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Read to know the legend behind “Bloody Mary”


Visual by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah

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We all remember the spooky little story of Bloody Mary from our school days, don’t we? If not, let me do the reminding bit for you. Light a candle and look in the mirror with the lights out late at night and say the name three times in a row “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” and hope you won’t be found dead with your eyes scratched out or with claw marks all over your body.

What a fun and cherry tale, isn’t it? Well, one must wonder where the tale had come from.

The Bloody Mary History

Bloody Mary History

There are hundreds of backstories on how Bloody Mary came to be. But one of the most reasonable (as reasonable as it can get when a reflection kills you) is the one we’ll be looking into. The best known Bloody Mary in history is none other than Mary I of England, also known as Mary Tudor, the first queen of England to lay claim to the throne.

According to History, she bears this unfortunate nickname because she burned over 300 Protestant heretics at the stake.

This is a story of how a heroic underdog became a monarch who was then mythologized as a violent despot—despite being no bloodier than her father, Henry VIII, or other English monarchs. It’s a tale of sexism, shifting national identity and good old-fashioned propaganda, all of which coalesced to create the image of an unchecked tyrant that endures today.

Mary ruled during the 1550s. Heresy is a belief that defies the established religious organization (Mary I was Roman Catholic), and was the worst crime someone could commit at the time.

Burning of the Heretics

Burning heretics at the stake was common in the 1500s — both Henry VIII (Mary’s father) and Queen Elizabeth (her sister and successor) executed numerous heretics using the same method — but as a Roman Catholic leading a mostly Protestant country, Mary had more heretics to deal with. And, John Foxe, a staunch Protestant martyrologist, ran a pretty solid campaign against the queen when he published The Actes and Monuments.

The book detailed the deaths of Christian martyrs throughout the ages, and included especially graphic woodcuttings of martyrs that died at the hands of Mary I. The book was published about five years after she died, and was used to help fuel England’s Reformation, a movement in the 1500s in which religious leaders challenged the Pope’s authority.

Mary’s legacy are the 280 Protestants she consigned to the flames. These executions—the main reason for her unfortunate nickname—are cited as justification for labeling her one of the most evil humans of all time and even depicting her as a “flesh-eating zombie.” They are where we get the image of a monarch whose “raging madness” and “open tyranny,” as described by 16th-century writer Bartholomew Traheron, led her to “swimmeth in the holy blood of most innocent, virtuous, and excellent personages.”

With this visual reminder of the brutal deaths people suffered under Mary’s rule, the moniker “Bloody Mary” was born.

How it became a modern-day Legend?

In more recent times, Bloody Mary is an urban legend shared among kids throughout the different parts of the world. It was first written about in 1978 by folklorist Jane Langlois, however, like most urban legends, it’s hard to trace how this one started. Supposedly, the Mary people tried to conjure up was Mary Worth, a woman burned to death in the Salem Witch Trials.

A fun fact is while many people are usually too scared to stick around to see if Bloody Mary actually appears, those who stay might actually see an apparition. That’s because our brains are wired to see faces in everyday objects. So, if you’re giving it a try, do it at your own risk!

Also Read: Are you fond of Mysteries? Then let us discuss 5 creepy as well as strange instances viewed on Google Maps

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