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The Magic Mirror of John Dee

September 22, 2010

John Dee's Mirror

“This 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.

The mirror, made of highly-polished obsidian (volcanic glass), was one of many Mexica cult objects and treasures brought to Europe after the conquest of Mexico by Cortés between 1527 and 1530. Mirrors were associated with Tezcatlipoca, the Mexica god of rulers, warriors and sorcerers, whose name can be translated as ‘Smoking Mirror’. Mexica priests used mirrrors for divination and conjuring up visions.”
– from the British Museum description

The object was acquired from the collection of Horace Walpole whose handwriting appears on the case that comes with the mirror. The writing reads: The Black Stone, into which Dr. Dee used to call his spirits…

Dee claimed that the mirror, or speculum, had been given to him by angels.

Where is it?
Found in Room 1, The Enlightenment Galleries
Entering the Englightenment Galleries from the Great Court, turn left.
John Dee’s artifacts are in Case 20.

Further Reading
British Museum entry
Wikipedia on Dee’s artifacts
Dr. Dee’s Shew Stone, Notes & Queries, March 29, 1924

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