The Black Mirror
The task has fallen to me to relate the particulars of my late employer's recent departure from this world. Thankfully, I am above suspicion in the matter, having been cleared by the police. Often a butler, such as myself, makes for a natural prime suspect (as indeed I was). However, I was able to prove beyond a doubt my whereabouts on the night in question. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) there are no witnesses who can attest to the circumstances surrounding Lord Mulready's disappearance. But I know where he is and I know what happened to him.
I have been able to piece the story together thanks in large part to the existence of his Lordship's journal. He kept meticulous records of his experiments. Fascinated with the occult, he recorded spells, recipes, phases of the moon, and all manner of things of that nature. He amassed a great collection of such things as well. His library actually contains a fifteenth century Latin edition of the notorious Necronomicon, the ancient book of the dead. He was in the process of translating it so he could unlock its secrets. In fact, a passage in that dangerous book started the whole business of the Black Mirror.
For years he had lusted over the thought of acquiring the authentic Black Mirror of Dame Alice Kyteler of Kilkenny. It seems Dame Alice was an Irish sorceress who poisoned three husbands and drove the fourth mad by casting spells upon him. Apparently this last man, Sir John le Poer, regained enough of his senses to expose Dame Alice as a witch. This occurred around the time of Pope John XXII whose Papal Bull Super illius specula fired the imagination of Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory who confiscated Dame Alice's items of sorcery (powders, ointments, herbs, etc.) and had them burned in 1324. Somehow her Black Mirror escaped this fate. According to her consort Petronilla of Meath (who was herself burned at the stake in November of that year) Dame Alice fled to England and a young apprentice of the coven, one M. Foster-O'Neal, made off with the mirror. This is the same M. Foster-O'Neal who became famous for weaving spells into such poems as ever bright ~ ever burning and Dream World, not to mention Black Mirror itself, a copy of which appears in Lord Mulready's journal:
reflecting not what is
not what will be
not what has been
nor what could be
yet reflecting all the same
a deep hope
in the shallow pools
of a wandering mind
to the truth and stark reality of life
Why do you look upon it?
Why do you recoil
at a sight you see only in your mind,
pronounce the differences
of the lie you are living?
all in a mirror that
burns in the darkness
and the reflections stare
It was no doubt his intention to “crack the code” of this poem and discover the spell which should be used in conjunction with the Black Mirror.
Dame Alice's mirror next resurfaced around 1583 among the possessions of the Earl of Desmond. Legend has it that the Earl's wife surprised him in his chamber while he was preparing to indulge himself in some sort of “black art”. She begged him to let her stay and learn the secrets of the occult. He agreed, cautioning her to remain absolutely silent. She witnessed in silence his transitions to a great vulture, an old hag and then a terrible serpent, but when he resumed human form and stretched across the room, she could control herself no longer. When she screamed the castle sank to the bottom of the lake, the Lough Gur.
And the legend doesn't stop there. Every seven years the Earl makes an appearance galloping upon a white horse with silver horseshoes. Supposedly, when the horse wears out the shoes, the spell will be broken and the Earl will return to his former glory. A blacksmith named Teague O'Neill claimed to have seen the Earl up close on one of these occasions. It may be this O'Neill who came into possession of the Black Mirror at that time. At any rate, it somehow came to be owned by another O'Neal, one Sir Henry who was killed at the Siege of Limerick in 1691. The mirror passed down through his family and eventually made its way to England, where my former employer finally acquired it. Or so he thought.
It turned out that Lord Mulready purchased a fake. He was discussing his new acquisition at a gathering where Sir Henry O'Neal de Hane Segrave happened to be present. Segrave questioned the authenticity of the piece, citing as evidence the fact that he himself actually possessed it, as it had been passed down through the O'Neal family for over two centuries. It just so happened that Segrave was in need of a great deal of money for the purpose of building a speedboat capable of winning the British International Trophy from the Americans. The two men struck a deal and Segrave brought the Black Mirror to Lord Mulready's manor. (Unfortunately, Segrave later died on Lake Windermere in his new boat, Miss England II, after breaking the world record for speed.)
Segrave removed his mirror from its silk bag and inspection of the two mirrors showed he'd been telling the truth. His mirror sported an ebony frame. Mulready's frame was of oak. The black coating on the back was another giveaway. Segrave's proved to be scratch resistant; the other was covered with black felt under which they discovered black paint—but not the sort made from charcoal and plant oils—this was commercial paint like that used on an automobile! Lord Mulready would have been furious if he had not instead been delighted to have the authentic Black Mirror of Dame Alice of Kilkenny in his possession at last. Carved into the ebony frame in small letters, one word satisfied Lord Mulready completely concerning the authenticity of Segrave's mirror—Elenwyn, the nom de plume of M. Foster-O'Neal herself.
Lord Mulready began preparations the very next day. According to his journal, the mirror had to be “energized” with fluid condenser (to which he added a few drops of his own blood) and cleaned with alcohol. Then it would be ready to use at the next full moon when he intended to conjure up the spirit of “Robin, son of Art” the daemon with which Dame Alice had dealt. Failing that, he wanted to contact Dame Alice herself!
On the first available full moon he prepared his chamber by creating a “circle of protection”, burning incense, and lighting two white votive candles whose light “must not be reflected in the mirror”. He then placed the mirror upright on top of a white cloth and seated himself in front of it with Necronomicon and The Complete Works of Maisha Foster-O'Neal open to Black Mirror.
His journal ends thus: “I shall now breathe deeply and rhythmically, relaxing myself and entering into a state of trance.”
The police came and inspected the scene (from which I had removed Lord Mulready's journal) but could ascertain nothing, for they know nothing about scrying. I'm no expert myself, but I had his Lordship's journal and library at my disposal. I created a circle of protection of my own and burned some incense. I lit two votive candles, the only light in the room as I prepared to give my energy to the Black Mirror.
I imagined myself filled with white light until I could feel its power. I channeled it into my hands, imagining I held a ball. I then directed this light into the Black Mirror making it ready to accept my thoughts. I breathed in a rhythmical fashion and entered a trance, focusing on my circle of protection until I felt completely at ease. I opened my eyes and gazed at the mirror the surface of which was a dark cloudy mist. As it dissipated a face came slowly into focus. My former employer stared back at me from within the Black Mirror. It had worked; I had contacted Lord Mulready!
The binding spell I cast upon him should keep him put. As for me, I shall greatly enjoy my newly found wealth and freedom while the Black Mirror of Dame Alice Kyteler sits snugly in its silk sack where it shall remain.
Black Mirror © 2003 by Maisha Foster-O'Neal. Reprinted with permission. Some of Maisha's other work can be found here.
The Internet Sacred Text Archive is an excellent resource for information about witchcraft in Ireland.
Information about the death of speedboat legend Sir Henry O'Neal de Hane Segrave can be found here.