Fantasy magazine

From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism




Enchanted Mirrors Are Making a Comeback. That’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing.

Enchanted mirrors. Once restricted to royalty—and only a few of them—these days they seem to be everywhere: in crumbling mansions, sparkling penthouse pieds-à-terre, rundown apartments, executive office buildings, and even the occasional meticulously maintained castle.

For those trading in enchanted mirrors—or just looking for one—this probably seems like a good thing. But the increased abundance of enchanted mirrors does have a more sinister side.

Starting with:

1. Most of the enchanted mirrors out there, well, aren’t. They’re just clever imitations—many without even the faintest touch of magic.

“These days, it’s very easy to fake a talking mirror with just a little bit of computer coding and some special effects,” explains Aganippe Ogleda, who studies contemporary enchanted objects at the Morgan School in Avalon. “Even mortals can do it.” The “enchanted” mirrors are typically sold as novelty items to interested consumers who want something interesting on their walls.

That’s enough to satisfy most consumers—many of whom don’t believe in magic to begin with. But although most of these fake mirrors are only used for entertainment or marketing, they can be used for more sinister purposes as well. “We’ve had a couple of faked mirrors that were planted as part of a deliberate attempt to ruin someone’s self-esteem. And a couple of others that were used to gather confidential information that was later used against the unwary owners,” says Harley Fletcher, who investigates enchanted and enchantment-related crimes.

Fletcher says it’s a hard problem to combat, since the fake mirrors aren’t registered with any official enchantment registry, and it’s almost impossible to know which of the fakes are getting used for questionable purposes until it’s too late.

“Fortunately, most consumers are aware that these are fakes—you can only hear ‘This skincream will make you the fairest in the land—just dabble some in your left hand’ so many times before realizing that something’s up,” Fletcher adds. But although ads are usually obvious, emotionally abusive or exploitive messages might not be. “The folks that program those—they’re careful to avoid the more obvious mistakes. And they deliberately avoid using things like ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall’—which might cause too much suspicion or curiosity.”

And informing victims that the mirrors are fakes doesn’t necessarily make victims any less vulnerable. “In fact, it can make matters worse—if it’s not real magic, then there’s no harm in continuing to use it, right? But that attitude ignores the very real problem inherent in hearing these messages every day. Problem is, some people have real difficulties recognizing abuse.”

And even apart from any potential abuse or criminal activity, the presence of fakes also means that real enchanted mirrors have to compete with the programmed fakes, which can cause problems. “The fakes are usually programmed to soothe an owner’s ego,” explains Skop Speigel, a Registered Enchanted Mirror with nearly six hundred years of experience. “But my enchantment requires me to tell the truth. I can conceal it with cutesy rhymes and that sort of thing—and I often do—or follow the whole Delphi oracle example of being ambiguous, but I can’t flatter. I can’t lie. I can’t tell them that everything will be all right, or that they really are the fairest in the land. And if my clients are accustomed to flattery, that’s a huge issue.”

It’s not just a matter of ethics, either. The faked mirrors are, understandably, much cheaper. “Even the most elaborate programmed mirror only needs, well, the mirror and some computer programming. In some cases, a few folks have even repurposed old television sets and computer monitors—which can be purchased for pretty much nothing.”

That has led to the deeply ironic situation that just as enchanted mirrors are rising in demand, real enchanted mirrors have had problems finding placements because they are priced out of the market.

“And the thing is, in most cases, you can’t sell the real mirrors for less—the basic materials to create one just cost too much,” Aganippe Ogleda says. And although most of the centuries-old mirrors have already earned back their material costs, some of them have not been able to adjust to the contemporary market. “A lot of them still speak older versions of modern languages that some clients can’t understand,” Ogleda explains. “Or they have difficulties understanding contemporary technology.”

Which brings us to:

2. Enchanted mirror training hasn’t kept up with the times. “The training covers what to say to aging queens afraid of losing their beauty,” says Melite Specchio, a recent graduate of an enchanted mirror training program. “Which does have its uses. For instance, a few mirrors are now specializing in helping to advise clients on how to achieve the best possible looks on Zoom calls, a skill that more and more of us are picking up. We don’t just advise on makeup; we also show clients how just repositioning a webcam and altering the lighting can completely change their looks. And those of us with foretelling talents can even predict the potential outcomes of switching around their webcams, which has proven very popular. So in that sense, it’s very useful. But if someone comes to us needing more than makeup and lighting tips—well, the training hasn’t really kept up with that.”

