The Story of Film – An Odyssey [6]


1. What was the importance of the film Cairo Station? What themes does it deal with?

2. What role did India play in cinema? What were some of its films main characteristcs? What were the films influenced by?

3. What was the influence of musical theatre in Indian cinema?

4. Did Indian cinema influence American cinema? How?

5. What is the influence of culture in films?

6. What was the effect of the Mao’s Cultural Revolution on China’s film industry?

7. What is the main topic in Kurosawa’s films? Did he have any influence in filmmakers that followed him? How?

8. Who was Fernando de Fuentes? Why does the documentary say he “invented” Mexican national cinema?

9. What influence did Buñuel’s film Los Olvidados have on Mexican cinema? How was the film received by the critics? Why?

10. What cliché reigned in America during the 50’s? What was its importance then and what is its importance now?

The Story of Film – An Odyssey [5]


1. Movie Realism
A type of filmmaking that deals with the tragedy of war. It’s more sober and somber and sad.

2. Why was American cinema ‘sobering up’?
They had to get darker because life itself was darker, and more sober, and everything felt less romanticized and real and war was like a great cloud covering everything.

3. Back Projection…
A form of contrasting in scenes.

4.  Deep Focus/Deep Space/Shallow Focus…differences?
Deep Focus –> Wide angle lense, allows actors to be close while far away from the camera, it gives more space to the shot, making a bold composition. It allows the audience to choose were to direct its attention to.
Shallow Focus –> It’s much more closer to the actors, making the images much sharper.

5. Orson Welles
He was one of the first to experiment with the Deep Focus technique, especially in his film “Citizen Kane”. He was futuristic but he also looked to the past and gave importance to the past, and to past idols (for example Shakespeare).

6.  Citizen Kane
One of the most influential films in the use of the deep focus technique, Orson Welles used it to make a scene that seemed to go on for miles and miles and allowed the audience to
focus in multiple things at the same times.
But also a character that’s narcisitic and full of himself and has trouble feeling.

7.  Rubble Movies
They portrayed the cities during and after the war

8. What might a bare light bulb represent?
Things that are plain and unadorned and real.

9. Neorealists—cinema is the boring bits, how/why?
They try to portray real life after war, shots were not concentrating on beautiful-ness but in meaning. They stopped trying to tell a story, they focused on the message.
It echoed real life, not only what was beatiful and glamorized and super important.

10. What happened to Hollywood Gloss?
They stopped giving a cause/effect to plain things. They didn’t necessarily tried to give a meaning to everything.
Films became sadder and more realistic and started trying to portray the melancholy that had gripped the human race.

11. Dark Films?
Films that represented much more the realness of life, they were unpretencious and desdained money and lust

12. Characters in film noir, are…?
Real and tortured, suspicious. Lustful for sex and money. They have a horrible harmatia that leads them to their fate even if they tried to avoid it.
The women haunt the film and use men, usually immorally.

13. What created Noir?
The Hollywood fantasy of romanticisim died, after a war there was a lot of frustration and so films that were beautiful and talked about how life was beautiful and nice and always adorable wouldn’t have been well received. People wanted characters that were more realistic and truthful, as well as stories that reflected their feeling.

14. Ida Lupino?
She was an American actress and filmmaker. She was known for her hard and important characters in films such as They Drive by Night and High Sierra.

15. The McCarthy Era.
Thousands of Americans were accused of being communists and communist sympathizers and became victims of aggressive questioning and investigations.

16.  Anti-Trust Laws.
These laws promote vigorous competition and protect consumers from anticompetitive mergers and business practices. The FTC’s Bureau of Competition, working in tandem with the Bureau of Economics, enforces the antitrust laws for the benefit of consumers.

17.  The Camera is just like a pencil…wtf??
They created and told stories. They created characters and destroyed them and led the audience through the story

The Story of Film – An Odyssey [4]


1. The world was changing fast, but how?
The first World War had just ended, people were still getting a grip on themselves after coming back home, settling back in. The Crash of Wall Street in 1929 set back economic growth for, not only America, but a lot of other countries around the world. Silent cinema was starting to lose its importance and people much preferred spoken movies.

