The Southern Tradition of covering the mirrors and stopping the clocks
Poor Isabel. She lost her father and, despite her feelings on this man, she is still asking Benjamin to seek out Eliza to cover the mirrors and stop the clocks. But why is she asking him to do these things?
When I was in New York there was a girl who went to school with me and she had told me that her family was rooted in tradition, so much so that even during a thunderstorm they would cover a mirror. When I asked her why, she said it was to keep the souls that come through a mirror during a storm at bay. Now, I did not do this in Yonder because I wanted to keep this book in vein of the South.
One movie that really comes out when I am talking about this subject is “Fried Green Tomatoes.” When Ruth dies in the movie, the next thing you see happen is the maid going through the room covering the mirrors and then she stops a clock. But why?
From what I could find (from stories on the internet and word of mouth) there is a lot of belief behind these actions. Let's start with the covering of the mirror.
1- There was belief that if a soul that has passed on was to see their reflection they would become trapped in the mirror and not be able to move on.
2- Another was that covering the mirror hid the mourners from seeing themselves during time of grieving and they were allowed to grieve fully. (This also coincides with the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva.)
3- It was also believed, in some parts, that if a soul of the departed was meant for Hell, it would seek out a mirror to try an escape its' eternal judgment.
4- If a soul was trapped in “the mirror world” you could release them into yours by breaking the mirror.
Stopping the Clocks
1- I think the most logical reason for this was merely to mark the time of death; Be it for the doctor or records.
2- The belief that time has stopped for the person who has passed and you are allowing them to move on without rushing them.
3.-If the clock is kept going, you are inviting the deceased to stay in your time and not pass on. Thus inviting a spirit to stay.
I never really came out and said what it was that Isabel and the people around her believed, just that they did. I am also sure that Isabel did it for one reason, Eliza did it for another and Benjamin did it because Isabel asked him to. It's almost the same feeling of throwing salt over your shoulder or knocking on wood. I, myself, am guilty of both of those. Sometimes we don't give it a lot of thought but just do traditions or superstitions out of belief, habit or as a learned response. Kind-a-like the medieval belief that you had to cover your mouth when yawning because the soul was trying to escape your body. Now, to cover your mouth is strictly manners. These things get passed on, or alter but the point is: They all started somewhere from something. Whether we continue on with them or not is purely up to us.