“These days women in powerful positions are a lot less threatened by stepdaughters and daughters, and much more threatened by liability and financial issues,” notes Aganippe Ogleda. “And many of them also have concerns about environmental and medical things that current enchanted mirror training just isn’t equipped to handle. Not to mention that the current training programs haven’t been updated to include democracies. That is fine in some limited cases, but a Prime Minister facing an election in a few months has different concerns than a king’s second wife—and we haven’t gotten around to dealing with that. Add in a lack of training in modern science and computer technology—and, well. You can see the issues.”

3. This—and the fakes—may help explain why clients are increasingly skeptical about everything their mirrors tell them. “Princesses and queens used to believe me,” says Glace Miroir, another Registered Enchanted Mirror, who has been working in the field for four hundred years and regularly takes updated seminars and courses to try to keep her skills sharp. “I could tell them precisely who the fairest of the land was—which allowed me to also keep them advised on infrastructure issues. Now? When I try to say something like, ‘If you build too close to the shore, climate change will bring floods to your floor,’ I just get, ‘Oh, like I’m going to listen to a mirror about my construction plans.’ Even the ones who believe in climate change won’t listen to me. It’s so aggravating, I can’t tell you.”

5. And with all this, the field has become much more dangerous—even deadly—for enchanted mirrors. “Simply because of their value, not just as advisors, but as mirrors, in the old days, these mirrors were carefully cared for,” says Aganippe Ogleda. Their favored clients would go out of their way to ensure that mirror installations involved only high-quality nails, stones and mortars—and that the mirrors were surrounded by cushions and cloth to reduce any damage from a potential fall, just in case the installations failed for any reason. Most of the mirrors were also regularly polished by their owners, allowing them to note even the tiniest potential crack—fixing this before it could become a problem.

But this is, Ogleda says, no longer true. She’s seen and heard reports—which Fletcher confirms—of enchanted mirrors that have been neglected, mistreated, damaged—and in some cases, even locked into closets, storage units or other small, dark, enclosed places. “That’s difficult enough for normal people. But for enchanted mirrors—I mean, yes, they are accustomed to being stuck in a single place for years. Centuries even. And most of them receive constant information about the outside world, thanks to their enchantments. It’s still, I would say, equivalent to torture—essentially eliminating their already limited socialization.”

Beyond the maintenance and emotional issues, there’s also less concern about breaking mirrors in general. “I think the seven years of bad luck still scares some people—but others shrug it off. Either because the mirror just didn’t cost that much to begin with, or they already feel mired down in bad luck and figure seven years more won’t really change things that much,” continues Harley Fletcher. “But the end result is that everyone is a bit more careless around mirrors—which of course puts enchanted mirrors in danger.”

What exactly happens to Enchanted Mirrors after they are broken or shattered remains a closely guarded secret—one none of the Enchanted Mirrors that we reached out to were willing to discuss. But it is presumed that at best, this requires the soul in the Enchanted Mirror to jump into another mirror—assuming one is available—with potentially devastating consequences; at worst, the Enchanted Mirror dies. That may seem almost trivial given the expected lifetime of most Enchanted Mirrors—usually stretching into several centuries—but on the other hand, it means that an enchanted mirror may be losing centuries, not mere years, of life when destroyed.

But despite all the negatives, the numbers of enchanted mirrors—genuine ones—still appear to be on the increase. “The demand is still out there,” says Aganippe Ogleda. “Both from people who want to feel that they are in a real fairy tale, and from people that plan to exploit their powers. And as long as that desire, those wishes, are still out there—well. That is why enchanted mirrors are around, right? For most of us—them—it’s worth the risks.”

Mari Ness

Mari Ness. Profile of middle-aged blond woman, mostly turned away from the camera, in front of green leaves and a bit of sky.

Other work by Mari Ness appears in Lightspeed, Nightmare,, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Nature Futures, Diabolical Plots, Reckoning, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and previous issues of Fantasy. A tiny collection of tiny fairy tales, Dancing in Silver Lands, was the 2021 Outwrite Short Fiction Chapbook winner, and a tiny short story, “Verisya,” was a finalist for the 2023 Canopus Award. She lives in central Florida, where she is perhaps too easily distracted by alligators, birds, and two magnificent cats. For more, visit her infrequently updated blog at