2. What happened to the quality of the picture or cinematography in the advent of sound?
Real locations started to be hard to use, so filmmakers were forced to move back to sound studios. At this time, recording sound became much more important than the quality of the image. Cinema became less cinematic.

3. Sound unifying cinema?
Adding sound to films came with a lot of limitations, so while the directors learned how to work around them, most of them returned to basics; with not-so-good lighting, not as many different shots, etc.
The real signs were substituted by metaphoric signs.

4. Sound standardizing cinema into specific genre’s?
Signs helped form films into types that were easily recognized and had story lines that were easy to follow. There were six types that remained for a long time.

5. The gangster picture, uniquely American?
The gangster genre was so important in America, I think, mainly because it was something they were going through at the time. With Italian immigration and the between-wars era. Also, gangsters were a really good chance to show that man-with-feelings character the world has always been so in love with.

6. Why were gangster movies so influential worldwide?
Hollywood produced a lot of gangster movies in a really short amount of time, and with it, they brought not only a new genre in cinema, but also a whole set of signs and body language and systems and techniques to filmmaking that were interesting to a lot of people.

7. The Western and the coming
They are the other end of the spectrum, the counter part to the gangster movies. The start of society against the end of a dying, corrupt, society.

8. What happened to comedy in the 30’s?
It became feminized, it became fast, disorganized. Females became stronger characters, while men became weaker.

9. Howard Hawkes?
One of the greatest comedy directores of the era. But he also directed Scarface, and Westerns and made one of the first Film Noir pictures. He helped shape the mainstream cinema.

10. Golddiggers?
A movie that shows the story from the feminine perspective, with a girl singing about the men that returned from the War and were then hit by The Great Depression

11. Cartoons and Walt Disney?
Disney turned cartoon into an internationally loved art form. He retook something that both children and adults could like and understand and be interested in and he used themes and topics that were popular in film then, using innovative and interesting techniques that hadn’t been seen before.

12. Motion Capture?
Taking a real person, and translating their movement and expressions into drawings so that the result is an image that is realistic and follows natural laws.

13. Conservative messages in later Disney over innovation?
After WWII, his production changed from actually making the drawings for the film to being photocopied, it stopped dealing with surrealist and innovative topics and became much more conservative.

14. Jean Vigo?
A French director. He plays with sight and signs and plays with music and shots and the acting of people. He was politically critical and completely innovative. He was nonconformist. He wasn’t interested in plots, but in characters.

15. Non-genre films?
Films that weren’t tied to single type of story, that cared more about the message of the film than being tied down by an imaginary, enforced genre.

16. Marcel Carne?
A French director whose first films were about the forgotten. His films are often called poetic realist; France, at the time, was going through a difficult era; unemployment, depression, later on the Nazi invasion.

17. Les Enfants de Paradis?
A Marcel Carné film that shows a lot interlaced stories, in it a prostitute is accused of stealing and a mime, tells the truth through miming. It was a movie that was politically critical, although, with the Nazi invasion, movies couldn’t talk about what was happening at the moment. The films were a sort of forced escapism, that allowed the French people to feel free and liberated for a moment even under Nazi oppression. The title referred to the cheapest seats in the cinema.

18. Hitchcock… Genre/Non-genre?
He became the greatest image maker of the XX century. He had a unique way to use the camera shots, turning the camera into point of view of the camera into the character’s. He thought movies shouldn’t be about life, he said that they were stronger than realism, that real life should be cut out from film. He made an art form out of suspense and fear, creating tension throughout his films. His use of close ups was also very important. He tended to started with a close up and go back to show the whole image. In the films with the more suspense, he used very little sound, to not take away from the detail and because he loved silence.  He implemented high shots to give an air of elegance to his films.

