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Doppelgänger

by Micha F. Lindemans
The frightful image seen at the window, or staring back from the mirror, could be your own--a double, or doppelgänger (from the German for "double goer"), the sight of which could foretell your own imminent demise. Sometimes described as the soul embodied, sometimes an astral projection or aura, the double most often presented itself as a warning.

Queen Elizabeth I reportedly saw a vision lying on her deathbed, pale and still, soon before she died. Goethe and Shelley also claimed to have seen their doubles, and when Catherine the Great of Russia saw her own coming toward her, she took no chances and ordered her soldiers to shoot at it. Witches, it was long accepted, could project their own doubles and set them loose to do mischief far and wide. As a result, many a women was hanged as a witch even though it could be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was somewhere else entirely when the barn burned down, the cow died or whatever else had happened that she was now charged with having done. On other occasions, a double -- of someone else - -could be called forth or seen.

One old Halloween custom has it that if a young girl lights two candles before a mirror, while eating an apple, she will see in the mirror the spectral image of her future husband, peering back at her as if from over her shoulder. If she is brave enough to venture out to a graveyard, and walk all the way around it twelve times, she will meet up with the double itself.
According to another old belief, anyone who wants to know who will pass away in the coming year has only to stand vigil near the church door on April 24, the eve of the feast day of St. Mark. At midnight, the airy doubles of all who will die file in a solemn processional into the church, if the watcher is unlucky enough to see his own image there, he knows his own time is not far off.

To this day, the fear of the double is observed, if unknowingly, in the custom of covering all the mirrors in a house where a death has just occurred. The double of anyone passing the glass, it was once thought, could be projected into the mirror and carried off by the deceased to the afterworld.


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