Medieval Games

These were games commonly played at Christmastime. During the Middle Ages, Christmas was celebrated for twelve consecutive days, starting on Christmas Eve and continuing through Twelfth Night. Alternatively, the days could be considered to run from Christmas Day through Twelfth Day (Epiphany) (Cosman 90).

Hunt the Slipper

This game is similar to Lady Anne, but without the matchmaking. The players sit close together in a circle. One person, the Slipper Soul, stands in the middle of the circle, holding a shoe. Everyone else pretends that they are shoemakers, making shoes. The Slipper Soul says the following rhyme (text from Cosman, p. 99):

shoe

"Cobbler, cobbler,
Mend my shoe!
Make it all anew.
Three stitches will do!"

Then, the Slipper Soul gives the shoe to one of the other players and closes his eyes. The other players pass the shoe along behind their backs so that the Slipper Soul can't see who has it in case he opens his eyes too soon. Even people who aren't holding the shoe should pretend like they're passing it along, moving their arms like they're handing it to the next person. The Slipper Soul opens his eyes and tries to guess where the shoe is (he might see some players still moving when he opens his eyes, so they should try to make their movements convincing, just in case). If his guess is right, the person with the shoe takes the place of the Slipper Soul. If he's wrong, he's still the Slipper Soul in the next round (Cosman 100).

Bee in the Middle

Bee in the Middle is far older than the Middle Ages. There are indications that the game was associated with pre-Christian animal sacrifices. It was often played at Christmas during the Middle Ages, perhaps because of the association with Christ becoming the sacrifice for the sake of humanity. The Bee is meant to be representative of light and sweetness. There are also variations on this game featuring other animals, like Bull in the Middle or Frog in the Middle (Cosman 98-99).

bee

This game requires a large group, at least twelve people, in order to play. (You can vary this number a bit, if you like. The important point is that there have to be enough people to form a circle small enough that they can touch a person sitting in the middle but large enough that it would be challenging for a person sitting in the middle to touch them.)

The players sit in a circle, close together, facing the middle. One person sits in the middle, playing the part of the Bee. The Bee wears a mask with bee-like antennae (this can be home-made or one of those headbands with antennae bought from a party supply or novelty store or costume shop, as long as there are no sharp points or edges on it). The other players take turns trying to touch the Bee without being "stung" by the Bee's antennae or having the Bee grab their hands. The Bee doesn't know who will be the next to try to touch him or her, and the Bee cannot stand up or scoot over in order to reach the other players. The Bee can only "sting" by rocking back and forth and from side to side to touch people with the antennae or grab their hands. If someone gets "stung," that person becomes the next Bee, and the game continues (Cosman 98).


Blind Man's Buff

animal masks

This game works on a similar principle to Bee in the Middle. The players (at least twelve) stand in a circle around one player who is wearing a mask with no eye holes, who is the Blind Man (or Blind Woman, as the case may be). Modern versions of this game use a blindfold, but the Medieval version uses a mask in the shape of an animal's head, like a wolf or a deer. The Blind Man spins around a few times and then tries to grab hold of one of the other players and guess their identity. While the disoriented Blind Man tries to find the other players, they sneak up to him, slap him lightly (this is called "buffeting", and that is what the name of the game comes from), and quickly run away before he can catch them. If the Blind Man can catch someone and correctly guess who it is, that person must take the role of the Blind Man (Cosman 99).

The version of this game played during the Middle Ages was rougher than later versions. The "buffeting" often included shoving the Blind Man or hitting him with whips made out of willow. The game could get particularly rough when it was only men playing (Diehl and Donnelly 73). The whip could have been a holdover from earlier versions of the game. I recommend just using light taps or simply dodging out of the way while the Blind Man reaches out for the other players.

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