19. Movies are stronger than realism/reality?
Films are allowed and capable of showing more than we are able to see; giving them an otherworldly feel that real life cannot capture.

20. Close ups are clashes of symbols?
They gave a dramatic punctuation to film, symbols gained a much more bigger importance in the telling of a story. For example the use of hands in Hitchcock’s 39 steps.

The Story of Film – An Odyssey [3]


1. Rebellion against what?
Challenged the glitter of the cinema, the glamour that was being created around movies. Against fantasy cinema, dramatic cinema.

2. How does this rebellion fit in with a general rebellion of the early 20th century you saw in painting and writing and in modernism in general?
After the first world war most artists and creators were done and completely fed up with romantic fantasies, saying that real life was not – and could never be – like that. They were looking for a much more realist images.

3. Ernst Lubstich
The second challenge against mainstream cinema, he mocked the heavy handed, almost Victorian way, that sex and love were portrayed in movies and found a way to express that was all his own. He was visually daring. However he had to create new ways to represent sexuality once he moved to Hollywood; using objects to represent sexuality.

4. Cinematic Impressionism and Abel Gance
They used cinema in an impressionist ways, inspired by the impressionist paintings. Portraying the feelings and events the way they are seen and experienced in real life, most of the images last just one frame giving us just an impression before it’s replaced with another image.

5. German Expressionism in Cinema
Directors wanted to show a deeper image of the human mind, these films were inspired by the expressionist paintings. Since Germany had closed its doors to foreign cinema due to the war in 1916, its national cinema gained importance amongst Germans. These films usually had a political bite, saying the German state controlled is people. They took on the point of view in cinema and gave it a bigger importance than even in French Impressionist films. One of the most important movies was: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

6. Flat Light
Flooding the set with flat light, and then painting the shadows into the set.

7. Fritz Lang and Metropolis
He started making films about the deep structure of society. His film Metropolis, set in the year 2000, tells the story of clashes between workers and an authoritarian industrialist in a New York-like set. Exploitation and urban paradise were extremely important for the film.

8. F.W. Murneau and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Cities were not only scary, but poetic too. In this film a man and woman walk together, so wrapped up in each other that the city becomes nature and then city again. However the wife appears and there’s a woman who seduces the husband, a symbol of greed, avarice and modernism. Later, the woman leaves and the wife and husband are left in a romantic-like German painting.

9. 5th set of rebels
By the 20’s cinema had become intellectually fashionable, and so experimental artists and filmmakers started pushing the boundaries and challenging conventional cinema even more the German Expressionism had done.

10. First abstract animation
Walter Ruttmann painted on glass and filmed the results.

11. Alberto Calvacanti
He made a film called Rien que les Heures, about seeing the ordinary life of a city, using multiple images of eyes. Later, Dali took this idea for a Hitchcock movie called Spellbound

12. Un Chien Andalou
It’s a collaboration between Dali and Buñuel, an attempt to show how the unconscious works, making use of free association such as the famous image of the moon and then the razor cutting the woman’s eye, or the ants coming out of a man’s skin.

13. Film as a way to corrupt the people
It showed people images that they were not used to seeing, challenging their view of reality.

14. Sergel Eisenstein … Form over Content
They set life on a spin, showing series of images that seemingly had nothing to do with one another. They spin the images, tilt the camera and use a lot of symbols and metaphors to get his point across. Shots lasted only 3 seconds, 2 less than in America and 6 less than in Germany.

15. Montage of Attractions
A sequence of images that tell a story and make emotions leap from the screen. Shots that are only a few seconds long and give a sense of urgency in the story that they’re telling.

16. Japan’s humanistic films… What is humanism?
Although Japan fought most of the world during the XXth centyr and almost as if to make up for it they created the most humanistic films of the time.
Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stace that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings and prefers critical thinking  and evidence over established doctrine and faith.

