The Magick of the Real Mother Goose

The recent backlash against "nursery rhymes" being taught to our children has a lot to do with the content of the rhymes; if you've never read them as an adult, you may not realize just what they actually "say." In fact, few of the "nursery rhymes" were originally intended for children!

In the early days, before they were "collected" into the somewhat familiar form of today; these rhymes were actually methods of preserving history, customs, lore and fears for the common man. (We need to recall that the majority of people in the earlier centuries could neither read or write. That is why roving troubadours, bards and minstrels were so popular.)

Who or what was "Mother Goose"?

Theories abound, but so far no conclusive proof. We shall briefly examine two women who have been brought forth as contenders.

The Queen of Sheba. I think it should be obvious why not. Yet, she has been brought forth. Queen Bertrada aka Bertha, Bertrada was the Emperor Charlemagne's mother. It has been in print that Bertha was called "goose-foot". As a genealogist and descendant of the woman in question, I can tell you she was known as "Bertha of the Big-Foot"; not goose-foot. Even if she was called "goose-foot"s he is entirely of the wrong era.

Why is Mother Goose never portrayed as a plump Grandmotherly type bouncing a grandbaby on her knee? Why always an elderly hag?

Gasp! Could Mother Goose be the prototype of the stereotypical "witch"?

Witches were the keepers of knowledge for the common folk — it was she who nursed the sick babe as well as birthed calves or treated illnesses. She was a "wise woman". She was a valued member of her community; but, as in any human endeavor, she was not infallible. It was when things went wrong that this woman — often old with no close family ties — was accused of heinous acts. (We are all human and tend to blame others for our misfortune. In today's society we hire a lawyer and go for blood in earlier times they just went for blood.)

One thing is certain, if "she" were one individual, she was passing down oral history, lore and adages, from people of other eras.

Here are a few of the collected rhymes to get you to thinking.

The following "Nursery Rhymes" are taken from the 1916 edition of The real Mother Goose. The ones I have seen of later years tend to omit some of the rhymes, or even change the wording slightly.

The First of May

The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day,
And washes in dew from the hawthorn-tree
Will ever after handsome be.

Rain

Rain, rain, go away,
Come again another day;
Little Johnny wants to play.

Jack

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candle-stick.

Bees

A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly.

Lengthening Days

As the days grow longer
The storms grow stronger.

Pins

See a pin and pick it up,
All the day you'll have good luck.
See a pin and let it lay,
Bad luck you'll have all the day.

Dreams

Friday's dream,
on Saturday told,
Is sure to come true,
be it never so old.

Sneezing

If you sneeze on Monday, you sneeze for danger;
If you sneeze on a Tuesday, kiss a stranger;
If you sneeze on a Wednesday, sneeze for a letter;
If you sneeze on a Thursday, something better;
If you sneeze on a Friday, sneeze for sorrow;
If you sneeze on a Saturday, joy tomorrow.

A Sunshiny Shower

A sunshiny shower
Won't last half an hour.

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