Shelagh Robinson Mirror Read Blog 63: Sweet Mysteries of Mirror Reading

For the secretive:

Long connected with transformations, mirror reading and writing share histories of deep mystery across the arts and sciences, and the esoteric.

From the inversion of ancient images to the latest high-level encryption techniques, mirroring creates levels of meaning intended to confuse, enlighten, and hide. There are books to be written on the arcana of text reversals around the globe. Who knows where it all goes? Reality gets twisted in a mirror.

Mirroring may at first appear to be a simple form of spy cipher. Reversing the letters of a word is child’s play to decode, right? (Just ask Jacob-Two-Two…). Successful reading requires insight and transformation – using a mirror, a paper (as in the case of cylinder seals), or keen spatial skills.

To be sure, reflection is a subtle cryptic, and mere mirroring does not provide much security. But reversals are effective enough if the goal is to slow, distract or confound the decoding process. 

Consider Atrash ciphers where the letters of the alphabet are reversed. Why? To be noticed, and read only by those with the eyes to see. These codes offer a unique method of access – or portal – to information concealed in plain sight.

Leonardo da Vinci was famous for his mirrored notes – to keep his Vitruvian knowledge secret? So as to not smudge his writing, being a lefty? Or to convey some esoteric message for those with initiate vision?

Another example: Mirrored palimpsests, deliberately obscure and shrouded in mystery. Can you spot one in the image here?
Referring to a process for recycling old parchments, palimpsests involve writing in layers over previous versions. A space-saving solution in earlier days, it allowed more than one message to be coded in the same document. If one layer is printed in reverse, it becomes ‘noise’ and easily missed in fast decoding of the regular text. 
Great for scavenger hunts.

I have heard it said that there are different levels to the world web entered via lodestone links – or rabbit holes – cloaked in magical opposites and images of duality. Often referencing mirrors.
Fascinating idea. 

For me, the real mysteries of mirror reading lie at the level of the neuron, and the chemistry and electrics of learning. We are only starting to illuminate the dynamics of neuroplasticity that occur when we read mirrored text. There is much left to learn – please share your own wisdom on the magic and mystery of mirror reading.

2 Responses to Shelagh Robinson Mirror Read Blog 63: Sweet Mysteries of Mirror Reading

  1. josie says:

    Would it be useful to practice reading ordinary text through a mirror, and if so, letter by letter or whole words at sight. ?Josie

    • shelagh says:

      Hi Josie,
      Thanks for your question! I do believe that practicing reading ordinary books in mirrors can improve basic skills of decoding text, as well as spatial skills like mental rotation. We need to slow down to speed our brains up – which is exactly what mirror reading can do. My recommendation: Start with books you know well and can anticipate the words, then move onto unfamiliar magazines with short articles. My problem: often the letters are very small so I have to sit quite close to my mirror…
      What do you think? :).
      Please keep in touch.

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