how mirrors can steal people's souls, and I am reminded of how the narcissistic Narcissus was so enchanted by his own reflection he fell in love. THe ambivalence of response to our reflection is exactly mirrored by the ambivalent image of the witch.
The power to change what is being seen is another major element of this discomfort - just as many a person has wished their mirror would show something different, so what the witch reflects is frequently unwelcome, and one of the functions of the witch is to change what we have to show people. Well, I think more accurately, what we do is offer people an invitation to make their own changes. The encounter with the witch is merely the opportunity for the person to realise what they are doing and change their destiny. The witch is not the holder of the destiny, merely the displayer of it and the facilitator of change.
Nonetheless the mirror is such a powerful image that it has firmly found its place in the mythology of the modern witch cult. I particularly like the 1970s feminist ritual where you become a witch by sitting in front of a mirror and saying three times, 'I am a witch,' and THINK about it. Once again it is an invitation to turn the encounter with your own reflection into a turning point.
Reflections over for now - time for some cleaning. You would not believe the amount of glass cleaner I've got through since moving here because of the large mirrors in this flat!