Friday, 5 January 2018

A "Bunch" of fortune-telling games.

Some time ago I featured a fortune-telling game from "Mother Bunch's golden fortune-teller". I shall now describe the other divinatory games in that book. I present a summary of the rules below

Love in a Bag
An extremely simple game. Players deposit a stake into a pool. A deck of cards is shuffled, and placed in a bag. Players draw two cards from the bag, and observe the combination:

Combination/ card
Foretells a…

Wins Half a stake
A constant lover
Wins One stake
J♥, Q
Cupid &Venus
 “great settlement”
Wins whole pool.
4s, 8s,

“Losses and crosses”
Pay one stake + extra forfeit to pool.

One feels that this would make an excellent party-game.

Cupid's Hearts

 Deal out all the pack among four young persons equally, as if for whist, but make the hearts always trumps, or conquerors : she that gets most tricks this way shall have most lovers, and hearts must be first led off by the person next the dealer. Hard is their fate, at least in affairs of love and marriage, that have no heart to answer the first call, but the more and higher in suit the better for the party ; Cupid and Hymen will befriend them, and the smiling loves attend them. 

  This game is merely a form of whist, but with the following differences:
1) Hearts are always trumps
2) The hearts must be first lead by the person next to the dealer. If the player cannot do this, then they would have bad luck in affairs of love. One assumes they will also be penalized. 
  The number of hearts in the hand dealt, is directly proprotional to the number of lovers the player will have. Same for the number of tricks won.

Cupid Crowned
Not a game per se, but involves playing cards. This game uses a deck of 20 cards, namely the courts, the aces and the 3s. Only four women may play, for reasons that will become apparent. Deal the cards evenly. Players observe the composition of their hands, which will foretell their future. 

Prediction/ symbolism :
Hand with most Kings
Holder has most friends
Hand with most Queens
Holder has most Enemies
King and Queen in hand
Queen and Jack in hand
Intrigue ( an affair?)
More than one Jack or 3
Holder will have children before marriage
More than one Jack or 3, Plus Jack
Holder will never marry
More than one Jack or 3, Plus King
Holder “Stands a good chance” [of being married?]
More than one Jack or 3, Plus Queen
Holder “will be brought to great shame”

A fascinating insight into the anxieties of women. Feminists and historians, take note. 


Mother Bunch's golden fortune-teller was not the only text attributed to this lady. A collection of divination methods, called Mother Bunch's closet newly broke open seems to have existed as early as the 1680s. ( see   for a 19thc. reprint, and Here  and here . for two older editions ) 

This work is in the form of a series of dialogues, where Mother Bunch advises youths on their problems.They mostly concern marriage and love. These solutions typically take the form of some ritual. Most notable is the practice of dreaming for a Lover on St Agnes' eve. This was immortalized by the poem (The Eve of St. Agnes)  of John Keats.

 The format of the book seems to have been well-known enough to be parodied. A religious organization published a similar chapbook, but with the intent of mocking divination. Tawney Rachel; or, The fortune teller shows the adventures of an fortune-telling crone. She goes around implanting superstitions in impressionable young minds, causing them to waste money and time.
  She ends up being caught  selling obscene ballads. Rachel is denounced by all whom she defrauded, and is transported to Australia. "A happy Day it was for the county of Somerset when such a nuisance was sent out of it". Presumably not so happy for that continent.

Jokes were also attributed to the woman, as for example in a work called Pasquil's Jests, Mixed with Mother Bunches Merriments , Even fairy-tale collections bear her name ( see  Here)

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