17. Yasujiro Ozu
He was a kind of philosopher but also one of the most influential filmmakers that very existed. He is considered a serious director even though his first movie was a comedy.
He was the great de-throne-er, he didn’t believe in heroes.

18. Ozu’s innovation in camera height
The camera was low, just at the right height in which he could show a part of the floor and part of the ceiling. He put the camera at the center of gravity giving a sense of balance to the images. He also put the camera in dialogue in the middle of the shot, in a 90 degree angle of the characters.

19. One of the greatest oversights in film history
All of Ozu’s inventions and advances in camera placement would take a long, long time to be discovered by romantic Hollywood cinema.

The Story of Film – An Odyssey [2]


1. The Surrealist Manifesto:
Said that art should record dreams.

2. Escapism. The promise of perfection:
Hollywood was starting to be glamorized, becoming an industry. Something that let people run away from the horrible post-war reality and immerse themselves in stories.

3. The soundstage was built to control this: ____. Why?
Light. It made the scene much more dramatic,  much more interesting.

4. The Model T Production Line:
The Model T, also known as the “Tin Lizzie”, changed the way Americans lived, worked, and traveled. Ford’s revolutionary advancements in assembly-line automobile manufacturing made the Model T the first car to be affordable for a majority of Americans. For the first time, car ownership became a reality for average Americans, not just the wealthy. The car quickly became a folkloric American symbol.

5. Standarization:
Control. Hollywood started to be called a dictatorship in which artist were shushed.

6. Specific companies had specific characteristics. Which had which?
MGM –> More stars. Opulence. Optimism.
Warner Brothers –> Street wise. Harder lighting. Sharper shadows. Nighttime settings. Melodrama. Gangster outfits.
Paramount –> Costumes on display. Romantic. Sparkling. Champagning. Femenine.

7. Copycat movies.
The Hollywood standarized system was copied around the world, and in each place copycat movies were made. Or movies with similar characteristics as Hollywood’s.

8. Mainstream/Bubble.
Anticipation, desire, falling in love. Romanctic and entertainment films became the mainstream type of movie in the 1920’s.

9. Buster Keaton:
An American comedy actor. He was best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression. One of his greatest movies was The General, in which he actually wrecked a bridge and a train.

10. The Extravagance of Silent Film:
They had to tell you a whole story without using a word; as a result their actions were often exaggerated. Imaginations ran wild. 

11. Deadpan:
Form of comic delivery in which humor is presented without a change in emotion or body language. It’s usually spoken in a casual, monotone voice and expresses a calm demeanor, often in spite of how ridiculous the subject is.

12. Chaplin kicking a balloon of the world, is metaphor. How? Why?
He is making the world his toy. He needed to find a way to make Hitler silly and make fun of him without breaking the audience from what he wanted to convey.

13. Chaplin kicked out of Hollywood because he was a Leftist. Why? What is a Leftist?
Someone who supports the Communist tendencies, and at the time, the USA was terrified of this and what would become of them if their citizens embraced those ideas.

14. How can reality break fantasy?
When you see a movie, you become part of an imaginary world that does not quite exist. But when you learn the truth, when it is shown, the mystery of fantasy dies.

15. Why hate Stronheim?
He used his genius as a weapon. His movies were too realistic, too hurtful.

16. American optimistic endings?
The romanticized life.

17. Early Russian laments?
Showed the realism of grief and loss. Pessimistic in a way.

18. European: Purged of splendour – V.S. – American: Escapism/Romance
In European movies, scenes and shots were much more austere, with less luxury than the American films used and they were also sadder and more realistic.

The Story of Film – An Odyssey [1]


1. What drives cinema?
The film business would say that money is what drives movies, but what really drives cinema are ideas, stories, innovation, and images that convey feelings and meaning. In the end, it’s really humans and their inherent humanity what really drives cinema.

2. Edison Light:
Edison realized that light was essential to film making. So Edison made this sort of huge camera oscura called a Black Maria in which he filmed short movies that were projected on a small box.

