Where Do Cat Games Come From?

Cat-Stick, 1890s–a 2000-year-old survivor game

Peter Morris asked on Facebook: Does the name of the cat ball games derive from catapult, kaetzen, or something else? Are they of American, English, or other origin? I answered: Cat and dog was the primal ball game in England; the Scots say it was the progenitor of cricket. But those Scots will say things. Deriving from ancient fertility rites, the cat (a wooden spindle) represented the female principle–and the dog (a stick), the male–just as in cricket or baseball, where the ball is is a female symbol and the bat a male one. Kaat in Dutch means “ball.” An old Dutch hamlet five miles from my hometown of Catskill (Kaatskill, Kaaterskill) is named Kaatsbaan (Ballcourt), given its name because Indians played lacrosse here when the settlers came in. But I do go on.

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