The Obsidian Mirror
“He said, ‘I am the Smokey Mirror, because I am looking at myself in all of you, but we don’t recognize each other because of the smoke in-between us. That smoke is the Dream, and the mirror is you, the dreamer.'”
~from a story by Don Miguel Ruiz
In ancient Mexico, mirrors were made out of polished iron pyrites and obsidian. Some say that the ancient people of Mexico used these polished mirrors, known as tezcatl, as tools of black magic. Um…black? Are they being literal? Because while it may have been used for magic, I doubt it was used exclusively for dark purposes. (Oh, the Western mind! Is there any hope for it.) Just because the shamans used mirrors to travel and communicate with other realms hardly qualifies as black magic. These tezcatl were understood to be portals into other realms and likely used for healing, divination, burial ritual, and yes, in the wrong hands, for dark purposes. But put anything into the wrong hands and said humans will find a way to misuse it.
The Mexican god, Tezcatlipoca, or “Smokey Mirror”, is often depicted with an obsidian mirror, sometimes replacing his right foot, sometimes at his head or chest. He is said to be the Lord of Sorcery, King of Rulers, and Lord of the Night, and through his mirror, he could see the true thoughts and motivations of man. For a whole new light on the dark lord of Tezcatlipoca, check out this beautiful story written by author of The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz. In it, Don Miguel weaves of tale of Smokey Mirror‘s awakening from the dream of the planet to discover the oneness of life. Though he attempted to share his new-found revelations with others, it was only to be misunderstood. Everyone else was still caught within the smoke…the dream of the planet that separates us from our truth. He knew he too would fall back into this dream state.
A Mexica (Meh-she-ka) mirror was one of several reflective objects used by 15/16th century astrologer and magician John Dee for divination practices. He had a fascination with mirrors as well as with supernatural and psychic phenomena. With the help of medium, Edward Kelly, Dee would transcribe messages that Kelly perceived “through the looking glass”. This mirror currently resides in the British Museum and is made of volcanic glass (obsidian).
To learn more about obsidian mirrors, check out these links:
Mirrors in MesoAmerican Culture (most excellent and fascinating tidbits)
To read more of the myths of Tezcatlipoca: