Sunday, December 6, 2009


Some people say that hokey-pokey
refers to Catholics’ loss of focus
when priests do things that seem most hokey
in the mass’s hocus-pocus,
for when put their right hand in,
and after this their right hand out
they claim to cleanse you of all sin,
raising hokey-pokey doubt
not just for Puritans, but me,
for though I really love to joke
I find it very hard to see
the point that priests who hokey-poke
are making when they claim that bread
is Jesus’ body, and that wine
becomes his blood and then is fed
into their mouths, their final shrine.

In a different ritual, I
put on my arm and head tefillin,
and if perchance you ask me why
I do this I’ll explain. I’m willin’
to do the hokey-pokey, but
quite differently from priests. My mind
is open and is never shut,
because the leather straps I wind
around my left arm, that is weak,
binds me to words the Torah states,
reminding me that God’s unique,
declaring this each day near neyts,
without tefillin on Shabbat,
a day that supersedes this ritual,
and takes all Jews out of their rut
that binds them to this weekday ritual.

Inspired by an obituary of Robert Dagen by Bruce Weber in the NYT, December 4, 2009, which drew my attention to the origin of the term “hokey-pokey”. The conjecture put forward by Tillotson reads: “In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their trick of Transubstantiation”. The Anglican Canon Matthew Damon, Provost of Wakefield Cathedral, West Yorkshire, has claimed that the dance as well comes from the Catholic Latin mass.[3] The priest would perform his movements with his back to the congregation, who could not hear well the words, nor understand the Latin, nor clearly see his movements. This theory led Scottish politician Michael Matheson in 2008 to urge police action ‘against individuals who use it to taunt Catholics.” This claim by Matheson was deemed ridiculous by fans from both sides of the Old Firm (the Glasgow football teams Celtic and Rangers) and calls were put out on fans' forums for both sides to join together to sing the song on 27 December 2008 at Ibrox.

Neyts is the Hebrew word denoting dawn’s early light, the best time to recited the amidah, the 19-prayer long “Eighteeen Benedictions” that are recited shortly after the Shema, which begins with the words: “Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord” (Deut. 6:5).

Bruce Weber writes:
Somewhere along the line — at a wedding, at a child’s birthday party, in third-grade music class — everybody has done the hokey pokey. Admit it: you sang the silly song, you did the silly dance.
You know the one
You put your right hand in,
You put your right hand out,
You out your right hand in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.
Popular as the song is, its authorship has long been in dispute, with the credit usually going to Larry LaPrise, who as part of a musical group, the Ram Trio, is said to have created it in Sun Valley, Idaho, as a novelty number to entertain vacationing skiers. The trio, whose other members were Charles Peter Macak and Tafft Baker, recorded the song, “The Hokey Pokey,” in the late 1940s. There are many reasons to question this version of the song’s provenance, however. Among them is that a very similar song, “The Hokey Pokey Dance,” was copyrighted a few years earlier, in 1944, by a club musician from Scranton, Pa., named Robert Degen. Mr. Degen — who claimed for decades that Mr. LaPrise had stolen his song — died in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 23, his 104th birthday. (Mr. LaPrise died in 1996, and the two men never met.)…A similar song, called variously “Hokey Cokey” or “Cokey Cokey,” was reportedly a favorite of English and American soldiers in England during World War II, the authorship attributed sometimes to a popular Northern Irish songwriter, Jimmy Kennedy, and sometimes to a London bandleader, Al Tabor.
Some Roman Catholic churchmen, meanwhile, have said that the words “hokey pokey” derive from “hocus pocus” — the Oxford English Dictionary concurs — and that the song was written by 18th-century Puritans to mock the language of the Latin Mass. Last year the Catholic Church in Scotland, concerned that some soccer fans were using the song as a taunt, raised the possibility that singing it should be prosecuted as a hate crime. “This song does have quite disturbing origins,” Peter Kearney, a spokesman for Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who leads the Catholic Church in Scotland, was widely quoted in Britain as saying. He added, “If there are moves to restore its more malevolent meaning, then consideration should perhaps be given to its wider use.”


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