String Games - Cat's Cradle

Cats Cradle, Chicken foot, Keres Indians, New Mexico
Brooklyn Institute Museum

In his book "Games of the North American Indians", Cullin mentions that Cat's Cradle is "known to all the tribes of whom direct inquiry has been made."

There are many examples of different creations that can be made from it in his book, but as there are no good instructions we will not show them here. However, they are quickly available on page 761 onward.

The Legend of Cat's Cradle

In his Book "Games of the North American Indians", Cullin writes that a Rev Berard Haile communicated the following to him. (Reference, Many if not most Native Tribes in North America including Eskimo)
"Cat's cradle owes its origin to the Spider people. They, the spiders, who in the Navaho's belief were human beings, taught them the game for their amusement. The holy spiders taught the Navaho to play and how to make the various figures of stars, snakes, bears, coyotes, etc., but on one condition - they were to be played only in winter, because at that season spiders, snakes, etc., sleep and do not see them. To play the cat's cradle at any other time of the year would be folly, for certain death by lightning, falling from a horse, or some other mishap were sure to reach the offender. otherwise no religious meaning is said to attach to the game. Even the above information was only extracted with much patience and scheming. I may add that the one Navaho claimed that the cat's cradle is a sort of schooling by which the children are taught the position of the stars, etc. Though this might be a satisfactory explanation, it was not approved by the medicine man, from whom I obtained the above. Na'atlo, it is twisted, is the term for cat's cradle."

In Handbook for American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan there is also a goodly number of String figures shown with some explanation on how to make them.

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