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Teetotms-Dreid-art – 3/2/08


“Teetotums and Dreidels” by THL Dagonell Collingwood of Emerald Lake.


NOTE: See also these files: T-H-Dreidel-art, games-msg, games-cards-msg, Hopscotch-art, Curling-art, wintr-sports-lnks, Horseshoes-art, taverns-msg, Dwyle-Flonkng-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



NOTE – This article was first published in the December 2004 issue of “AEstel” the newsletter for the Kingdom of AEthelmearc.


Teetotums and Dreidels

by THL Dagonell




This illustration is a detail from Pieter Brueghel's "Children's Games", painted in 1560. The child is holding a teetotum in her left hand. The Elliott Avedon Museum identifies this as a gambling game that dates back to ancient Rome. Each side is marked differently and players wager on which side will end up when the teetotum is spun. The model the child holds has a long spindle requiring two hands to spin it. Modern versions have short spindles which can be spun in the fingertips.


Brueghel would most likely have been familiar with the French version of the game. Each player contributes a certain number of coins to the pot. The Oxford History of Board Games by David Parlett states the sides were marked as follows: 'P' for "pillar" or "plunder", the player wins the same number of coins he wagered; 'R' for "rein" or "nothing", the player loses his wager and his turn; 'J' for "jocque" or "game, the player loses his wager and must add the same amount of his wager to the pot again; and 'F' for "fors" or "out", the player wins the entire pot and the game ends. Players ante in again to continue playing.


In _Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland_ by Alice Gomm, the game is described as being played by English children at Christmas time. Readers may note the game is remarkable similar to Spinning the Dreidel, a game that's traditionally played by Jewish children during the Hebrew festival of Hannukah which takes place at approximately the same time of the year. The four sides are marked with the Hebrew letters 'Nun' which stands for "Nes" meaning "miracle"; 'Gimmel' which stands for "Gadol" meaning "great"; 'Heh' which stands for "haya" meaning "happened"; and 'Shin' which stands for "sham" which means "there", a reference to Isreal.


"A Great Miracle Happened There" refers to the miracle of Hannukkah, which occurred in 165 B.C. when a day's worth of lamp oil burned for eight days. While the game honors an event which occurred back in Biblical times, The Elliott Avedon Museum and Game Archive has been unable to trace the dreidel back any further than 18th century Germany.


Everyone starts the game with the same number of markers, generally ten to fifteen. Markers may be nearly anything; pennies, nuts, matchsticks, etc. Jewish children frequently play for small candies. Everyone puts one marker into the pot. On their turn, each player spins the dreidel once. When the dreidel stops, the face that's uppermost determines the player's pay-off.


'Nun' stands for "nisht" which means "nothing". The player wins nothing. 'Gimmel' stands for "gantz" which means "all". The player wins the entire pot. 'Heh' stands for "halb" which means "half". The player wins half the pot. If there is an odd number of tokens, the player takes the extra token. 'Shin' stands for "shtel" which means "put in". The player must put two of his own tokens in the pot.


When the pot is reduced to less than two tokens, all the players must add one token to the pot. When a player runs out of tokens, they are out of the game. The game ends when one player has collected everything.


I have also read multiple references that the letters stand for "Nefesh" meaning "Soul", "Guf" meaning "Body", "Sechel" meaning "Wisdom" and "Hakol" meaning "All" which is supposed to be a reference to the four ancient kingdoms which persecuted the Jews; Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome respectively. However, I can't find anything to indicate this is anything except a modern interpretation.




Brueghel, Pieter "Children's Games" 1560. 46-1/2 x 63-3/8" (118x161cm) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.


The Elliott Avedon Games Museum -- http://www.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/~museum


Gomme, Alice _Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland_ (London, Eng.; Thames and Hudson; 1894; 2 vol.; ISBN 0-500-27316-2; $18.95)


Parlett, David _The Oxford History of Board Games_ (Cary, N.Carolina; Oxford University Press; 1999; ISBN: 0192129988 )


Portman, Paul _Pieter Brueghel's Children's Games_ (Berne, Switz.; Hallwall Press; 1964)


Copyright 2004 by David P. Salley. <dagonell at heronter.org>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org