The Folklore of Gambling

Gambling is available to most of the world with the introduction of online games and betting options. Almost anyone can go online and visit, say, and enjoy themselves. However, once gambling was a cultural trait and it found its way into many folklore stories of ancient civilizations. Let us take a look at how gambling was portrayed in time before time.

Ancient Greece

The Greeks loved games of chance, though the same could not be said of their philosophers. Most of the Greek thinkers were convinced that gambling corrupted society, as it led to obsession and cheating in games. However, it was still an integral part of society. So much so, that it was gambling that decided who got to rule Olympus in Greek mythology. That’s right, Zeus didn’t just grab the throne, he drew lots with his brothers to determine who gets what. In other words, Zeus was the king of the gods by pure chance.

If we look at Greek mythology and their relationship with destiny and luck, we can see that the Ancient Greeks believed that many things in life were simply out of one’s control and that some things just happen. Having a predetermined destiny denies you control over what happens to you, regardless of how much you struggle to overcome it. Many Greek tragedies and myths, including the one about Oedipus, tell us that we are all slaves to fate and luck. Even gods are not immune to what’s going to happen.

Noqoìlpi, the Gambler

The Navajo also have their own stories about gambling, most famous being the tale of Noqoìlpi, the Gambler. While the whole story of this deity is elaborate, the moral is easy to spot. Noqoìlpi was a gambling god who’s name literally means that he is the one who beats people at games. He came from the heavens and started challenging people to games and contests. Of course, being a supernatural entity with a talisman, he easily beat them all. He first took their property, then their wives, and finally their freedom. However, another god, Qastcèyalçi eventually defeated Noqoìlpi, making him lose everything he had. Gambling is a dangerous obsession that leads to ruin if you are reckless and full of pride, or that’s what we guess the story is about.

Ancient Egypt

You would think that Thoth, the god of wisdom, knowledge, law, and so on, had better things to do with his time than wager. But that’s just what he did in an effort to help the goddess Nut, which was forbidden from having children on any day of the year by Ra, who feared a new god would usurp his power. Nut turned to Thoth, who then played a game of dice with the moon. Every time Thoth would win a game, he would get some moonlight. Pretty soon, Thoth had enough light for five days, which allowed Nut to deliver her children. That’s a myth on how the people of Egypt moved on from 360 days in a year to 365. It also shows that math and statistics have a huge role in games of chance.

The Integration

These three examples are just a few of countless instances gambling has found its way into literature, art, religion, and myths. The reason for it is fairly simple – each nation or tribe has some sort of collective mentality or outlook on life and things around them. This mentality is displayed through the folklore, so it is no surprise that we can find gambling in civilizations from long ago. Not only the people, but the gods gambled as well, trying to acquire happiness, power, or wealth. Games of chance have always been and always will be present in society.