Why Is a Broken Mirror Bad Luck?

By: Laurie L. Dove & Sascha Bos  | 
broken mirror
According to superstition, breaking a mirror also breaks the soul into pieces. Paper Boat Creative/Getty Images

After months of searching, you found the perfect apartment, and it's finally time to move. But just as you're about to pat yourself on the back, something terrible happens: You trip over a crack in the sidewalk, and the large, antique mirror you're carrying slips from your grasp. Before you can fully understand what's happening, the mirror hits the concrete and cracks into hundreds of pieces.

Your first thought? Well, we probably shouldn't repeat it here. Your second? A broken mirror means seven years of bad luck.


Early Origins of the Broken Mirror Superstition

Humans were superstitious about their reflections long before the invention of the mirror as we know it today. The ancient Greeks believed it was unlucky to see one's reflection, exemplified by the story of Narcissus, who fell in love with the sight of his reflection in a stream and died, pining, at the water’s edge [source: Britannica].

Despite Narcissus's tragic tale, the ancient Romans couldn't help but figure out how to see their reflections without trekking down a flat body of water. They used convex, highly polished metal surfaces as mirrors [source: Britannica]. These were highly prized possessions, which may explain why breaking a mirror was considered such bad luck.


The earliest mention of the broken mirror superstition in English is a 1777 account claiming that breaking a mirror is "a very unlucky accident" because mirrors were part of an "ancient kind of divination" and "formerly used by magicians in their superstitious and diabolical operations" [source: Brand]. Since then, broken mirrors have been popular in British culture, as seen in this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

She left the web, she left the loom

She made three paces thro' the room

She saw the water-flower bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She look'd down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack'd from side to side;

'The curse is come upon me,' cried

The Lady of Shalott.


Why Seven Years of Bad Luck?

The misfortune associated with breaking a mirror lasts only seven years since the ancient Romans believed life’s changes happen in seven-year cycles [sources: Drazin, Oliver].

Another explanation for the seven years of bad luck is that the cost of a new mirror would equal seven years of a servant’s work, should that servant be unlucky enough to damage a mirror while cleaning [source: Denham Wade].


What Happens If You Accidentally Crack a Mirror?

Nothing happens if you break a mirror, except you might have to clean up a mess and buy a new one. However, a broken mirror is a sign of bad luck if you are superstitious.

Some people believe that a mirror reflects more than just one’s physical appearance — it also reflects one’s soul. Therefore, breaking a mirror would mean breaking the soul into pieces [source: Winsham]. Now severely damaged, the soul can't fully protect its body from misfortune.


In an alternate explanation, the damaged soul seeks revenge against the one responsible for its injuries. The type of misfortune varies but may include the loss of a close friend or the death of someone in the household [source: Radford].

4 Superstitions to Mitigate the Bad Luck of Breaking a Mirror

According to superstition, breaking a mirror results in seven years of bad luck. Here's how to minimize the misfortune:

  1. Get rid of the pieces. Keeping the broken mirror fragments isn't just a safety hazard; according to folklore, holding onto the mirror shards will increase your bad luck [source: Jackson]. Dispose of the pieces in the trash by wrapping them in paper or placing them in a cardboard box (sharp mirror pieces can cut through a plastic bag).
  2. One practice is to put the broken shards in a bag and bury them [source: Opie]. If you can bury the pieces under the light of a full moon, even better [source: Winsham].
  3. Grind the mirror fragments into a fine powder [source: Winsham].
  4. Throwing salt over your left shoulder to "blind the devil" is one of the best known counter-charms for breaking free of any kind of bad luck [source: Opie].


Does Breaking Glass Bring Bad Luck?

Unlike a broken mirror, broken glass can sometimes be a sign of good luck — but it depends on who you ask. According to some English superstitions, breaking glass is a death omen [source: Opie].

However, according to Greek tradition, breaking plates at a celebration will ward off evil spirits, and stomping on a wine glass is an important Jewish wedding tradition.


Mirror Bad Luck FAQ

What does a broken mirror symbolize?
People from many cultures, including Greek, Chinese and American, believe that a broken mirror is an indication of bad luck.
What happens if you accidentally crack a mirror?
Nothing really happens, except that you might have to clean up a mess and buy a new mirror. However, if you are superstitious, then a broken mirror is a sign of bad luck.
What does the breaking of a mirror indicate?
According to superstition, breaking a mirror results in seven years of bad luck. It is believed that one of the ways to counteract this is to remove the pieces from the house and bury them under the light of a full moon.
Is breaking a glass a bad omen?
No. Unlike a broken mirror, a broken glass is not considered a bad omen (except for some English superstitions that claim breaking glass is a death omen). In fact, some cultures see it as a sign of good luck.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Encyclopedia Britannica. "Narcissus." Oct. 30, 2014. (Dec. 20, 2014) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/403458/Narcissus
  • Drazin, Israel. "Maimonides and the Biblical Prophets." (Nov. 23, 2022) https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/PerLtdiAKx0C?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA281&dq=romans+life+renews+itself+every+seven+years
  • Radford, E. "The Encyclopedia of Superstitions." Barnes and Noble. 1961. (Dec. 20, 2014) https://books.google.com/books?id=r7AZ4U2HA3UC&pg=PA232&lpg=PA232&dq=Hole,+Christina.+++The+Encyclopedia+of+Superstitions.++mirror+bad+luck&source=bl&ots=wlRcKA7WUM&sig=vpb7pkn9UyEobrGjdrNVVVLMo2c&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ju6qVN-bHJeioQShnYDADA&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Hole%2C%20Christina.%20%20%20The%20Encyclopedia%20of%20Superstitions.%20%20mirror%20bad%20luck&f=false