« PreviousContinue »
be doubted. But there is distinct evidence in the carvings on pieces of reindeer horn that the Palaeolithic inhabitants of Europe possessed this knowledge in the 'Madeleine' period.
It is especially played by village girls and women in the interior of Ceylon at the time when they collect the fallen almond-like seeds of the Mi-tree (Bassia longifolia), from which oil is expressed for many household purposes.
One of the players takes in her hand an uncertain quantity of the seeds and requests another to guess whether the number is odd or even. The seeds are not counted, but taken out of the hand by pairs. Often there is a small wager in seeds over the result, sometimes amounting to the number of seeds in the hand; and occasionally an unlucky individual loses a day's collection of seeds in this manner.
This was a common game among the Greeks and Romans, the latter people reversing the name by which it is now known, and calling it Par-impar, 'Even-uneven.' It was also played by the ancient Egyptians, and is illustrated in the paintings on the walls of their tombs.
This game is played by two or more girls. Each requires five or more small stones for it, all of course having the same number. Any player begins by taking all the stones between her palms, in her doubled hands, and gradually dropping them on the floor by rubbing her palms together. The expression for this action, ambaranawa, has given the name to the game.
With a twig or her forefinger she then draws a short transverse line between any two stones, and proceeds to make one of them strike the other by propelling it along the ground from the nail of the fore-finger, as the end of the bent and doubledback finger springs from the side of the thumb. This wins both the stones provided no other is touched by them. The play is repeated with each pair until all are won, or another stone is struck, or a miss occurs. In either of the latter cases the player stops, and another takes up all the stones that have not been won, and repeats the performance. The play goes round the party in this manner until all the stones have been
If there be an odd one at the last the person who is playing puts down one of the stones previously won by her, and plays as before. After all have been won, those who have failed to get back their original number of stones are beaten in fun by those who have more than that number.
GAL KELIYA, The Stone Game.'
This is known as Indi Keliya,' the Date Game,' in Colombo, a name that indicates its transmission to Ceylon from a country in which dates grow. In Southern India the Tamils term it Puliyan Kottei,' the Tamarind Stones' Game. In Bengal it is called Dhappā, and its Japanese name is Ōtēdama, 'Handball.' It is played in Egypt, where the Arabic name for it is Hel; but I was informed that it is unknown in Senegambia. It was a favourite game in Rome and Greece, where it was played with five stones, and was called Pentalithos. In its simplest original form this is probably one of the earliest games invented. Possibly it is the only game of this type which is common to Europe and the Far East.
In Ceylon, Gal Keliya is almost always played only by girls; it requires two or more players, who may be any number up to about ten. Each player provides herself with not less than five small stones, nor more than eight, the smaller number being usually chosen; all the players must have the same number. The players are all seated or kneeling on the ground.
At the beginning a player tosses up all her stones and catches them on the back of her hand and fingers held out horizontally to receive them. She then tosses them up again as they lie on her hand and catches them in her palm. If she fail in either of these acts and allow a stone to fall, the play passes to the next person according to the hand used by the first one, that is, if she used her left hand the turn would go round to the left; if her right hand it would pass round to the right. This next player in her turn tosses up and catches all her stones; and in case of her failure the following one repeats the performance until one player has caught all her stones both on the back of the hand and in the palm. This is a preliminary test, a sort of
entrance examination, which in the case of each player precedes the regular play, and all who fail in it receive punishment at the end of the game.
The real game is now commenced. The first one who succeeded in catching all the stones takes in her hand the stones of all the players, tosses the whole up, and as in the first play, catches as many as possible on the back of her hand and fingers. These she tosses up again and catches on her palm. There are so many that in all cases some fall on the ground. The number caught must be three or more; if it be less her turn is ended and the next player begins in the same way.
When the number is not under three the stones thus caught are tossed up together and allowed to fall on the palm, one of the stones which fell on the ground being picked up by the same hand while they are in the air. If this be done successfully without allowing a stone to drop, the player puts one stone aside as won.
