Monday, July 19, 2010
Bloody Mary (folklore)
Bloody Mary is a ghost or witch featured in Western folklore. She is said to appear in a mirror when her name is called three times or sometimes more, depending upon the version of the story, often as part of a game.
One of the more common ways participants attempt to make her appear is to stand before a mirror in the dark (most commonly in a bathroom) and repeat her name three times, though there are many variations including chanting a hundred times, chanting at midnight, spinning around, rubbing one's eyes, running the water, or chanting her name thirteen times with a lit candle. In some versions of the legend, the summoner must say, "Bloody Mary, I killed your baby." In these variants, Bloody Mary is often believed to be the spirit of a young mother whose baby was stolen from her, making her mad in grief, eventually committing suicide. In stories where Mary is supposed to have been wrongly accused of killing her children, the querent might say "I believe in Mary Worth." This is similar to another game involving the summoning of the Bell Witch in a mirror at midnight. The game is often a test of courage and bravery, as it is said that if Bloody Mary is summoned, she would proceed to kill the summoner in an extremely violent way, such as ripping his or her face off, scratching his or her eyes out, cutting his or her head off, driving the person insane, bringing the person into the mirror with her or scratching his or her neck, causing serious injury or death. Some think if she doesn't kill the one who had summoned her then she will haunt them for the rest of their life. Other versions tell that if one chants her name thirteen times at midnight into a mirror she will appear and the summoner can talk to a deceased person until 11:08a.m., when Bloody Mary and the dead person asked to speak to will vanish. Still other variations say that the querent must not look directly at Bloody Mary, but at her image in the mirror; she will then reveal the querent's future, particularly concerning marriage and children.
Divination rituals such as the one depicted on this early 20th century Halloween greeting card, where a woman stares into a mirror in a darkened room to catch a glimpse of the face of her future husband, while a witch lurks in the shadows, may be one origin of the Bloody Mary legend.
Bloody Mary Worth is typically described as a child-murderer who lived in the local city where the legend has taken root years ago. There is often a specific local graveyard or tombstone that becomes attached to the legend.
On the other hand, various people have surmised that the lore about taunting Bloody Mary about her baby may relate her tenuously to folklore about Queen Mary I, also known as "Bloody Mary", whose life was marked by a number of miscarriages or false pregnancies. Speculation exists that the miscarriages were deliberately induced. As a result, some retellings of the tale make Bloody Mary the queen driven to madness by the loss of her children. It is likely, however, that Queen Mary only provided her nickname to the Bloody Mary of folklore. She is also confused in some tellings of the story with Mary, Queen of Scots.
The mirror ritual by which Bloody Mary is summoned may also relate to a form of divination involving mirrors and darkness that was once performed on Halloween. While as with any sort of folklore the details may vary, this particular tale encouraged young women to walk up a flight of stairs backwards, holding a candle and a hand mirror, in a darkened house. As they gazed into the mirror, they were supposed to be able to catch a view of their future husband's face. There was, however, a chance that they would see the skull-face of the Grim Reaper instead; this meant that they were destined to die before they married.
1 See generally, Bill Ellis, Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture (University of Kentucky, 2004). ISBN 0-8131-2289-9
2 a b Urban Legends Reference Pages: Bloody Mary
3 Bloody Mary, Mary Worth and other variants of a modern legend - MythologyWeb
4 Obiwan's UFO-Free Paranormal Page > Ghosts and Hauntings FAQ > Urban Legends > Bloody Mary
5 Ellis, op. cit.; see also Ronald Hutton, Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, (Oxford, 2001). ISBN 0-19-285448-8