Averting my Eyes from the Apocalypse, or, Are Dominoes Catholic?



Since it is a bright, bright, sunshiny day, I am ignoring the impending conflagration of large parts of the known world, Tommy Ramone’s demise and the fact that, as someone on Twitter has put it, our taxes are paying for a statue of Hitler in the Hayward Gallery.

Intrigued by the number of Latin noms-de-l’Internet invoking various versions of the Latin Dominus (Lord), I started to think about the great and ancient game of dominoes.

I keep hearing about how the whole world is on the Wii, I-phone, Internet, telly, phone or is looking at porn all day long. Does anyone still play the venerable games of conkers, dominoes, small girls’ competitive formation skipping etcetera – since we read that Tag ( or It), British Bulldog (Red Rover) and similar games are BANNED – and that many subversive elements have replaced the Tug of War with a ( stop laughing) Tug of Peace? I guess they do, since many groups and schools seem to be making determined efforts to preserve some, at least, of our heritage of untrammelled playtime silliness.

Kiss-chase, anyone? I have heard so much about gender (as flaming usual) in the last few days that I am compelled to confess that at my infants’ school, it was largely the girls who chased the boys (nowhere to hide, you see). Perhaps it was the influence of those strong, dignified, educated lady teachers (nuns)  that ’empowered’ us.

I digress. I know that the Caribbean tradition of the dominoes club is alive and well in one of our locals.  It might well be that somewhere outside our ‘great’ metropolis, the countryside is stuffed with pubs amply supplied with dartboards, cribbage, shove-ha’penny and dominoes. An artist made a film about a giant domino effect a few years ago in London, including a sequence of falling dominoes through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. The ‘domino theory’ is now wellworn shortese for complex political processes but was first coined by George Kennan and articulated by Eisenhower.

On the history of dominoes, the always reliable Wikipedia tells us that dominoes was first mentioned in Chinese literature during the time of the Song dynasty, which held sway from 960 and 1279. As the surfaced in Italy during the 18th century, it is ‘speculated’ that the game was brought to Europe by Italian missionaries.  Dominoes are therefore most definitely Catholic.

The origin of the name is an example of the human compulsion to mingle the sacred and the profane, such genius possibly brought to its zenith, or nadir, in Venice: ” A domino is a kind of hood worn by the canons of a cathedral church. Later the name was given to a mourning-veil for women and later still to half-masks worn by women when travelling or at a masquerade, for disguise. A domino was a masquerade-dress worn for disguise by ladies and gentlemen, and consisting of an ample cloak or mantle with wide sleeves and a hood removable at pleasure. It was usually made of black silk, but sometimes of other colours and materials.”


 Carnival Scene, Tiepolo

Carnival, of course, that most sybaritic of events, is most profoundly Catholic in its origins and intent. Let us not forget that Fats Domino, one of the kings of rhythm and blues and a founder of rock and roll, was born in New Orleans. And our very own Derek and the Dominoes was named in part after the immortal Fats.

I could go on. But I won’t.


Image rights here.

This entry was posted in Catholic, Catholic Feasts, Games, History, Legend, Music, Nuns and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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