The Tsalagi, male and female, young and old, were avid gamesters and gamblers. They would wager on any contest. Since games were so important in the everyday life of the Tsalagi, most of the major games were controlled by the Anidawehi. There were important religious rituals before each game, some were simple, short ceremonies, and others were long, involved ceremonies that took days to accomplish.
The most important game of the Tsalagi was Anetsa (A-nay-ja), "Little brother to war," the ball game. Anetsa had a long, involved religious ceremony that all players were required to follow. It had a vigorous physical training program, which was coached by an adawehi. The game had three important functions. One, it was played for sport. Two, it was used as a toughener for war. Three, it was played as an arbitrator between towns of the Tsalagi Nation, and even towns of other tribes.
Anetsa was also used as a training ground for the art of hand-to-hand combat. The Tsalagi warrior preferred the war club and close with the enemy over all other ways of fighting.
The game was dangerous and rough, hence its name. Men were killed in the games, and men suffered broken limbs and skulls in every game. Each town in the Nation had at least one team.
The field of play for anetsa was about one hundred twenty yards long and seventy-five yards wide. The object of the game was to carry or throw the ball the length of the field and place it through a goal marked by two poles at the end of the field. There were goals at each end of the field, one goal defended by each team.
The male players used two hickory Anetsa Tagalode (A-nay-ja Ta-ga-law-day), "Ball Sticks." Each were about twenty-four to thirty inches long, a hoop at one end, about hand size, strung into a net with a leather thong or hemp. The sticks were used to carry the ball or to be used in any manner the player desired. A male player could not touch the ball with his hands. Women played the game with the males. A female player did not use ball sticks and was allowed to touch the ball with her hands and use them in any manner she wished. The ball was hand size, made of a small leather pouch stuffed with deer hair or feathers of birds.
Each team had two drivers who made sure the few rules were not violated. They carried long hickory switches to help enforce those rules. No player would dare object to the use of those long switches, either during the game or seek vengeance later. Betting on the games was a heavy and serious matter. Sometimes a disappointed or angered bettor was known to kill all of the losing players. A game seldom ever passed that as many spectators were injured or killed as were the players. Anetsa and betting had nothing to do with honor, only with winning! Let those who would bet or play in a game beware.
The score of the game could be set as low as ten points or as high as one hundred. There was no time limit. It has been reported that there have been games that lasted as long as two days and nights with no outs or pauses. There were no substitutes in the game and if a player took a break, the team must play on without him. If a player was taken out by an injury, there was no one to take his place and his services were lost.
Religious ceremonies in preparation of anetsa were very serious and strict rules of ritual were followed. The night before the game, the players gathered in different osi in the town, fasting and drinking Gusga Adatatsi (Goo-s-ga A-da-ta-jee), "Black Drink." The following morning at dawn, all of the players would go to the running stream where they would be scratched on the legs by an Anidawehi with fishbone scratchers or bone scratchers. Since the scratching was not for some religious rememberance or religious violation, the snake-tooth scratchers were not used. After the scratching, such severe blood was drawn, the players waded out into the stream where they performed Amawetiyi (Go to Water) by dipping themselves under seven times while facing the rising sun.
When the players returned to the river bank, they were painted with charcoal from a tree that had been struck by lightening. This charcoal could be gotten only by an adawehi, for anything struck by lightening was sacred and a fearful place. This paint gave the player the ability to strike their opponents with the force of a thunderbolt. Some of the players would rub turtle meat upon their legs to assure them of strength and stamina in their legs. All players would abstain from touching or eating rabbit meat, which caused confusion when running, or any other food that might cause them to have bad qualities for playing ball.
Tsvge (Jv-gay) prounced Tsunge by the whites, taken from the word Tsugayuyi (Joo-ga-yoo-yee), "They are running," was one of the most popular games of the Tsalagi in which individuals competed against each other. The tsvge yard was called Tsvgeyi (Jv-gay-yee). The game was played by men and boys using a tsvge disk of stone and a tsvge casting spear.
The tsvge stone was a work of art that might take a man years to make to his satisfaction. A warrior would make at least one in his life time for a son, or a favored nephew. The stone was five to seven inches in diameter, one to one and one half inches thick, and concave on both sides. It was perfectly smooth, shaped to fit the palm of the hand, and balanced and rounded to roll on the smooth tsvgeyi. The casting spear was about seven feet long, marked in spaces for measuring throws and pointed so that it would stick in the ground.
To play the game, the tsvge stone was rolled in a straight line or a wide circle. Two or more players ran after the stone disc and cast the casting spear near where they thought the disc would stop. The spear nearest to where the disc stopped won the game.
The importance of the tsvge can be determined by the fact that the tsvge yard was the first project of builing a new town after the Mound and Town House were finished. Also the tsvge stone was one of the few personal objects that was free from the custom of burial with its owner, stones being passed down from father to son, generation after generation.
A legend says that the inventor of tsvge, who was also an avid gambler, once bet his wife on the results fo a throw. He lost.
One myth states that a group of stars were formed when eight brothers were playing tsvge. The boys started floating to the sky, but they were so interested in the game they did not notice what was happening to them. The mother of the boys ran and grabbed the youngest boy by the ankle and pulled him back to earth. He landed so hard that he disappeared beneath the ground. Where the mother's tears watered the spot on the ground, there sprung an evergreen, the Tatsi (Ta-jee), "Pine," and it grew straight and tall, trying to reach his brothers. The seven boys formed one of the great constellations in the sky.
Digayi (Dee-ga-yee), "Hands," was played by all. Digayi was a favorite around the campfire by hunters, warriors on the warpath, in the home or any place where people gathered. The game was played with several marbles of clay that had been hardened by fire, or with a stone or bead. The object of the game was to guess which hand held the largest marble. The holder of the marbles placed both hands behind his back, and transfered the objects in his hands if he wished. It was fair for the holder of the marbles to distract the others by singing, talking, dancing in place or any other antic to disrupt the thought of the other player while changing the marbles around in his hand. When a player decided to choose the hand that he thought the largest marble was being held, he gave a pre-arranged signal and the marble holder immediately had to hold out his hands. The player pointed to a hand without further hesitation and the marble holder was obliged to instantly open his hand.
Tagu (Ta-goo), "Beans," was a popular indoor game. This game was a favorite of boys and girls during the winter, and a good inside game.
There were two teams divided equally in any number. Six half-beans, twenty-four corn kernel counters and a basket about eighteen inches square and two and a half inches deep were required.
The six halves of beans were placed in the basket and flipped in the air to be caught. Only three combinations of how the beans landed were counted. First, when all flat sides landed facing up, it was counted as six points. Second, when all round sides landed facing up, it was counted as four points. Third, when a single round side or single flat side landed facing up, and five other opposites landed facing down, it was counted as two points. The game started with all counters in a neutral pot. The game ended when one of the teams got all the counters.
Tsalagi loved their games. They were a people who were ready to pay the price for any involvement they were in, be it at play or war. Therefore, most all games became embroiled in controversy by angered players or losers. Death and injury resulted from almost all of these confrontations they called games. But there was never any cheating, just misunderstandings and disappointments.
[First Town is Formed]
[Building the Mound and Sacred Fire]
[Tribal Government] [Leaders] [Red and White Organizations] [The War Women] [Warriorship and War Titles]
[Diplomacy] [Immunity of Ambassadors] [Marriage and Divorce] [Tobacco Pipes] [The Ceremonial War Hatchet]
[Take Up The Hatchet] [Bury The Hatchet] [Traders and Merchants] [Craftsmen and Industrial Arts] [Games]
[Taboo] [Burial] [Book Main]