There are many things about yesteryear that boggle the mind, and remind us that the world we live in today is radically different from the world of the past. Long gone are ridiculously pompous words like "whence," "strengtheneth," and "assuageth." But these grammatical figments of the past aren’t the only things that have thankfully departed from the world long ago. Oh no.

Why are there always people who want to spoil things for others? Where’s old man Freud when we need him.

Believe it or not, history has its share of weird bans that simply wouldn’t have many supporters today (except maybe in the more…medieval corners of the world that still haven’t been graced by the delights of modernity). Here are just a handful of them…

1. Chess Bans
To play, or not to play: that is the question.

Ah, now here’s a game of skill and sophistication. The origins of this hugely popular (and baffling) game go way back in history. An early form was known to be played in India, during the period of the Gupta Empire. From there, the game spread to Persia and then to other territories like a clan of island-hopping Vikings looking for the next place to pillage and plunder. Over the centuries, the game underwent various alterations, including dice chess, until it became what we recognize today, the end of the line for its evolution. TAKE THAT, DARWIN!

The game has had numerous admirers over the centuries, including everyone’s favourite lightning rod inventor, Benjamin Franklin. (The Founding Father even wrote a glowing essay on the game.) But despite having won over the hearts and minds of so many notable personalities, and people of less distinction, the two-player game of strategy had its share of opponents, too.

It would be difficult to think of a justified (key word there, folks) reason to ban this genteel game, but that didn’t stop some people. Where do we start? Perhaps 1061? 1254? 1274? Or maybe 1291? The rulers of the past were notorious for their tyrannical rule, and never ceased to conjure up ways to further subjugate and control everything and anything as much as possible.

But it wasn’t just the kings who were constantly paranoid about what the village and townsfolk were getting up to across the land; religious authorities were at it as well. In fact, religious leaders of the past had a more intense dislike for chess. Their arguments against the game ranged from dice being associated with the "evils of gambling" to chess being a "polluting" game that led the dutiful away from their evening prayers. There’s an account of a bishop in the Italian city of Florence in 1061 who was harshly rebuked when he was caught flexing his chess skills. Another account tells of a group of priests who were excommunicated for the same thing by the bishop of Paris in 1125. And to take it up a notch, King Casmir II of Poland enforced an outright ban on the game in the late 12th century.

2. Coffee Bans
Dark clouds brewing over the horizon.

Coffee lovers around the world can rejoice in knowing that they can enjoy a cup—or three—of their favorite bean juice every morning without having to worry about being hunted down by government-sponsored assassins armed with scary sharp pitchforks or daggers, or whatever medieval blacksmiths liked to churn out. The dark beverage is consumed by countless people around the world and has joined the league of multi-billion dollar industries. But things weren’t always this good for the coffee bean.

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A little backstory. There are different legends that describe how the coffee craze started, but the most accepted is the one involving Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed how excited and hyper his goats became after ingesting coffee beans. One can only imagine what kind of coffee-induced acid trip those Ethiopian goats were going through that day.

Because of coffee’s "intoxicating" effects, it brought out the wrath and condemnation of some figures. Just like with chess, coffee was banned in different places and periods. One notorious hater of the black stuff was Sultan Murad IV, who reportedly patrolled the streets of Istanbul with his extra-sharpened sword to catch unsuspecting coffee drinkers. Yep, drinking coffee was an offense punishable by death. Other bad times for coffee and coffee lovers include England in 1675 and Prussia in the late 1770s. Thankfully, the dark days (pun intended) are over for coffee.

3. Tobacco Bans
Leading people ashtray.

Banning this substance isn’t that shocking, if we think about it. It’s not clear how much people from long ago knew about tobacco, but it’s safe to assume they were living in a time when strictly adhering to religious doctrines was the order of the day. We’re all aware that tobacco contains harmful chemicals, the same way we’re all aware that jumping in front of an oncoming bus isn’t the safest thing to do. And yet smoking tobacco is still commonplace.

