The Mother Goose rhythm is nothing about cheerful thoughts but about death itself. More precisely it is felt to be about a dark time period in Europe- the Bubonic Plague which killed thousands of people. A plague felt to been caused due to superstition or another fear.
A pocket full of posies
Ashes Ashes [or “Tishoo Tishoo”]
We all fall down!
“Ring around the rosy” is felt to refer to one of the early signs or symptoms of the disease. A ‘ring’ forming around a scab or eruption on the skin.
“Pocket full of posies” Some feel that the infections had an acrid smell thus infected people had flowers put around them or in their pockets to help make the smell more bearable. Others feel this refers to the smell of death that filled many communities; bodies of the dead, carted out of the houses to be picked up by wagons for burials, were sometimes covered with flowers to help lessen the smell of the rotting flesh. Townspeople would carry flowers or use lavender on handkerchiefs to hold over their nose and mouths to help make the air a bit more breathable.
The third line has two versions shared. Some of us learned “Tishoo Tishoo”, which is sharing one of the last symptoms of the disease before the person died.
Others of us learned “Ashes Ashes” which may refer to the amount of people dying daily. Remember that thousands of people died as a result of the plague. When the disease was at its height this could easily mean that hundreds of people a day were dying. Therefore it would been hard to bury them all, due to the shortage of healthy people able to dig mass graves or not enough hours in the day. There was also the fear of the victims’ bodies ‘infecting’ the earth. The plague prompted many communities to burn, or cremated, the bodies instead.
“We all fall down” We all eventually died if we caught the plague.
The Bubonic Plague was also known as the “Black Death”. It is said that thousands died from the infection but many more died from fear.