Thanks to my sister, Michele, for sending me a photo of a family heirloom… not quite as old as the Medici mirror, though.
In the time of the Renaissance, the discipline known as alchemy saw its practitioners combine philosophy, science, occultism, and theology in their pursuits to understand and improve the world. Many of these men were themselves in the religious life, where others hid their studies and experiments in fear of retribution from the church.
Whether hiding or practicing in plain sight, one thing remains clear: alchemy was the stepping stone to sciences we know today.
So why did the mystical element come into play? Alchemists were searching not only to make sense of our universe, but to extend life (in some cases indefinitely) and create wealth. More than science and prayer would be needed to achieve these goals, and magicians, whether well-regarded or in disfavor, had been around for centuries. Many experiments were conducted combining “magical” properties and scientific ones.
Mirrors held a special place in the worlds of occult and alchemy, because they were used for catoptromancy (the use of reflective surfaces to see past, present, or future events). Some say they were first used by the witches of Thessaly, who wrote their visions on them in human blood. Others believe the Persians, specifically the Magi, first used them for divination.
These “mirrors” could really be any reflective surface: a bottle of water, a pool, a slab of obsidian, or an actual looking glass. Mirrors with flowers on them (or even the word “flower”) were thought to be satanic tools, as St. Cyprian said the devil sometimes appeared in the shape of a flower.
Catherine de Medici—By Piero d’Houin dit Inocybe [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Catherine de Medici was said to have one of these magic mirrors, and she supposedly used it extensively to help her predict her future, and the future of France itself
And this is where my story comes into play.
Lagan Press will be releasing the first of my Medici Protectorate Series in May. Bleeding Heart follows Francesca (Franki) and her sisters as they learn they are actually the only living descendants of the Medici family. Warriors from the Medici Protectorate are assigned to keep them safe. Franki has inherited a mirror—likely Catherine de Medici’s mirror—and she has a vision depicting a dangerous situation. Her personal guardian, Gianni, was there. But was he there to save her, or was he the cause of the danger? (You can read more about Bleeding Heart here and about the Medici Protectorate Series here.)
I hope you’re enjoying these snippets of research I used as I wrote my novel. I found so much of this history fascinating, and there is way too much to include in the story, so I’m sharing some of it here with you.
Do you have an interest in the history of alchemy? Do you know anything about it? Do you believe people can see things when they meditate? I’d love to discuss this. Leave a comment below.