Want to hear a joke about paper? Never mind, it’s tearable.
Paper is believed to have been invented in China in the second century AD. By the sixth century, paper and paper-folding had made the journey to Japan, where the art of folding paper into three-dimensional objects became known as origami.
Origami has been developed into an amazing art form over the centuries. Origami masters can create mind-boggling works from nothing more than a sheet or two of paper and a little time. Given a little practice, though, most of us can learn some simple origami — and most of us have done just that, without realizing it. In the course of a school career, who hasn’t folded a cootie catcher?
A cootie catcher, or fortune teller, is a simple origami folding exercise that creates a moveable structure. The cootie-catcher-as-game is thought to have evolved from the origami salt cellar (prior to the invention of the salt shaker, salt was served at table in a small dish known as a cellar). Here’s a video demonstrating the entire sequence for folding a 4-compartment salt cellar:
As you can see in the last part of the video, the construction is sometimes also known as “heaven and hell”, because of the two alternate movements of the points (up/down, left/right). The words “Heaven” and “Hell” are written on
opposite interior diamonds, or indicated with different colours of paper (red for hell, blue for heaven). The fortune teller is then closed tightly. The player must then indicate to the one manipulating the fortune teller how to open it, revealing the reward (or punishment!) The game in this form is thought to have reached Europe sometime in the 17th century.
It’s only a small step from this to the North American cootie catcher. The same basic folding technique is used, usually with a square of plain white paper.
The fun of cootie catchers lies, of course, in the silliness of the “fortunes” to be revealed under each flap. The more outlandish and ridiculous the fortune, the better!
Here’s a Valentine’s Day cootie catcher for some-buggy special! Print it off and cut out to make four valentines. Happy Valentine’s Day!