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Medieval Pain Tolerance Games

Updated on November 8, 2014
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Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

The Cruelty of Children is Timeless

Children are always quite devious and clever in finding ways to cause each other without it being officially labeled as “Fighting” by the dreaded adults. In fact in researching these medieval pain tolerance games I could not help but notice the similarities between several of them and games I remember playing with my siblings often “slapsies” and “bloody knuckles” came to mind. Of course neither Slapsies nor Bloody Knuckles used a wooden plate to beat on the other as the medieval game Buying of Mustard does, but the concept is very similar, and I am sure results would be as well. Maybe next time I see my brother I’ll challenge him to a game of Buying of Mustard to make up for all the games of bloody knuckles we played.

When Francis Willughby wrote his Book of Games it appears that he had a youth, who would have been familiar with this style of gaming, write the entry. Apparently the entire section was written in writing that the 2003 publisher felt was probably a juvenile hand, no one really knows who the youth would have been as they are not identified by Willughby in the book anywhere.

Mustard | Source

Buying of Mustard

Buying of Mustard is a two player game, for the sake of the explanation we will call the players Player A and Player B. Player A starts out as the seller with a trencher (that is a dinner plate, usually wood or metal) loosely held in his hand. Player A asks player B if he would like to buy any mustard, Player B responds “Is it good”. Player A offers Player B a taste. Player B moves forward as if he is going to lick the plate but at some point quickly lashes out grabs the trencher and attempts to slap Player A’s hands. If Player B misses he then becomes the seller of mustard and A gets a chance to hit B’s hands, if he hits Player A remains the seller and B gets a chance to hit Player A again.

Oats in a Field
Oats in a Field | Source

Cropping of Oats

Cropping of Oats is a two player game, much like Buying of Mustard. One player is the Cropper, the other is the Oat. Both players sit on a narrow bench cross legged. The oat holds his hand palm outward near his ear. The cropper must hit the oats hand and try to knock him off the bench, this is called “cropping the oat”. If the cropper succeeds then the oat becomes the cropper. If not he tries again. The player who crops the most oats is the “best cropper” and wins.

Beehive | Source

Did you play pain tolerance games like this as a child?

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Buying of Bees

Buying of Bees is a game for three players. The three players stand in a line. The middle player places a hat on the ground top down so it forms a bowl, the hat is then called the hive. Then cups his hands before him and asks if the other players will “buy some bees” he must then bend down and put his hands in the hat. The player then will stand back up with his hands at his mouth making a buzzing sound imitating bees. Then he must strike out and hit the other players’ ears and attempt to get his hands back in the hat quickly. The other two players must both hit the middle player’s ear closest to them before the middle player places his hands back in the hat. If they manage to do this the middle player changes and a new player takes his position, or the game ends. There is no winning or losing really, just an excuse for children to hit each other in a relatively anger free environment.

Blindfolded Child Playing
Blindfolded Child Playing | Source

A Fool Who Bobbed Thee

This is a game for multiple players, no true limit to the number of players there can be, but it should be more than two, the more players the more difficult the game.

To play A Fool Who Bobbed Thee one player is blindfolded, then one of the players who is not blindfolded boxes the ear of the blindfolded player. The blindfold is removed and the players who was not blindfolded call out “fool, who bobbed thee?” If the player guesses correctly the player who boxed the blindfolded player must be blindfolded and the whole process begins again, if he guesses wrong then he gets blindfolded again and it starts over.

The Avacal Games Guild is a group of people in the SCA Kingdom of Avacal who are interested in Medieval games.

The Badge of the Avacal Games Guild
The Badge of the Avacal Games Guild | Source

© 2014 Jeff Johnston


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