Transcript of Disc II, Chapter VIII: Mirrors
© 2013 Max Dashu

Eleven obsidian mirrors, the oldest known, were buried with women at Catal Hoyuk over 7000 years ago. One belonged to an old woman who had three tusked boar jaws placed around her head. Others were found with baskets of red ochre.

This Olmec figurine is covered with red paint – here it’s cinnabar – and wears a hematite mirror on her chest. Mesoamerican peoples used these mirrors in divination.

Hassuna lion goddess
Sacred mirrors appear with both priestesses and goddesses in ancient art. On this chased vessel from Hassuna, Iraq, the lion-rider is probably a divinity

Letnitsa Mirror
A shaman calls up a triple wolf-headed dragon in this Thracian plaque from Letnitsa, Bulgaria.

Sarmatian plaque
Further east, a Sarmatian priestess or goddess holds up a mirror to a devotee, imparting revelation

A Bactrian woman in a ceremonial headdress makes the same gesture—holding the mirror facing out—in Merv, Turkmenistan.

Gyaur Kaly
And so does another priestess from Gyaur Kaly, with an expression of deep inward absorption.

Ak Alakha
The mirror of the shamanic priestess of Ak-Alakha is carved with the sacred reindeer in classic steppe style  [Ukok plateau, the same burial discussed in Crowns chapter. Davis-Kimball writes that 7% of Sauro-Sarmatian female burials were priestesses, with altars of stone and clay, intact mirrors, shells, carved bone spoons, animal-style amulets.]

Pazyryk mirror
The reindeer are also figured on the backs of bronze mirrors from nearby Pazyryk

Chylym, Eurasia
while in the faraway Ural mountains, mirrors take the form of bears, wolves, and other animals

Kelermes, northern Caucasus
Bears, lions, wolves and birds also appear on a Scythian mirror from Kelermes, mixing Greek Artemis with Iranian and steppe themes. Memory of these mirrors cast a long mythic shadow in Slavic tales of speaking mirrors and animal helpers.

Chinese bronze mirror
In China, bronze mirrors are figured with animals of the Five Directions and other cosmological symbols, showing again their sacral character.

Chinese mirror
These sacred mirrors warded off evil, and were placed over the dead as “heart-protecting mirrors.”

Japanese mirror
In Japan, these round mirrors symbolized the sun goddess Amaterasu, and were her gift: “My child, when you look at the mirror, let it be as if you were looking at me;

Sumida HatimanShrine
“... let it be with thee on thy couch and thy hall, and let it be to thee a holy mirror.”

Miko Mirror
Such mirrors were important in rituals of the Mikogami, the female shamans of old Japan. They wear them on their belts in haniwa figures around the year 400.

In Siberia and central Asia, copper or brass mirrors were part of shamans’ regalia. Here a Mongolian udagan wears them on her ritual robes.

Numinchen Robes
The Numinchen and other shamans in Manchuria wore them too. Tuvans say that spirits live in these küzüngü, giving the power to heal and repel demons. They also call the mirror “mount of the shaman”, [who rides it into spirit realms].

Brass Tibetan mirror
Tibetan shamans also use brass mirrors. In Dzogchen and other Buddhist traditions,

Khandro's melong
the melong represents the primordial pure mind, and transmits awareness of it. Dakinis and oracles dance with the melong, their hands making inspired mudras.

Aro Lingma
Female adepts use mirrors to initiate and awaken their disciples to this clarity wisdom, in Tibet and also Burma. ["Aro Lingma" thangka courtesy of Kumar Lama ]

Mirror dakini
A dancing wisdom dakini reveals the ultimate reality through the sacred mirror, in medieval Javanese Buddhism.

The Argentine bronze discs from Catamarca: was their other side a polished mirror? with their doubleheaded serpents and masks of the Directions...

Mama Huaco
In Peru the divine mirror was the moon reflecting the sun, held by Mama Huaco, First Woman of the Quechua. They say that the stones of the earth spoke to this great medicine woman.

Mama Ocllo
Another early Coya, or high priestess of the Moon, was Mama Ocllo, and she too holds the mirror that reflects the sun.

The Desbourough mirror is one of many in the la Tène style from Celtic Britain. Archaeologists  increasingly recognize these as significators of female power.

Rudston mosaic
Their sacred valence is backed up by the cosmic setting of this woman-with-mirror mosaic at Rudston, Yorkshire, with a selkie by her side, and surrounded by creatures of the directions, and zodiac. [Scholars who insist on interpreting her only through the Roman lens of “Venus” ignore the native symbolism.]

Niger Mirror
Saharan petroglyphs in Chad [error: should have said Niger] also treat the mirror as a sign of female potency 

Niger Mirror 2
and the woman sometimes appears to dance with it in her upraised hands [this one is less clearly a mirror, but they didn't have ballons...]

In Congo, mirrors are sometimes incorporated into the body of minkisi, a word that refers both to spirits and to the sacred objects that they live in. Banganga, medicine people, worked with them for healing, divination and other purposes.



Woman Shaman: the Ancients © 2013 Max Dashu

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