Feel like playing a traditional game over this long weekend? Well why don't you try something new or something old should we say.
POPE JOAN. The traditional equipment for this game, as illustrated on the right, consists of a wooden lacquer box divided into nine compartments, three sections for the decks of cards, four for mother of pearl gaming chips and two containing the stacked eight papier mache dishes each displaying their label: Pope (9♦), Matrimony, Intrigue, Ace, King, Queen, Knave and Game. Any number of players can take part and each receive thirty mother of pearl counters at the beginning of the game. A fifty-two card pack completes the equipment. This rare Pope Joan, shown with the lid and the interior, is Cantonese and dates from the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
The aim of the game is to either be the first to play all the cards of a hand; or to win the most counters by playing certain cards.
Now for some history on the naming of this pastime. The game was presumably named after Pope Julius II, the Warrior Pope, or it derives from the legend that Pope John VIII was actually a woman. As the Catholic Church denies a female pope, the legend was used as protest propaganda in the Victoria era, which also explains the popularity of the game in Scotland. Funnily enough, the 9♦ is sometimes called the Curse of Scotland.
Doesn't this game sound intriguing? Come and try something new and old this long weekend, and visit us in store at Greene & Greene Antiques, Woollahra.
Pope Joan game in original
Cantonese box, c.1820 - $2,450