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An assortment of bullroarers
Video of a bullroarer being swung to make a noise

Alternative forms




bull +‎ roarer



bullroarer (plural bullroarers)

  1. A ritual musical instrument and means of communicating over extended distances, consisting of a slat of wood tied to the end of a thong or string, with which the slat is whirled so as to cause an intermittent roaring noise.
    Synonyms: rhombus, thunder stick, turndun, whizzing stick
    • 1920, Edward Carpenter, Pagan and Christian Creeds, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., published 1921, page 72:
      So far he was on the track of elementary Science. And so he made "bull-roarers" to imitate the sound of wind and the blessed rain-bringing thunder, or clashed great bronze cymbals together with the same object.
    • 1980, Donald F. Tuzin, The Voice of the Tambaran: Truth and Illusion in Ilahita Arapesh Religion[1], page 61:
      The men and boys practiced not only the technique of twirling the bullroarer, but also the mock attack staged upon the person twirling it.
    • 1980, Alan Dundes, Interpreting Folklore[2], page 181:
      Frazer's ingenious theorizing is plausible as far as it goes, but it does not really explain why the bullroarer must be kept from women, the feature of the bullroarer complex that most troubled Lowie. Women are allowed to hear the sound of the bullroarer—indeed, the bullroarer is often used to warn women to keep away.
    • 1999, Tom Hackett, “Bullroarers”, in David Wescott, editor, Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills, page 133:
      Intrinsic to the propulsion of the bullroarer is the string and the hole the string is attached to. The average distance from the base to the center of the hole on the bullroarers under study is 0.9 cm. The placement of the hole is exceedingly important.



Further reading