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Mirror Gazing (Scrying)

Written and compiled by George Knowles


Since time began, man has been fascinated by his reflected image as seen in the still waters of woodland lakes, pools and rivers.  Among primitive peoples superstition was rife, and seeing their image reflected in water may have been like catching a glimpse of their souls, for it was widely believed that the soul existed separate from the body.  Others may have found themselves gazing through a portal into the spirit realm, there communicating with departed loved ones or gaining insights into future events.  However, these same woodland lakes and pools were also known haunts of fairy folks and nature spirits, sometimes friendly, but sometimes hostile, and likely to snatch at human reflection to capture the souls of the unwary.  Little wonder then that anything reflecting images was regarded as magical.


The Mirror of Venus by Burne-Jones

Ancient prophets, soothsayers and oracles initially used bowls filled with water in which to scry and divine answers to questions about past, present and future events.  Later, highly polished stones such as beryl, crystal and quartz were used for similar purposes.  The first man-made mirrors used in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome were commonly made of sheeted metal (pewter, copper, tin, bronze or silver etc.) and flattened into rounded disks to which handles were applied.  Some had decorative designs inscribed on the back, but the face would have been highly polished and reflective.



Early Egyptian, Etruscan and Celtic copper and bronze hand-held mirrors

In the Middle Ages when it became possible to make glass, crude hand held glass mirrors were made backed with thin layers of metal such as tin and lead.  Later during the 16th century, better quality mirrors were produced in Murano, Venice (Italy), the backs of which were covered with an amalgam of tin and mercury (normally 75% tin to 25% mercury).  In 1836 a German chemist called ‘Justus von Liebig’ developed the process of coating a glass surface with metallic silver, a process that is still used today.  By the end of the 17th century plate glass was developed, and the use of large stationary mirrors became commonplace household features.

Legends, Myths and Folklore

Dr. John Dee (1527 – 1608) 

Dr. John Dee was a famous Alchemist, Mathematician, Astronomer; he was also an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I on matters pertaining to science and astrology, as such, he was commonly referred to as “the last royal magician”.  A serious academic, some thought him to be the most learned man in the whole of Europe.  He was fascinated by all things occult, and was an adept in Hermetic and Cabbalistic philosophy.  Dee had a particular interest in divination, and spent much of his later life experimenting with different methods in his efforts to communicate with Angels.  From 1583 onward, Dee worked with Edward Kelly using both a black obsidian mirror and a crystal ball to see visions of ‘Angels’.  Allegedly they communicated by pointing to squares containing letters and symbols that Dee had transcribed.


John Dee’s black obsidian mirror and crystal ball

This is the mirror together with a small smoky quartz crystal ball used by Dee and Kelly for their occult research.  These are now on display at the British Museum in London.  The mirror is made of highly polished obsidian (volcanic glass) and was one of many objects brought back to Europe after the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish conquistador Hernán (Ferdinand) Cortés.  Obsidian was sacred to Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec “Sky God” associated with Kings, Warriors and Sorcerers, and whose name can be translated as “Smoking Mirror”.  The Aztec priests used mirrors for divination and conjuring up visions. 

The case along side it was especially made to fit the mirror, it has a paper label written by the English antiquary Sir Horace Walpole who acquired the mirror in 1771 stating:  The Black Stone into which Dr Dee used to call his spirits...” and added later:  Kelly was Dr Dee’s associate and is mentioned with this very stone in “Hudibras” (a satirical poem by Samuel Butler, first published in 1664) Part 2. Canto 3 v. 631.  Kelly did all his feats upon The Devil’s Looking glass, a Stone".



In one of the many legends of Greece, the mathematician Archimedes (287-212 BC) invented giant mirrors that were used to reflect the rays of the Sun onto Roman warships during the battle of Syracuse in 212 B.C.


Wall painting from the Stanzino delle Matematiche in the Galleria degli Uffizi (Florence, Italy). Painted by Giulio Parigi - 1599-1600.

At last in an incredible manner he (Archimedes) burned up the whole Roman fleet. For by tilting a kind of mirror toward the sun he concentrated the sun's beam upon it; and owing to the thickness and smoothness of the mirror he ignited the air from this beam and kindled a great flame, the whole of which he directed upon the ships that lay at anchor in the path of the fire, until he consumed them all.” 