3. Shock of the New:
When something that you are not used to or that you’re not expecting happens you are momentarily shocked and confused. An example is when the first Lumière movie was projected, the audience ran out of the room, thinking that the train on the screen was going to run them over.

4. Escape/Mirror:
Films, as any art form, serve at the same time as an escape from reality, a small break from logic and reason and a set story with the same people everyday over and over, a break in a comfrotable routine; and as a mirror for that same routine, what you’re seeing is someone else’s story, someone else’s set reality.

5. Low Brow Art:
Art that is made for the lower classes, easily understable, boring, and predictable. Art that is unsophisticated.

6. France took filmmaking seriously:
Since the French Revolution, France has believed that their story needs to be shared with the rest of the world, and their best way to show it and share it was through cinema. Some of the most important directors from early cinema where born here.

7. Phantom Ride:
A shot in which you feel as though you’re travelling through a path or following a route you have never been in.

8. Widescreen:
The use of a broader negative to give a bigger image.

9. How does editing make film?
Flow of action, liberation from actuality… It allows the filmmakers to tell a chronological story no matter how it was filmed. And this was something that could never happen in theater because time cannot be stopped and moved like that, and this discovery was important to cinema, allowing cinema reproduce a more loyal mirror of reality.

10. Parallel Editing:
A way to advance to storylines at once, the way of saying “meanwhile in cinema”

11. Reverse Angle:
When actors turned their back to the camera, and instead of just filming the actor’s back, they changed the angle from which they were filming to keep with the action.

12. Movie Star, characteristics of:
Actors started being the center of attention in film a short while after the reverse angle was invented. What drove the movies was then actors, rather than backgrounds, and more so the emotions they portrayed. People started going to films to see the actors that were in them.

13. Luxury, Costuming:
The way directors transformed actors from themselves into the film’s character. They also used costumes to tell a story within the story, to draw the audience in and to reveal something about the film’s character silently and subtly.

14. Drawing on Film:
To draw an image over the film itself.

15. The Phantom Carriage:
The name of the 1921 film by Viktor Sjostrom. It had stories in stories, and told the story of a carriage that arrive in the middle of the night to collect the souls of the death. It showed the souls in another light than the physical world.

16. Departure of Garbo and Bergman:
They were seduced by the Hollywood glamour and they left Scandinavia for it. Scandinavia as a result became, again, unknown in the film making industry until a few years back.

17. Youth and Glamour:
No one was supposed to look less than perfect. “Young and beautiful” was and has been since Hollywood’s motto. The whole point was to keep the audience enthralled by showing them something that was close to their reality but not quite. Not really attainable.

18. Why Hollywood:
Because of the weather. And because in the East Coast most of the advances for filmmaking were patented and you had to pay the inventor to use their ideas, California, however was very far away and you could break the law there.

19. 180 Degree Rule:
To make it look like people were looking at each other, or talking to each other, or generally interacting with each other, even if they were in different shots the camera had to stay in the same angle in both shots.

20: Women immigrants:
Hollywood was built by people who were creative, and wanted to work, but were also essentially outcasts in other professions.

21. Alice Guy and Lois Weber:
Two of the first women directors. Alice Guy was one of the first to really put a film together that included story arch and she brought a “poetry” and “subtlety” into filmmaking that had been lost to men. Lois Weber was one of the most innovative directors and she actually used herself as an actress in some of her films, she used a split screen to show simultaneous action and invented the “rear view mirror shot”.

22. Wall Street:
Wall Street entered into the business when film became popular. When it was evident that being a filmmaker made money because people liked to see the world that existed beyond what they knew. And it was then that filmmaking started to be taken seriously and when men wanted in on the fun.

23. D.W. Griffith:
He showed the wind in the trees, AKA a sense of the outside world. He added natural details into filmmaking. He was one of the best cinematographers in the business. He also made the edges of the films darker to give an air of elegance. And played with the focus of the camera.

