Obsidian mirror used by Elizabeth I’s court astrologer has Aztec origins
An obsidian "Spirit mirror" used by John Dee, an advisor to England's Elizabeth I, traces its origins to Aztec culture, a new study published in the journal Antiquity suggests. "Later he became involved in divination and the occult, seeking to talk to angels through the use of scryers, who used artifacts-like mirrors and crystals," the study's lead author, University of Manchester archaeologist Stuart Campbell, tells Ashley Strickland of CNN. Today, the British Museum owns the mirror, which is on display in London alongside two similar circular obsidian mirrors and a rectangular obsidian slab that may be a portable altar, reports Tom Metcalfe for National Geographic. The scholars determined that Dee's mirror and one of the others originated in Pachuca, just northeast of Mexico City, while the third mirror and the slab came from Ucareo, about 150 miles west. The Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, or "Smoking Mirror," is frequently depicted wearing mirrors that allow him to see humans' thoughts and actions. Gizmodo's George Dvorsky notes that Dee was interested in the Spanish Conquest and had probably heard stories about obsidian mirrors. According to Garry Shaw of the Art Newspaper, Dee may have bought the mirror in Bohemia in the 1580s. "So the attraction of a mirror of a novel material, coming from an exotic culture with stories of its use for divination, and the drama of seeing dimly reflected images within it probably made it a very tempting object for [Dee] to use."