What’s With Vampires and Mirrors?
There is so much vampire fiction and vampire romance fiction out there that it has reached a critical mass; there are now “trends” in vampire mythology. It seems that some vampire powers and abilities are trendy and some, well, aren’t.
Vampires still have a craving for blood – I doubt that one will ever go away. They will also probably live forever, too.
Mental domination and nocturnal/day-time walking…these seem to vary according to the author you’re reading and the demands of that author’s story.
But there’s some obscure vampire powers I haven’t seen in any fiction for the longest time, such as most vampires are supposed to be able to unravel any knot they come across. Now there’s a poser!
There is also a legend that says if you scatter a handful of seeds in the path of a vampire he will be compelled to stop and count every seed. I can see why this one has dropped out of favour with authors. It would make today’s modern vampires look OCD and very unsexy indeed.
Then there’s the one about the mirrors and how a vampire can’t be reflected in them. I haven’t seen that in any fiction lately until I started catching up with the BBC Wales TV series Being Human. In Season One there’s a weird but tense scene where the three main characters are fooled into watching a vampire who has filmed themselves having sex and then feeding and killing a human…but only the human shows on the DVD (then the vampire’s bloody footprints when she walks through the blood pooling afterwards).
It made me realize that it has been a long while since I had come across this particular trait in vampire fiction. It has fallen out of favour in modern vampire lore and I started to wonder why.
Why You Can’t See Vampires In Mirrors
I did a bit of research into why vampires were invisible in mirrors in the first place, and some of the answers I unearthed were bizarre and downright hilarious, including:
- Vampires are transparent and light passes through them so if they stand in front of a mirror there is no reflection because the light is just passing through them. Vampires can counter this, but for the most part, their reflections are obscured.
- If they can counter this, why wouldn’t they counter it permanently? And if they can’t reflect light, we wouldn’t be able to see them with our eyes, whether a mirror was involved or not.
- Originally, mirrors were made by laying a glass sheet over silver. Silver was considered a pure metal and that purity is abhorent to supernatural creatures, so they were not reflected in mirrors.
- Okay, but why aren’t their clothes showing up, though? In the movie Dracula, he hissed and threw the mirror out the window because it offended him, but before that moment, Jonathon Harker failed to see his reflection in the mirror, clothes and all. The clothes found the mirror abhorent, too?
- And possibly the best answer: The reason vampires could not be seen in mirrors is because way back when, they believed mirrors reflected souls and vampires, being the undead, had no souls (nothing to do with silver, etc). This is also the reason it’s bad luck to break mirrors (because the mirror breaking also breaks breaks the part of your soul captured in it) and why people covered mirrors when people died in the house, to prevent souls being captured, and why they used to say mirrrors always show the true face – in other words, mirrors reflect the soul, not the outward appearance.
- Except, static objects like pens, chairs and radiant heaters don’t have souls, and they are reflected in mirrors. Why aren’t they invisible? My three cats have souls and are all visible, although I’m not sure about Strider, the ADHD crazy baby-kitty. His soul may have been claimed a long time ago – it would explain a lot about him…but he bumps noses with himself in the mirror, so that doesn’t hold either.
As you can see, there’s a few explanations, and I like the soul-less one the best, although it doesn’t really hold water all that well if you’re trying to use it to build a fictional world. You’d have to find, I think, a better explanation for no reflections if you were going to use it in modern vampire fiction.
In Being Human, so far, the vampires have been naked when “not reflected” so the issue of the clothes not being reflected as well hasn’t come up. I’ll be interested to see how they handle that issue when it does.
But the one question that keeps bugging me, because I am that anal and nerdy, is: How do vampires dress and groom and maintain any sort of a normal appearance if they can’t check themselves in the mirror? How do they shave?
I imagine that after a few years of not seeing yourself, you adapt. Early humans didn’t have easy access to mirrors, either. But to pass as a human these days, you do need to reach a minimally acceptable level of grooming, and that involves mirrors. The vampire hero in Being Human is somewhat scruffy, so he could get away with a less than pristine routine, but other vampires in the series are elegant and well-dressed. How do they pull it off? You can’t simply stroll into a hairdresser’s salon, either … how do you explain that one away to the stylist? Oh, I lost a lost of weight recently, don’t mind the lack of reflection, dear.
All in all, it’s easy to see why this particular vampiric trait has fallen out of favour. It takes real thought to put it into fictional use in a way that makes sense and works well for the story.
All the same, I can feel the challenge building… Who knows? Non-reflecting vampires might just pop up in one of my stories in the near future. And it won’t be because they don’t have souls, either.