Hey, Diddle, Diddle by Barbara Ardinger

Hey, diddle, diddle
The cat and the fiddle.
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

From her lips to our ears.

What is this? Maybe it’s an absurdist play. An operetta. An oracle. A carnival. Or all at once. I’m only a Seeing Woman, not a Priestess or a Thealogian, but I’ve permission to be present at great events and small. So I was there. I was watching. It was indeed a carnival, but one of our old-time carnivals where we celebrate all there is celebrate in life. Not one of those new-fangled carnivals of those new religions, where they grab everything good they can for one day before they have to give up all the pleasures in life while their god does…well, whatever he and his disciples and prophets do up there in the sky.

Dish and spoonWhat on earth, I hear you asking, got into that dish? Why did she run away? Well, let me tell you. It was at one of our last carnivals. It was an enchantment. That dish was our Princess, and she was under the enchantment. Actually, the whole Royal Family was enchanted. The warriors came galloping in from the steppes beyond the river, but first they sent a Prince. He told our Queen that they were coming to “protect” us, that they were bringing new gods to us. Bringing what they called new civilization and new ways, bringing us what they called “good news.” Well, our Queen and Her Consort were rightly skeptical about all these news, and they locked the Princess up in a safe tower. Kept her there for who knows how long while that handsome but rapacious Prince came and went and the warriors surrounded our lands. Back and forth, back and forth. It was them that declared the carnival and threw that enchantment on all our important people. The Prince lured her down out of the tower—he’d stolen the magic words that unlocked the door—and then he told her he was going to eat her up. She thought it was a joke. He dressed himself up as a big spoon and persuaded her to dress herself as a dish. And then, when the invasion got serious, she ran away with him. Maybe she thought she was saving herself.

There’s an old, old land way far south of here, across the Middle Sea. I think it’s called ’Gyptus, where the Gypsies come from. Their gods and goddesses down there are as old as ours here in Mitteleuropa. Their Great Goddess and her sisters and her husband used to come sailing across the Middle Sea and up our river to visit us. They did that several times, and every time they came to visit us, they sat down with our goddesses and gods and talked about important things. Like survival. Now remember, I’m a Seeing Woman, so I was permitted to be present at these visits.

The Great Isis talked about the old ways of her land. The Triple Mothers of our land talked about our old ways. Those goddesses shared the secrets of life and death and rebirth, secrets of the sun and the moon and the planets. That “Hey, diddle, diddle”? Shhh—that’s a secret. It’s code. If I could tell you all the ’Gyptian words hidden in there, well, we’d know what the Great Isis learned from their eldest sun god Ra and how she tricked him when she said he threatened to dry up their river and turn their whole land into a desert. But no one’s supposed to know that, so don’t you tell anyone. In our language, “Hey, diddle, diddle” is just a children’s rhyme. They sing it when they’re playing with their cats and dogs. But you know what? There’s high magic often hidden in silly words. Take “abracadabra.” Some people say it’s the name of an old god you can call on to make your magic happen. Other people say it means “I speak the word,” or “I speak this word and thus create it.” Who am I to say?

Cow, moonOh—you want to know who the cat and the cow and the dog are? Not your regular household pets, that’s for sure. Not our precious familiars, either. Remember how I said the Great Isis sometimes brought her sisters and brothers with her and all those goddesses and gods sat around and spoke of beginnings and endings and life in between? They also gave us some oracles—we knew both the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire were coming and that we’d have to find ways to survive. Which we did. Those visiting ’Gyptian goddesses and gods are hidden in that children’s rhyme. I have permission to exegesicate it for you. It’s the Great Isis’ sisters and brother. They have cat goddesses over there. One of them, Bastet, likes music. That’s how people worship her. I never knew, though, that she took violin lessons. Was the violin even invented yet? She played us some beautiful music, the likes of which didn’t come back around till that fellow Paganini. Another sister, Hathor, is cow-ish. Sometimes she has cow’s ears, and she wears a sun disk between her cow’s horns. She’s a goddess of joy and celebration. But I didn’t know she was so energetic she could jump over the moon. Holy Cow! (That’s her.) And that “little dog”? That’s Anubis, or Anpu for short, their pet brother who’s really a hunting dog. What’s he laughing about? It must be pretty funny to see all the stuff that’s going on at a carnival. People lose their inhibitions. No. They throw inhibition away.

Some days, I get this strong feeling that all the old goddesses and gods from all the old lands the world over are walking around among us today and just laughing and laughing at all our news. At us and how silly and mean we are. We don’t hardly notice them, which must make them pretty sad. It’s only when they see what we’re trying to do to the world that they laugh. They know we’ll be going back to them one of these days. I’m a Seeing Woman. I know a few things. But I don’t have permission to tell you any more. Hush, now.


Barbara ArdingerBarbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.

Categories: Divine Feminine, Folklore, Goddess, Herstory, Myth

Tags: , , ,

8 replies

  1. This is great. I love the cow stories, so much in fact I wrote a whole collection of poems called ‘Cow’. Did you know that the word queen comes from the Sanskrit word for cow? I tracked these etymologies and a new character emerged, Queenie, who claims to have invented the universe. Her evidence? The galaxies. The word galaxy comes from the Greek word gala which means milk. Her other evidence is that sound of the universe, aum, when reversed sounds suspiciously like moo.

    Love reading your posts.


  2. Deliciously silly and slyly wise. Brava!


  3. Best yet, Barbara! And that’s saying a lot. 😸


  4. There are indeed secrets in those old rhymes! Thanks for another amazing and wonderful post!


  5. According to my sources, the word “sport” in this rhyme used to be “craft,” giving the line internal rhyming:

    Hey, diddle, diddle
    The cat and the fiddle.
    The cow jumped over the moon.
    The little dog laughed to see such craft
    And the dish ran away with the spoon!



  1. Hey Diddle Diddle | Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.

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