The bloody Mary legend is an old, old legend, that you probably heard way back in primary school and that your younger siblings and family members have probably heard too. Based on many many urban legends and folklore that many believe was based upon the true story of the witch Mary Worth, the Bloody Mary story may seem somewhat innocent until you learn quite how gruesome and violent the tale is.
The legend of Bloody Mary is centuries-old and appears in many folkloric variations. In the West, she borrows her name from Queen Mary I, the infamous monarch known as a burner of heretics. To summer campers and slumber parties, though, Bloody Mary appears in bathroom mirrors — not as a murderous queen, but a howling woman drenched in blood. Sometimes, she’s said to be clutching a dead, blue baby. Other times, her arms are empty and outstretched as the conjurer taunts her: “I stole your baby,” or “I killed your baby.” In any variation, the ritual is as macabre as it is childish. But while most children outgrow the game even before outgrowing camp, there is a strange, sad, and very true story wound up in this myth.
The Real Woman Behind Bloody Mary
Queen Mary I was born unwanted. She was the only living child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. While loved by her parents, and by all accounts remarkably intelligent, the fact that she was born female meant she was openly and constantly regarded as a disappointment — not merely to her royal family, but all of England. It was his lack of a male heir that (primarily) incited Henry’s historic series of marriages, leaving Mary caught in his dreadful wake. At 14, she was permanently separated from her mother, forbidden even to visit Catherine’s deathbed. Depending on which wife was on the throne, Mary was alternatively banned from court as a bastard or ordered to come make appearances, suddenly a princess again.