The Sacred Activity of Free Play

Holiness and play always tend to overlap. So do poetic imagination and faith.

Johan Huizinga

There is much to learn on the value of play and playfulness for adults. In his formative work “Homo Ludens A Study of the Play-Element in Culture” Johan Huizinga explored ancient culture, mythology, ritual, contests, and humor around the the sacred activity of play.

In 1938 Huizinga noted “as civilization increases in spiritual amplitude, the regions where the play-factor is weak or barely perceptible will develop at the cost of those where it has free play. Civilization as a whole becomes more serious — law and war, commerce, technics and science lose touch with play; and even ritual, once the field par excellence for its expression, seems to share the process of dissociation. Finally only poetry remains as the stronghold of living and noble play.”

That quote may take a re-read to digest and this post doesn’t speak directly to poetry yet these words hold power for us today. We’ve strayed from our ancient relatives in many ways yet the fundamental yearning for play still exists.

In a recent article from, Maddy Shaw Roberts shares how “Thirteen Redemptoristine nuns at a County Dublin monastery have mastered a viral dance challenge, to “cheer people up” in lockdown.”

These nuns thoughtfully, deliberately, and most important playfully match the recent viral Tik Tok Jerusalema Dance Challenge.

We’re not sure which is more heartwarming…the nuns above or the backstory below from Master KG a South African Musician.

Occasionally wonderful, communal, and touching moments of play reappear in contemporary society. What are we to make of these and their importance? Should we, can we, how do we return to fundamental aspects of free play as originally described by Huizinga?

Credit: Youtube, Master KG, South African Musician and D.J.

Published by practiceplayfulness

Life without play and a playful outlook is life without living. PLAYFULNESS is critical for adults and takes practice.

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