GRAPHITE/JohnDee¹s Aztec Mirror, British Museum, London, England
mirror was used by the Elizabethan mathematician, astrologer and
magician John Dee (1527-1608/9) as a 'shew-stone', one of many
polished translucent or reflective objects which he used as tools
for his occult research.
mirror, made of highly-polished obsidian (volcanic glass), was
one of many Aztec cult objects and treasures brought to Europe
after the conquest of Mexico by Cortés between 1527 and 1530.
Mirrors were associated with Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec god of rulers,
warriors and sorcerers, whose name can be translated as 'Smoking
Mirror'. Aztec priests used mirrrors for divination and conjuring
up visions. Dee had an interest in optics and optical mirrors
or 'glasses' as described in his private diary and works. he was
also interested in psychic phenomena and, from 1583, worked with
Edward Kelly as his medium. Kelly would see visions in the 'shew-stones'
of 'angels' that communicated by pointing to one square after
another in tables of letters and unknown symbols, which Dee and
case, made to fit the obsidian mirror with its projecting handle,
has a paper label with the handwriting of the English antiquary
Sir Horace Walpole, who acquired the mirror in 1771. The text
begins 'The Black Stone into which Dr Dee used to call his spirits
...'. He has 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.'