There’s plenty of interesting images in the Renaissance and Baroque
featuring images caught as reflection in a mirror, none more famous I guess
than Van Eyck's marriage scene (which I’ve written about several times in this blog, most recently in "Original Reflections: unique experiences with mirrors, Van Eyck and Brunellesci, here). What is unusual here is that we
see the Devil in the mirror (actually the devil’s hindquarters), which to my
experience is very uncommon. Also I thought the phraselet “the Devil in the
Mirror/Mirrour” was well used and worn, but, as it turns out, it is hardly so,
though there’s a near-alphabet of things that the devil could be in.
For example, when looking through FirstSearch/WorldCat (a massive catalogue of books in libraries world wide and a cataloguing librarian’s best friend) for the things that a devil might be in, as in the phrase “the devil in the ____” we find the devil in a belfry, book (a Dalton Trumbo novel!), bush, candle, cheese, classroom, cross, dark, details, drain, desert, deep blue sun, flesh, fog, gateway, hills, junior league, kitchen, Middle Ages, milk, modern world, mountain, New World, shape of a woman. The devil in the mirror turns out only to be so in a song.
None of this amounts to a hill of ____ (beans, cocoa, molasses, moolah, fritos), but I found it unusual that the phrase and the whole devil-in-a-mirror idea to be so scarce. Unless he can’t be seen in a mirror….No wait, that’s a vampire
I know I'm wasting this image with this trivial pursuit when a decent writer would be looking at Satan over the ages, or its virtual non-appearance in the Bible, or the different names of the devil or its infernal helpers, and its other unholy images, or the history of Hell itself., or of the history of guilt, or fear (see Jeff Donlan's lovely appraisal of Daniel Gardner's The Science of Fear, which doesn't really have anything to do with the devil but is a great idea) or temptation, or general unacknowledged dark worry. I just stuck to the picture.
This naturally leads to looking at some antiquarian book titles involving devils and the nonsense and hokum that they got into. Here’s a few lovely examples of titles-as-long-as-opening-paragraphs; it seems that the less old they are the less detailed they become. But I’m probably wrong about that, too.
The displaying of supposed witchcraft : wherein is
affirmed that there are many sorts of deceivers and impostors, and divers
persons under a passive delusion of melancholy and fancy but that there is a
corporeal league made betwixt the devil and the witch, or that he sucks on the
witches body, has carnal copulation, or that witches are turned into cats,
dogs, raise tempests or the like, is utterly denied and disproved ; Wherein
also is handled, the existence of angels and spirits, the truth of apparitions,
the nature of astral and sydereal spirits, the force of charms, and philters;
with other abstruse matters /
Author: Webster, John, 1610-1682.
War with the
devil, or, The young mans conflict with the powers of darkness in a dialogue :
discovering the corruption and vanity of youth, the horrible nature of sin, and
deplorable condition of fallen man : also a definition, power, and rule of
conscience, and the nature of true conversion : to which is added an appendix
containing a dialogue between an old apostate and a young professor, worthy the
perusal of all, but chiefly intended for the instruction of the younger sort /
Author: Keach, Benjamin, 1640-1704.
A Whip for the Devil, or, The Roman conjuror discovering the intolerable folly, prophaneness and superstition of the papists in endeavouring to cast the Devil out of the bodies of men and women by him possest ... / 1683
I find these title strangely satisfying, much like the dime library westerns of the late 19th century with their tow-parter extendo-titles: Valerie of the Blazing Sands; or, Colonel Ingraham and the Satisfied Sod Buster, a Tale of Woe and Heroism and such.