So That’s What It’s All About!

Mysterious origins of the “Hokey Pokey”.

Lauren Dickinson, Reporter

Remember those songs that would be sung at preschool such as “Wheels on the Bus” or “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”? Well, have you ever thought about why we sing these songs or where they came from? The well-known song “Hokey Pokey” has an interesting origin that is sure to surprise you. 

Many people believe that the “Hokey Pokey” was created in Idaho by Charles Mack, Taft Baker, and Larry Laprise. According to Eddie Deezen’s article “The Ambiguous Origins of the Hokey Pokey,” they performed it at the Sun Valley Ski Resort, and with its popularity, Laprise decided to record it. It was eventually recorded by Ray Anthony’s orchestra giving us the version we know and love today (Deezen). Although interesting, the origins go back further to the most controversial part of the history of this song.

Along with being the title of an iconic Halloween movie, the phrase “hocus pocus” was corrupted into “hokey pokey” giving us the title for the song. But, what does “hocus pocus” really mean? When the Catholic Mass was still celebrated in Latin, the priest would recite the line “Hoc corpus meum” meaning “This is my body.” At that time, the bread is transformed into the body of Christ. Magicians took the Latin phrase and changed it to “hocus pocus” to mock the transubstantiation (Deezen). Once changed to “hokey pokey” more words were added to continue the mockery. The origin story from explains that the dance that accompanies the song is also believed to be mimicking Catholic priests during the mass. When you sing “and you turn yourself around”, it is referring to when the priest would turn around to present the consecrated host when Mass was celebrated with the priest facing away from the congregation. Later in the song, when you sing “knees bend”, it is referring to the priest extending his arms during the consecration (Songfacts). However, there has been no confirmation if any of this is true. 

Although the origins of the “Hokey Pokey” are unsure, there are definitely some interesting ideas as to where this song came from. This will definitely make you think about what other songs really mean.


Deezen, Eddie. “The Ambiguous Origins of the Hokey Pokey.” Mental Floss, Mental Floss, 6 May 2018, 

Songfacts. “The Hokey Cokey by Traditional – Songfacts.” Song Meanings at Songfacts,