January 09, 2010

Why Babies Shouldn't See Mirrors and Vampires Have No Reflection


Okay, here are three interesting folk facts about mirrors:

  1. Farmers in 19th century Massachusetts believed that a baby shouldn't look into a mirror until it's at least a year old. If it does, "that means death to it." (From Johnson's What They Say in New England.)

  2. Everyone knows that vampires don't have reflections.

  3. In parts of Europe, it was traditional to cover all the mirrors in the house when someone had died. (From Lecouteux's Witches, Werewolves and Fairies).

These are all connected by an old belief that a person's reflection, or even their shadow, is their soul. Given this, here are the reasons for these three:

  1. You shouldn't let your baby look into a mirror, because its young soul is more loosely connected to its body than an adult's, and could get stuck in the mirror.

  2. Vampires have no reflection because they don't have souls anymore.

  3. You should cover the mirrors when someone dies so their soul doesn't get stuck in the mirror, rather than moving on to the next world. (Many modern Jews still cover the mirrors when someone dies, but they have other reasons for the practice.)

According to Roger Williams, the local Narragansett had two words for the soul. One of them was michachunck, which was similar to their word for mirror. Maybe the connection between reflections and souls was found in many different cultures?

2 comments:

Dimple said...

Now I understand a little more about Alice in Wonderland!

Heather Rojo said...

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