Today I’ve been dicing for beetles because it’s Whit Tuesday, and on Whit Tuesday in St Ives, Cambridgeshire it’s traditional to dice for Bibles. This gambling for the Good Book, or rather six Good Books, has taken place since 1678 and is played with six girls and six boys. There’s more but needless to say, I didn’t quite follow the folklore.
Instead, I met two of my Dregg Race friends, Susannah and Matt, over a video call and diced for beetles. Not real beetles, Beetles. Beetle is a game of chance, where you draw a beetle by rolling a dice, each number corresponding with a body part – 1 = body, 2 = head, 3 = leg etc. You can’t start drawing until you’ve rolled a body, and you can only add appendages if the foundation body part has already been thrown ie, no antennae until you’ve rolled a head. And you can vary your number designations as well as your body parts. And if you’re being really fancy you can play with two dice. It’s much easier than how I’m describing it, trust me.
Anyhow, after raiding my Cluedo for dice (not a euphemism), and grabbing a pen and some paper, I was poised for beetle battle. But my luck steadfastly abandoned me. We managed two rounds before Matt stopped for his tea, and Susannah won both of them. I think it was because she was the only one who had actually done any preparation by drawing a rehearsal beetle. I tried everything to make my dice throw true. I blew on it, bounced it, tried double-handed rolls, tried single-handed rolls, I just stopped short of doing my best Sky Masterson impression and singing Luck Be A Lady Tonight, but it was no good, I was always at least three legs away from success. But despite my abject failure to win, Beetle rocked. Who needs complicated games on a school night when you can just draw your favourite beetle? Or at least something that might pass for a beetle if you squinted really hard.
I’ve linked to proper instructions in the Resources below. If you’re currently entertaining young children, you can’t go far wrong with a couple of games of this. Although I’m sure it can also be modified for a game of Strip Beetle should you be stuck for something to do. After all, there is a lockdown sex ban now.
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books
2 comments on “2 June 2020 – Whit Tuesday”
My friend Lisa in St Ives did come up with something, as I’d hoped. Her two kids – teenagers now – both took part in Dicing for Bibles at the local parish church when they were about 10. Recalled being partnered with another child, having two dice to throw, two sixes would win a Bible.Don’t appear to have won. Lisa might find out more so if I hear anything…she doesn’t seem to have done it herself, and I’ve not heard of a similar thing here; wonder if Irish/Catholic upbringing has anything to with this? we didn’t mix much with the Anglican churches here and ecumenical moves were a big deal when I was a teenager – the odd folk mass and that’s about it. Those are other stories tho. Other days…
Oh wow! This is brilliant, thank you! So not that long ago either…