hist-games: Odd Games

James Masters james.masters at ukonline.co.uk
Thu Apr 8 00:51:07 PDT 1999

I do have a pertinent book which has some festival games (The Encylopedia of
Traditional Games, Pietro Gorini) that seem to match your criteria quite
well.  The only ? is that these are all played now but I'd guess that the
majority were played 400 years ago too since these sort of eccentricities
don't spring up in a rush, I imagine.  I haven't listed any that definitely
started post 1600 but probably there are a few.  Here's a fairly
comprehensive list:

Rouletta, played at Chambave, Valle d'Aosta, Italy, August 10.  A sort of
comical meandering bowls game

2 other games a bit like Rouletta are:
Lou Joc De La Crino (Game of the Crino), San Martino di Perero,Piedmont,
Italy, Easter day
Le Cornichon, pl. Mont Saxonnet, Savoia, France, Easter day afternoon

ShroveTide Skipping Festival, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Shrove Tuesday

The Palieno of Siena, Siena, Tuscany, Italy, July 2 and Aug 16
(Most famous traditional race in the world - horse race)

Course des chausses et Course de la bague The Trouser Race and The Ring
Race, pl. Semur-en-Auxois, Borgogna, France, March 31
(definitely played during 1600)

(The piglet Joust) La giostra del maialetto or la corsa glio porcellitto,
Segni, Lazio, Italy, First 2 weeks of Aug  (2 teams of 27 blindfolded
players attempt to hit a piglet with a broom! Has to be worth a look,
apparently rather comic because the players usually end up hitting each
other by mistake!)

Historical Florentine Football, Calcio Storico Fiorentino, Florence, Italy,
every June

Fischerstechen (Fisherman's tournament), Ulm, Bavaria, Germany, Every four
years in July, next one in 2002 (min. 80 couples joust each other from

Olney pancake race, Olney, Bucks, England, every Shrove Tuesday

The Clog and Apron Race, Kew Gardens, Kew, England, end of September
(blimey - this is where I live and I had no idea - will try to go this year)

The Langonnet Games, Langonnet, Brittany, France, July 15 - A kind of
Olympiad of unique and odd games

Egg Rolling, Preston, Lancashire, England, Easter monday

Giostra del Saracino(The Saracen joust), Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy, 1st Sunday
in Sep

Corsa dei Ceri(The candle race), Gubbio, Umbria, Italy, March 15th (3 teams
gruelling race carrying 3 enormous candles each)

Gansabhauet (Beheading the goose), Sursee, Switzerland, Nov 11
There are loads of similar fowl death games around Europe, it seems.

The Crossbow Palio (played in Gubbio, Italy and San sepolcro, Italy Sep 8)
and The Grand Crossbow Palio (played in San Marino Sep 3)

Palio of Santa Reparata, Terra del Sole, Emilia Romagna, Italy, Oct 8th
(earliest record 549AD)

Up-Helly-AA, Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland, Last Tuesday in Jan, (play at
being Vikings for the day)

The Palio of Asti, Asti, Piedmont, Italy, 3rd Sunday in Sep.  Horse race

British Marbles championship, Tinsley Green, Sussex, Good Friday

Vassilopitta, Greece, Jan 1st.  (Involves cakes)

Giochi del le Porte (District Games), Gualdo Tadino, Umbria, Italy, 28-30
(A sort of medieval olympiad)

Encierro, Spain, time varies, (let bulls roam local streets pre 1600)

Gioco del Ponte (The Bridge Game), Pisa, Tuscany, Italy, every June. 2 teams
play 5 physical games on a bridge.

Corsa a vuoto (The Empty Race), Ronciglione, Lazio, Italy, Carnival time
(horses without riders race)

Elfstedentocht (11 towns race), Frisia, Holland, severe winters only - ice

The Kirkwall Ba' Games, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, Jan 1, Dec 25. Street
ball game

Quintana (Joust at Foligno's Quintain), Foligno, Umbria, Italy, 2nd & 3rd
Sundays in Sep (started  1613 but origins prior)

Giostra dell'Orso (The Bear joust), Postoia, Tuscany, Italy, July 25 (from

Kufenstechen, Feistriz an der Gail, Austria, Whit Monday (another jousting
game 15th c.)

Odd Object, Kingsbridge, Devon, England, end of July (village
observation/treasure hunt game)

Reinsdyr, rennet and Finnmark Lopet, Alta, Karaskjok and Kautokeino, Norway,
Easter Sat, sleigh race

Partita a scacchi (Human Chess Match), Marostica, Ialy, Bi annual in Sep
from 1454

Hand Ba' Game, Jedburgh, Borders, Scotland, Feb 2 (derived in 1549 when a
few Scots played with some English severed heads following a battle)

Cheese Rolling, Brockworth, Gloucestershire, England, every May

Palio dei Normanni, (The Norman Palio), Piazza Armerina, Scicily, Italy, Aug
13 & 14. Joust from 11th c.

Corsa dell'anello (The Narni Ring Race), Narni, Umbria, Italy, 2nd Sun in
May. (Joust first played in 14th c.)

Ringriderfest, Sonderborg, Denmark, July 8-11 incl. Corsa dell'anello

Ringrijd, Joure and other places in Frisia, Holland, 3rd Thurs in Aug.
(Females joust)

Petticoat Rule, Greece, Jan 8, (role reversal)

Boy's ploughing match, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, mid-Aug

Kipling Cotes Derby, Market Weighton, humberside, england, Every March
(horse race first 1516)

Torneo dei Rioni (district tournament), Oria, Puglia, Italy, 5 Aug (teams
compete in 5 races)

World Grimace championships, Egremont, Cumbria, 3rd Sat in Sep

There are several Street football games and several regattas too.  Can list
if you want.

And one mustn't forget the Highland Games, Scotland in which such classics
as throwing the hammer, tossing the caber and sack race all go on.


James Masters

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-hist-games at rt.com
> [mailto:owner-hist-games at rt.com]On Behalf
> Of Matthew Whitaker
> Sent: 08 April 1999 00:07
> To: Historic Games (E-mail)
> Subject: hist-games: Odd Games
> Does anyone have any knowledge of odd, yet traditional and culturally
> oriented games out there?  The only one I can think of is
> Dreidl which is a
> game played by Jews during Chanukah.
> I am specifically looking for games (and pastimes) played by
> peoples in
> Europe, between c600 ce and 1601, that aren't particularly common to
> everywhere in Europe, but rather were played by people in
> specific countries
> (eg: France only), cities (eg: only in Munich), communities
> (eg: only by
> Christians during Easter),  ghettos (eg: Jewish), or by
> people of particular
> ethnic groups (eg:  Arabs).  These games would be traditional
> games played
> at a particular time of year, during a particular holiday, holidays in
> general, or as a part of a kind of cultural-pride wherein
> others who weren't
> part of the particular group would not be expected to join in.
> More specifically, I'm looking for names of games, the rules, the time
> period, the location, and the people so that I may include
> information in a
> compilation I am creating.
> I am not looking for chess-type games, tafl-type games,
> tables-type games,
> morris-type games, or draughts type games.
> By the way, I seem to remember that Jews also played a particular game
> during Purim, but I cannot remember what it might be.
> I know this is a rather bizarre request, and despite working
> on trying to
> figure out how to ask for information for quite a while, I'm
> at a loss.  If
> you have information, or can help, or even help clarify what
> I'm asking for
> that'd be great.  Thanks!
> Matthew Whitaker
> Portland, Oregon
> whitakem at nwrel.org
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