(The above description is from Dio's Roman History - Translated by Earnest Cary, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1914)



In Greek mythology Narcissus was a handsome young man whose beautiful good looks claimed the love of all the women who met him, but he continually rejected their advances.  One day while hunting in the woods he came upon a clear pool of water and stopped to take a drink from it.  Mirrors were almost unknown in those times, but when he bent down to drink from the water, he saw what he thought was another young man.  Amazingly the young man seems to be alive and responding, for when Narcissus smiled, so did he.  The young man was so incredibly beautiful that Narcissus immediately fell in love with him, but when he bent forward to kiss him, just when their lips should have touched, the young man’s image blurred and rippled and all he got was a mouthful of water.


Narcissus by John William Waterhouse (1903)

Eventually Narcissus realised it was his own reflection in the water, but he could not bear to pull himself away.  As he continued to gaze longingly at himself, he gradually pined away and died.  At the place where his body had lain now grows a beautiful flower, a Narcissus, nodding its head over its own reflection in a pool.


Perseus and Medusa of the Gorgons 

In Greek mythology, the Gorgons (daughters of the sea god Phorcys and his wife Ceto) were three monstrous sisters called:  Stheno, Euryale and Medusa.  They were dragon-like creatures covered with scales, had wings, claws, enormous teeth and snakes replicating hair.  They lived on the farthest side of the western ocean, shunned and feared because a single direct glance at one of them could turn a person to stone.  Of the three, only Medusa was mortal and could be killed, a feat that was achieved by the hero Perseus (son of Zeus). 

Perseus, with the aid of a sword given to him by Hermes and a highly polished shield given to him by Athena, by watching Medusa’s reflection in the shield, was able to cut off her head without directly looking at her.  The severed head, however, still had the power to turn a person into stone if it was looked upon.  Legend has it that Perseus gave the severed head to Athena who used it to turn Atlas into stone.  This stone became known as the Atlas Mountains that now hold up the heaven and earth.



Medusa painted by Caravaggio 1596-1597

Other legends about mirrors and scrying include the Goddess Hathor, who carried a shield that could reflect back all things in their true light.  Nostradamus is believed to have used a small bowl of water as a scrying tool into which he gazed and received images of future events.  And who can forget the magic mirror featured in the Disney folktale classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, when the wicked Queen immortalized the question “Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

Making a Scrying Mirror 

All types and sizes of mirrors can be used for scrying, but commonly round or oval mirrors seem to be preferred.  Old mirrors seem to work better than new mirrors, and more particularly those encased in a silver frame.  Silver is generally associated with the moon, and while scrying can be practiced at any time, best results are often gained in the quiet of night during a full or new moon. 

Many people find it easier to scry using a black or obsidian mirror, the dark depth of a black mirror being more conducive to inducing visions.  Obsidian is a black or dark-coloured volcanic lava rock, chemically similar to granite, but formed by cooling rapidly on the Earth’s surface at low pressure.  The glassy texture of the rock is the result of its rapid cooling, which inhibits the growth of crystals. 

Obsidian was highly valued by the early civilizations of Mexico, who used it for making sharp-edged tools, ritual and ceremonial sculptures, and polished mirrors similar to the one owned by Dr. John Dee above.  Sadly, the ancient method of mining, grinding and smoothing obsidian into reflective mirrors was a long and drawn-out process, and so true obsidian mirrors, particularly old ones, are now quite expensive.  However, given modern techniques and the demand created in the contemporary market, new obsidian mirrors can be obtained from most modern occult shops who stock them in a range of sizes at competitive prices.



Here’s an old mirror and stand I found at a car boot sale recently.  I then purchased a new black obsidian mirror slate from an occult store in Glastonbury and collected  all the bits and pieces needed to transform and create my own magick mirror.

An alternative to using obsidian is to make your own ‘black’ mirror.  If you have an old silver picture frame lying around the home, simply take out the glass, clean it being careful to remove any marks, finger prints or blemishes, then paint the back of it black.  Matt black paint tends to work better than gloss paint, as does black enamel or car spray paint.  You may need to give the glass a few coats of paint to cover it properly, but allow each coat to dry thoroughly before adding the next.  Also try to leave a smooth finish without streaks or runs.


Having rubbed down the mirror frame with fine sandpaper and sprayed it with black satin paint, I decided to decorate the boarder with appropriate directional and elemental stones.  North is Malachite representing Earth, East is Citrine representing Air, South is Tigers Eye representing Fire, and West is Lapis Lazuli representing Water.  Replacing the silver backed mirror glass into the frame, I then centralised and bonded the black obsidian slate to it leaving a silver rim around the black mirror...