The first recorded ban on tobacco took place under the papacy of Pope Urban VII, who enacted a ban in 1590, threatening to excommunicate anyone who took tobacco near a church. But his papacy was short-lived, at only 13 days. Another historical ban took place in Mexico (pronounced Meh-he-co) in 1575, outlawing smoking in a church or in the Spanish colonies of the Caribbean.

There aren’t many proposed bans in today’s world that would ignite volcanic rage among the masses, but a complete ban on tobacco would definitely be one of them. Sure, there are tobacco "connoisseurs" in the world who passionately enjoy a smoke, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the masses of smokers need their smokes not because of some unrequited "love" but because of a reliance on nicotine.

4. Christmas Bans
All work and more work.

It’s hard to imagine anything that’s crueller than denying gleeful children, bursting with endorphins, their Christmas presents—actually, there is: Christmas itself. And who was behind the ban of this festive holiday? Well, history’s most famous party poopers, of course: the Puritans. Which brings up the question: Why are there always people who want to spoil things for others? Where’s old man Freud when we need him.

The ban was enforced by Puritans on both sides of the Atlantic (now that’s what you call teamwork). And they presented a number of justifications for the bans such as:

  • Taking part in fun, festive activities is sinful
  • Christmas has pagan origins
  • Drinking eggnog will lead straight to rehab
  • Eating candy cane was akin to devil worship

(Actually, scratch the last two.) And those who defied the ban were basically playing a game of hide and seek (albeit a very dangerous one).

In 1659, a law passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony banned the celebration of Christmas. Even though the ban was revoked in the 1680s, people living in the Boston area only started celebrating Christmas in spectacular fashion again in the mid-19th century. It’s not clear why it took so long for that Christmizzle spirit to seep back into Massachusetts, but perhaps it was because Bostonians had other things on their to-do lists, like dodging the arrows of hostile natives and surviving another day.

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5. Tattoo Bans
No regrets?

No Tatoo sign in Japan 

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we live in an inked up world. There isn’t a corner of the world where we won’t see human flesh adorned (some would say desecrated) with tattoos. Geometric shapes, tribal patterns, nicknames, corporate sponsorships, hit lists—there aren’t many things the skillful tattoo artist hasn’t been tasked with. However, attitudes to those inky things haven’t always been so relaxed.

Tattoos have come a long way since the days of social outcasts and rebels who showed the middle finger to the world. But tattoos go way, way back. A number of ancient mummies from different areas of the world have been found with tattoos on various parts of their wrinkly bodies—yes, even the ancient world had its rebels and delinquents.

The country most associated with tattoos is Japan, where they’ve been worn by everyone, from members of the underworld to women in the countryside. So it’s kind of surprising to find out that tattoos were once banned in the Land of the Rising Sun, specifically during the Meiji period (1868-1912). The Meiji leadership was obsessed with forging a new Japan, a nation that would be united, civilized, and less…samurai-ish. Going back much, much further, Pope Hadrian I enforced an outright ban on tattoos in the Christian world in 787. Banning stuff was very much a tradition in Vatican history, along with giving sermons and condemning people to death.

6. Soccer Bans
Jealous of the beautiful game?

If this ban was enforced today, there’s no doubt it would instigate a ferocious revolution, one the world has never experienced before: that is the powerful and privileged position that football occupies on the international stage in today’s world. What other sport has made countless people from countless countries act like total lunatics or think that losing a match is equivalent to finding out the apocalypse is upon us?

In medieval times, a kind of "mob football" existed in Britain, played by people from different towns and villages. As the unsophisticated name suggests, there was no actual rule book. And those townsfolk and villagers usually ended up in riotous brawls, probably with a pitchfork in one hand and a glass of beer in another (it was medieval Britain after all). It’s widely agreed that modern day football has its origins in England, which is famous today for its love affair with the game (and fish and chips, of course).

However, there have been different periods of English history when this most beloved of games was detested and even banned by the elite. The first ban took place under the reign of King Edward II in 1314. Other bans took place under King Henry VII and his son King Henry VIII. Their reasons? Well, they thought the sport was loud, violent, and uncivilized, and that men injured by the game couldn’t fight well in wars to make the rich more rich. What a bunch of spoilsports!

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