The Stranger in the Mirror
Making a Scrying Glass for Robert Taylor
The stranger in the mirror,
I have seen him once before
As I crossed a palace threshold
To a time of yesteryear.
And for the soul to know the soul,
To the soul you first must go,
For the answers lie there, hidden
In the legends that we know.
Excerpt from ‘The Stranger in the Mirror’ by
from ‘Remnants of a Season: The Collected Poems of Robert N. Taylor’ – Dominion/Ultra Press, 2016.
I recently returned from a gathering of friends brought together to celebrate the 70th birthday (albeit belatedly) of artist, poet and musician, Robert N. Taylor. Those who know Robert through his music in the duo ‘Changes’ or through his many articles understand that he is a man who has never shied away from controversy. He has been, at various times in his life, a revolutionary, a magician, a philosopher, a designer, and a herald of the Kali Yuga.
At the gathering, a copy of ‘Remnants of a Season: The Collected Poems of Robert N. Taylor’ was presented to him by Michael Moynihan of Dominion Press and Joshua Buckley of Ultra Press. Robert has been producing chap books of poetry for many years, but this is the first hardback collection containing his poems, lyrics, and a selection of his artwork. Anyone who has admired Robert’s work can order a copy from amazon HERE. Be forewarned, this is a limited edition of 500 copies, and they are sure to sell quickly, so don’t dawdle!
Over the years, Robert has added greatly to both my esoteric knowledge, and my library. When I received my invitation to this intimate gathering of friends, I wondered what I could make as an appropriate birthday gift. It was on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, that I found my way into a lovely little shop that traded in fossils, rocks and other geological sundries. There I found a round, perfectly polished obsidian mirror. Visions of the Elizabethan court magician, John Dee, flashed through my head. Here was the perfect gift, a scrying mirror!
Cunning rustics, royal mages, religious leaders and side-show psychics alike, have practiced the magical art of scrying. Nostradamus performed the act by staring into a bowl of water. Just last year, the Church of Latter Day Saints revealed photographs of a ‘Seer Stone’ used by founder Joseph Smith. The Scrying mirror and ‘Shew Stone’ allegedly belonging to John Dee himself, resides at the British Museum. It seems that the history of scrying in Northern Europe may well go back to the early medieval period, and did a good job of bothering bishops (as all good mystical traditions do), although priests were not themselves exempt from the allure of the mystic mirror. The 12th century philosopher John of Salisbury wrote
“During my boyhood I was placed under the direction of a priest, to teach me psalms. As he practiced the art of crystal gazing, it chanced that he after preliminary magical rites made use of me and a boy somewhat older, as we sat at his feet, for his sacrilegious art, in order that what he was seeking by means of finger nails moistened with some sort of sacred oil or crism, or of the smooth polished surface of a basin, might be made manifest to him by information imparted by us.”
Crafting the case for the Scrying Mirror
Deciding that the stone should be held in an appropriate frame, I began to craft a case for it. I’ve enjoyed some basic leather working projects over the years, and decided to start trying my hand at tooling, which is the act of carving, stamping and shaping designs into the hide. Needing to find an appropriate design, I remembered that of Robert’s many artworks, he had once created a sort of mobius triangle with a bright blue eye peering from the center of it. I adapted the image, to make it appropriate for the material, and set to work.
When completed, I spent some time in contemplation of the motif. The triangle, like three in one, was reminiscent of the Valknut symbol of the slain, carved on ancient runestones. I had thought perhaps, that the eye was from Odin, launched into Mimir’s well, the Allfather’s sacrifice for wisdom beyond man’s knowledge. Robert told me that it was the eye of the Iris, the Greek messenger of the Gods. Though I did not know this when I made the piece, I think that it is entirely appropriate for a scrying mirror!
I intend to create some more of these frames for scrying mirrors in the future. Obsidian mirrors can be readily purchased, but for those who wish to make their own, many a scrying mirror has been made by painting clear glass black on the reverse side. Artists in older times used what they called a ‘Claude Glass’ to reflect the landscape they wished to paint, as it had the effect of changing tonal ranges and framing the view.
In many respects, this is the purpose of a scrying mirror, as a meditative tool, reflecting our world with certain subtle changes, forcing us to change our definitions of reality. As we stare into the obsidian mirror, we see ourselves though a distortion, forcing us to reconcile that we cannot be seen through one lens alone. Perhaps becoming comfortable with this is the first step to unlocking our potentialities in both the real world, and the reflected one.
Gaze into the abyss, my friends…
You can read more about the ideas behind the artwork on Robert’s website here – http://axismundiartgallery.weebly.com/geometrics.html