Another good idea is to use the curved glass face of an old clock and paint the convex side black; you will of course need to make a suitable frame to mount it on.  Antique shops are a good source for old clocks, and who knows, you could also find an antique silver frame on which to mount it.  Frames can be as plain or as ornate as you like; you may even wish to personalise or decorate it with meaningful stones, gems or sigils.  Remember the mirror will also need some method of standing-up on your altar or table, ideally at a shallow or adjustable angle.  Some picture frames have a leg on the back for this purpose, or alternatively you could use a display stand similar to those used for collector plates.

... and the end result is my own Magick Mirror.

Before using your mirror, as with all magickal tools, it needs to be cleansed of all previous associations and negative energies, then dedicated and charged with your own energy.  It is up to you how simple or elaborate you wish to make this process, but most people do it inside a properly consecrated circle.  Once your circle is formed and quarters called, a simple dedication might go something like this: 

Into this sacred space I bring this mirror, here to be cleansed and dedicated to my service”.  Face each direction in turn and call on its associated element with these or similar words (start with North - Earth):  “By the spirits of the North and the powers of the Earth, I purify and dedicate this mirror” (repeat the same with the other directions:  East - Air, South – Fire, and West - Water).  Next you may wish to call whatever deities you are working with for their blessing, saying:  Goddess/God (or deity names), bless this mirror, let it be a tool I use for positive purposes.  Guard and watch over the works that come from it, and ensure no harm can ever be caused by it.  In thy name Goddess/God I dedicate this mirror to my service.  So Mote It Be!


Mirror Gazing (Scrying)

The art of mirror gazing (scrying) is called Catoptromancy, a term that refers to the use of reflective surfaces for the purposes of divination.  Scrying mirrors can be used to make contact with spirit guides, to access knowledge for healing and self-improvement, or to define the past, predict the present, and perceive the future.  As a portal into other realms, it can also be used to aid astral travel, and during ritual to communicate with deity. 

Scrying can be practiced at any time, but best results are often gained in the quiet of night after the hustle and bustle of the day’s activities.  It is not necessary to construct a fully consecrated circle for scrying; it is enough to simply create your sacred space by visualizing a circle of white light surrounding and purifying the appointed working area.  In a quiet darkened room, place your mirror on a table or altar with a dark cloth beneath it.  Light a candle, one on each side of the mirror, but in such a position they don’t reflect on the mirror’s surface, and if you wish, burn an appropriate blend of incense to stimulate the psychic senses.  Switch off all other light sources except for the two candles, and seat yourself comfortably in front of the mirror.  Take a few minutes to relax while you tune into the atmosphere created.  When ready to start, first ground and center yourself then call your guides or guardians to protect the work from unwanted or misleading influences. 

To begin, when looking at the mirror try not to just stare at it, but look through its surface as if gazing into a dark and endless tunnel.  After awhile, images and colours will begin to take form, they may even appear and take shape outside the mirror surrounding it on all sides.  When you first start scrying be patient, keeping your first sessions to about 10 - 30 minutes, and gradually work it up to hour-long sessions as you learn.  The art of scrying is interpreting what you see in the images and colours as they take form.  This in a way it is a little like dream interpretation, and initially you may wish to consult one of the many books on the subject to help define the images you see.  At the end of the day however, the real interpretation will be what those images mean to you personally. 

After you have completed your scrying session, re-ground yourself and close your sacred space.  You may wish to keep a journal and note down any visions you received during your session and later compare them with a list of dream interpretations.  The more you practice, the more familiar the images and their meanings will become, but you may need to meditate on them for awhile to reveal any hidden meanings. 

In conclusion, there are many differing ways and methods of scrying in addition to the one above, so it pays to experiment and use what works best for you.  Whatever tool or method you use, be it your own personalized mirror, a crystal ball, or simply a bowl of coloured water; it can with time and patience become a font of wisdom and knowledge.  As Ostara, the Spring Equinox approaches, a time of fresh beginnings, who knows what future truths can be divined???  Believe in your abilities and may you find what you seek.



Best wishes and Blessed Be


Site Contents - Links to all Pages


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About me:

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Wicca & Witchcraft


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Traditional Writings:


The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality


Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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