24. Backlighting
A way to light the shots to make the light in the scene seem more natural. Less theatrical and leaning more toward real life.

25. Intolerance
He used angles that didn’t show everything and played into stereotypes. His movie The Birth of a Nation talks mainly about the KKK.

26: Intercuts:
“Dickens intercuts” Changing between one story and another, without losing a what is happening during the time we’re seeing the other story unfold.

27: Interconnecting storyline.
Intercuts allowed to develop an interconnecting storyline in which various stories intertwined and in the end they come together.

Canada’s Genocide


1. Why do you think this was managed to be kept a secret for so long?

2. Do you think religion is in any way able to justify crimes of that type? Why?

3. What do you think the real purpose of these schools was?

4. What does the word survivor imply to the adults that lived this and how have they turned their experience into a way of living?

5. What are some of the most lasting effects of these schools? Not only for the survivors but the families of people who worked as staff and the people who have found out about it.

6. Is ignorance or fear more useful in controlling people? Why?

7. Why do you think the Church still has such a control over the world’s population even when most of them don’t follow Christian beliefs? And how and when is the Church abusing this power?

8. Do you think this and other genocied around the world and throughout history have something in common? What?



1. How important economically is Canada’s marijuana industry?
Important. It’s an easy way of earning around 100,000 dollars a year for just 20 minutes of work a day and that is why around 20,000 British-Canadians are part of the industry off the books, generating around the 5% of the province’s GDP. And this business has steadily spread East, because the more technology we have it’s easier to grow marijuana anywhere. Nowadays, about 15billion dollars come back to Canada from the United States thanks to the marijuana business

2. What does the variety of the demographics growing marijuana demonstrate about the ‘way of life’ in Grand Forks?
There’s growers, drafters, the smugglers, the kids who learn, the medicinal growers and the growers for the cause. And although it’s mostly grown indoors to avoid beign caught by the cops, it has a huge impact on the town’s economy, about 20 to 40% of it is based on the business.
3. How does an economic crisis result in higher instances of people growing marijuana?
The mill was shot down and when many people lost their Jobs they turned to marijuana because it’s fast and immidate you don’t really have to do a lot for it to work. Most people either use it for medicinal purposes or just to get some “fast money” because as they said, it’s something that is easy to grow and get a profit out of.
4. How does the relatively peaceful act of planting and growing marijuana get caught up with violence, guns, crim and the law?
When something is prohibited and heavily controlled, it’s easier to gain a profit from it as you do not have fixed prices or someone to control how much you’re charging or making from something you’re not even supposed to have in the first place. And so, since it’s much easier to just come in and steal someone’s hard work gangs have started appearing that do just that.

5. What are ‘rippers’ and why and how do they come to exist?
In recent years armed gangs called “rippers” have appeared to rob illegal growers, who are easy prey since a call to the cops would put them out of business.
6. What did the Fraser Institute say about prohibition and, what were it’s recommendations?
Prohibition effectively transfers billions of dollars to organized crimes and they recommend that marijuana be treated as any other regulated commodity, such as tobacco and alcohol.