Then all the other stones but one are placed on the ground indiscriminately near the player, who now tosses up the surplus one and catches it in her palm, picking up, while it is in the air, one of those on the ground, with the same hand. One of the two is laid aside on the ground, and the procedure is repeated time after time, until all on the ground have been picked up, or a miss has been made, allowing one to fall down. If all be caught the player puts aside a second stone as won. If a miss be made the play passes to the next person; otherwise the first player continues to repeat the process with the remaining stones, each time putting aside one as gained, after all have been picked up successfully. A very skilful player may thus win all the stones before a second person has an opportunity of playing; I have seen this done.
When the number of stones becomes reduced to five, of which four are on the ground and one in the player's hand, the player must pick up two at once while the other is in the air, and repeat this feat with the last two. On this being done, a stone is put aside each time as won. In case of failure the next player endeavours to do it, and the play passes round until some one succeeds.
After two of the last five stones have been won in this manner, one of the remaining three stones is placed on the upturned palm, at the end of the doubled-back fingers; one near the elbow, at the end of the fore-arm; and the third halfway between them. The other players then decide which of these is to be caught when all are tossed up together by a sharp upward and forward jerk of the arm. If the player can catch it, first on the back of her fingers and then in her palm, she lays it aside as won. She now tosses up the remaining two from the end positions. If she catch both at once in her palm-not on the back of the fingers this time-she wins one of them. The last stone, which is called Pedissä, is then tossed up, and caught. While it is in the air the player must touch with the tip of her middle finger, the ground, her chest, and the tip of her tongue. If this be repeated successfully six times consecutively the stone is won and the player escapes all punishment even if she had won no other stone.
When a stone which ought to be caught falls to the ground for any reason whatever it is a miss, and the play passes to the next person.
At the end of the game, the winners, that is, those who have won the original number of stones or more, punish the others, with the exception of the winner of the Pedissa. Each loser in turn must hold the hands over a stone which is placed on the ground, with the palms joined and fingers pointing downward, rubbing the palms together, while a winner who sits in front of her endeavours by a sharp blow with the flat of one hand or the other to strike the hands of the loser, the loser withdrawing her hands sharply so as to make the striker miss them. This punishment is inflicted for each stone short, and is continued until the striker misses the hands. It goes all round the circle, all the winners punishing all the losers.
The game called 'Checks' or 'Five-Jacks,' which is played in England by girls, is simpler than this Eastern one, and is played differently in the northern counties and in the Midlands.
In the north it is played on a stone pavement. The players have flat counters called Checks,' usually four in number, and not exceeding eight for each player. They are scattered
on the pavement in front of a kneeling player. A small marble ball is then tossed in the air by the player, and after it has fallen and while it is in the air on the rebound, she picks up one of the checks and with it in her hand catches the ball before it falls to the ground again. After each check has been taken up in turn singly in this manner, the player proceeds to pick them up in the same way, first in pairs, then in threes, fours, and so on, until at last all are picked up at one rapid grab before the stone falls after its rebound. There is no penalty for failure; the play merely passes to the next player.
In the Midland counties five stones called ' Jacks' are used. Five different rounds are played with them, at the beginning of each of which all the stones are placed on the ground near each other. The player kneels beside them.
First round. A stone is tossed up and while it is in the air another is picked up and the falling stone is caught in the same hand. One of them is put aside, and the proceeding is repeated until all are taken in this way. Next, two stones are picked up before the falling stone is caught, and this is repeated with the other two. After this, one stone is picked up in the same way, and then three stones. Lastly, all four are picked up at once while the stone which is tossed up is in the air; this must of course be caught in the same hand.
Second round. A stone is tossed up, one stone is picked up and the falling stone is caught in the same hand as before. Then one of these two is tossed up, and while it is in the air the other is placed on the ground and a third stone is picked up before the falling stone is caught. The procedure is then repeated until four have been placed on the ground. Finally the stone remaining in the hand is tossed up and all four on the ground are picked up together before the other is caught.
Third round. This begins in the same way as the others, and is like the first round, with the exception that the stones when picked up are retained in the hand.
Fourth round. After picking up the first stone as before and catching the tossed up stone, the two are tossed up together. While they are in the air another is picked up and the falling two are caught in the same hand. All three are now tossed