The Traditional Children's Games of England Scotland
& Ireland In Dictionary Form - Volume 2

With Tunes(sheet music), Singing-rhymes(lyrics), Methods Of Playing with diagrams and illustrations.

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Here we have an element which needs explanation, and it is interesting' to remind oneself of the primitive custom of as­signing a certain proportion of the crops or pieces of land to the devil, or other earth spirit, which assignment was made by lot. It seems to me that a game in which an invisible player takes part must come from an era in which un­known spirits were believed to take part in people's lives, the interpretation of such part being obtained by means of divination.
Again, in the games played with ball (hand) are remains of divination, and the ball games played by two opposite parties with bats and sticks, the origin of our modern cricket and football, have been developed from those early contests which have played such an important part in parish and town politics. Even in the simple game of uTouch" or "Tig" a primitive element can be found. In this game, as in many others, it is one of the fundamental rules, now unfortunately being disregarded, that the player who is " he " or " it" must be chosen by lot; one of the " counting out" rhymes is said until all the players but one are counted out—this one is then "he." This "he" is apparently a "tabooed" person; he remains "he" until he succeeds in touching another, who becomes " tabooed" in turn, and the first is then restored to his own personality. There would be no necessity for this deciding by lot unless something of an ignominious or "evil" character had been originally associated with the " unnamed " or " tabooed " player. In some games the player who is counted out is the victim of the rough play or punishment, which is the motive of the game. It is possible that the game of " Touch " has developed from the practice of choosing a victim by lot, or from tabooing people suffering from certain diseases or subjected to some special punishment.
The "counting out" rhymes of children are in themselves an interesting and curious study. They contain the remains in distorted form of some of the early numerals. The fact of a counting-out rhyme being used in the games is of itself evidence of antiquity and old usage. For those interested in this branch of study I can refer to the valuable book on

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III