Excerpted from our Pope Joan Rules.

Pope Joan was a card game once very popular in Scotland. Although it involved gambling, it was popular during the Victorian era as a social activity, because it did not require the betting competition that occured in games like Poker. The earliest reference to Pope Joan dates from the 1730's, but very similar game boards were used in the German game "Poch" which is first recorded in 1441. Poch is one of the oldest identifiable card games. Two Early 16th century Poch boards are in the Bavarian State Museum, and another from 1535 is in the Victorian and Albert Museum, London. Poch is also the equivalent of "Glic" (one of the most frequently mentioned French games of the 15th and 16th centuries) as evidenced by a late 15th century Glic board surviving in a museum at Cluny, France. The name "Pope Joan" comes from an early myth that Pope John VIII was actually a woman. The secret supposedly came to light when the Pope fainted during a procession, and it was discovered that "he" was pregnant. In the game, the 9 of diamonds is always the "Pope." It was also nicknamed the "Curse of Scotland" probably because it resembles the 9 lozenges in the Dalrymple coat of arms. It was John Dalrymple who engineered Scotland's infamous Glencoe Massacre of 1692.

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