Game of the goose, an initiation path

(Abstract)

A spiral journey

According to certain sources, the game would date back to the ancient Egypt where it was known as the (wound up) “snake game”. For others, it would be related to the Cretan society. Indeed, the disc of Phaistos, of the 17th century before our era, reproduces on each of its faces a spiral pattern of 31 fields decorated with mysterious signs. It would be a matter of a symbolic transposition of the labyrinth of Daedalus where Theseus faced the Minotaur. However, nothing is seriously supporting this thesis. Even more, the prince Palamedes, companion of Ulysses, is thought of as the inventor of many games and would have created the game of the goose to distract the soldiers during the siege of the city of Troy.

Nevertheless, the game spread all over Europe by the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. The first mention of the game comes from the Medici's court in Florence, around 1580, where it was known as the renewed noble game of the goose of the Greeks.

The phrase “Renewed… of the Greeks” could nevertheless evoke a certain correspondence between the myth of the labyrinth and the drawing of the game of the goose.

The game was also mentioned in the London archives of 1597. The oldest piece in France dates back to 1601.

It is at least to the credits of the antique origins of the game to stress the initiation character of a progression. It consists in fact to go through a spiral pattern of 63 fields drawn on a wooden or cardboard game board. Among these 63 fields, 14 are representing a goose and the 49 others are empty or full of drawings around themes destined to attract people found of history of morals, customs, sciences, industry, fashion, gastronomy, great monuments etc. The game also dealt with mythology, religion, historic or political events, geography and voyages, animals, flowers and so on.

You can have a look at the game of the goose in the museum of childhood.

Detailed page