7. Who are the big winners and the losers of the current marijuana industry?
Organized crimes and their lawyers are the big winners. And the losers are the tax payers.
8. What is a gatherer and what role does he play in the industry?
The key to the distribution network, he pays the growers (por guys, they don’t where their product will end up) and builds up his resources until he has enough to sell to the export coorporations.
9. How does organized crime come to exist as a result of higher police activity or interference in the industry?
If you increase the risk of doing business (financially and jail time wise), you’re going to get a harder, tougher group of people to deal with. Because they have to find sneakier ways to export, import, sell and buy marijuana. As they said in the documentary, the main factor in organized being organized crime is that it IS organized and not just a bunch of cute Little gangs playing Monopoly.
10. How can the provincial and federal governments benefit from medical marijuana?
It could help create jobs and bring back the benefits of growing marijuana to the actual Canadians who are growing it. It’s a controlled way of growing and selling, that is not enforced too effectively it can afterward be sold in the gray market that is much safer and friendly than the organized crime.
11. What is a compassion club?  Do you agree or disagree with it’s existence?
They are places where people sell medical marijuana at a lower price and usually with a récipe and a diagnosis. I think it’s good, of course people do have to make money from somewhere and they describe compassion clubs as safe markets where a lot of people buy medical marijuana from. Although I do agree with them when they say that medical marijuana really blurs the lines between what is accepted as medical marijuana and what is considered as pure vice.
12. What do you think–1. Legalize marijuana and have it taxed and monitored by the government or 2. keep it ilegal and in the hands of organized criminials?
I think that, maybe, in Canada’s specific case it would actually help a lot. If the drug that is most grown and used in the country is marijuana it would help, sort of like it did for the United States when they lifted the prohibition on alcohol. However, if it happens like it does in Mexico and marijuana is only one of the drugs cartels and people buy, sell, and use it would probably have really few impact on organized crime as cartels, gangs and growers could just move on to another drug.

The Folkore of Mankind’s Reflection



Since we first saw our own reflection, we have been fascinated by it and, consequently, by surfaces that cast our image back at us. Possibly because of that fascination there is an incredibly wide variety of superstitions, myths, and urban legends surrounding mirrors. Through the ages, mirrors have been gateways to other worlds; they have protected us from evil and told us the future and the truth, and even – in occasion – revealed to the viewer a part of the human soul. But can we trace the origins of such superstitions? And do these superstitions have anything in common from one culture to another?


The Vanity Trap


The ancient Greeks believed the soul was attracted to water and that water spirits lurked in reflective pools to drag the reflected soul underwater, leaving the now-soul-less person to die. The belief that the soul can project out of the body and be trapped into a reflective surface underlies, perhaps the most widely known mirror superstition: the breaking of a mirror bringing bad luck.


In ancient times, many believed that breaking a surface in which you saw yourself also broke the soul of the one who broke it; the soul angered at being hurt exacted seven years of bad luck in payment of the carelessness. The Romans attributed the seven years’ bad luck to their belief that life renewed itself every seven years: a broken mirror meant a broken health.


In other cultures, the breaking of a mirror predicted a death in the family. This association with death is common in folklore and it, again, stems from the belief that the soul could become trapped in the mirror. For this reason, children were not allowed to see themselves in mirrors until they were one year old; mirrors were covered during sleep, illness, and after a death in the family so that soul would not become trapped. In Bulgaria, this practice prevented the newly deceased’s soul to trap a living person who was reflected in a mirror and in Serbo-Croatia, mirrors are used to keep the soul of the deceased at the gravesite where it belongs.


Mirrors as aids in rituals


Mirrors were often used in magical and psychic rituals for scrying[i] and communicating. They could also be used in divination in rituals such as fortune telling and reading the future; this was known as catoptromancy and it’s described in an Ancient Greek text as being performed by lowering a mirror on a thread until it just touched the surface of a basin of water. The person performing a ritual would then pray to the appropriate god and gaze into the reflections created by the water and the mirror.


Along those same line, some cultures believed that mirrors reflected the “shadow soul” and could show the true nature of the person being reflected. This belief may have contributed to the legends about vampires and demons having no reflections, since they had no souls to reflect.


Other Superstitions


Although there are a vastly larger number of negative superstitions related to mirrors, not all of them are negative. For example: if a new couple catches sight of each other in mirror they will have a happy marriage; if a girl want to see her future husband she should eat an apple while sitting in front of a mirror and brush her hair and the image of a man should appear behind her should; and in ancient China, people believed that mirrors actually frightened away evil spirits by showing them their reflection.


Mirror lore has been around since the ancient Greeks discovered their reflection in the quiet ponds and lakes of Greece and has stuck around until today. Superstitions have also remained basically the same, barely changing from one culture to another or, even, one historical period to the next.























[i] Remotely viewing another person or place.