Mirrors have always been considered as having special powers. The superstition that breaking
a mirror is bad luck is very, very old. This belief can be observed in some form in most
cultures around the world, but, in fact, the first mirrors could not really be broken because
they were made of water. People looked at themselves in lakes, ponds and rivers because they
believed that by looking at their reflection in the water they could learn about their future.
If the water was calm and the reflection was clear, this was considered a good sign meaning that good things would happen to the person. On the other hand, if the water was rough, i.e. not calm, and the reflection was distorted and hard to see, this was a sign that the future would be bad.
In the first century B.C., the Romans used to read water fortunes. You could go to a seer, a person with special powers, and have him or her tell you what your future would be. The seer would ask you to hold a bowl of water and look into it and then he or she would study your reflection and tell you what was going to happen to you. If you dropped the bowl, it meant that you had no future, a very bad sign.
Ancient people had the idea that a person’s reflection was actually the person’s soul and that the soul existed outside the body in the reflection. Therefore, if the mirror broke (or the water bowl was dropped), it meant that the soul would be destroyed and the person would soon die. In many cultures, people believed that it was dangerous for a person to look at his/her own image too long. This was because they believed the soul in the reflected image could pull the life out of the person. Similarly, The Basutos (a Bantu tribe in South Africa) believed that crocodiles could drag a person’s reflection under water and kill it.
In the sixth century B.C., the Romans changed their ideas about mirror fortunes a litde. At this time, they believed that a person’s health and fortune changed every seven years. Therefore, if you broke a mirror, it was not quite as bad as before: You would have seven years of bad health and general bad luck, but at least you probably wouldn’t die.
However, Chinese people believed that a well-placed mirror could protect you from evil. This was because they thought bad spirits would be frightened by their own image in the mirror and would then leave people alone. There is an ancient Chinese saying: “When evil recognizes itself, it destroys itself.” Therefore, brass mirrors were often placed in the bedrooms to scare evil spirits. They were supposed to protect people while they were sleeping.
A. What do the following refer to?
1. this belief (para. 1) the belief that ___________ _
2. they (para. 5)
B. Find words in the text that mean the following. Write only ONE word on each line,
and do not change the form of the word.
1. pull (para. 3) (v)
2. kills (para. 5) (v)
C. Mark the following statements True (T) or False (F).
T F 1. According to the beliefs of ancient people, if a person broke a mirror, this
resulted in death.
T F 2. In the sixth century, Romans believed that if a person broke a mirror, the effects
would be seen after seven years.
D. Fill in each gap using the information in the text.
The first mirrors were lakes, ponds and rivers and people would look at themselves in these
In order to (1) They considered
(2a) _________ _ and (2b) as a
good sIgn. They believed that (3a) and
(3b) would signal bad things.
In the first century B.C, in Rome, there were (4), _____________ who
would tell people about their future. To do this, they would give the person
(5) and ask him or her to look into it. Then by looking at the
person’s (6) ______________ carefully, they could talk about his or her
future. It was important for the person not to (7) _____________ as this
would mean that he or she had no future.