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Fig 5.4 – Plague Psychology

Text: Page 160

Many scholars believe that the cultural nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosy” was written about the symptoms of the Black Plague. Because the human psyche needs to ritualize shadows and the darker aspects of being human, there is the human desire to find a conscious way to make sense of unspeakable pain and suffering. The symptoms of the plague, as described in “Ring Around the Rosy” were symbolized by the rosy being the red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin (ring around the rosy). Sweet smelling herbs, or posies, were carried in pockets (a pocket full of posies) to deter the disease believed to be transmitted by bad smells. Ashes (ashes! ashes!) referred to the cremation of the dead bodies. The English version replaced ashes with A-tishoo, (a-tishoo), a violent sneeze because sneezing was a symptom of the disease. Both ended symbolically with death (we all fall down).

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