Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Groaning Stick"

It's interesting that you find the same devices used by different cultures, around the world, often separated by great time and distance. The use of the atlatl to hurl a dart, seen on cave paintings of Paleolithic Europe 15,000 years ago, was also employed by the aborigines of Austrailia, and by native peoples of North and South America. Examples of fire-making technics, like the handdrill and bow & drill, are similarly found. In the movie, "Crocodile Dundee 2", Paul Hogan uses a bullroarer to contact his aborigine friends. A bone churinga, or bullroarer, was found dating back 10,000 years ago in Europe (see small picture). References can also be found in ancient Greece, the Maori tribe of New Zealand, arctic inhabitants, and native peoples of the Americas. Many tribes of Native Americans used the bullroarer as a sacred instrument to invoke the spirits during rites of passage to manhood, healing, for good fortune in hunts and growing of crops. The Apache, Blackfeet, Hopi, Athabaskan, Yokuts, Pomo, and Aztecs to name a few. The Navajo called it the "groaning stick" (tsin di' ni) and used it to drive away evil spirits and illness.

Generally, it is a flat piece of bone, metal, or more commonly dense wood, about 2-inches wide by 6 to 10-inches long, with a cord attached to it. The 'paddle' is set spinning, and then swung overhead in a circle to produce a vibrant "whirring" sound. A variation among the Native Americans was to attach the cord to a 2-foot long stick, which was used to twirl the churinga. It is interesting, at historical events, when I use the bullroarer the reaction of is like it evokes a primal recognition in them.


Albert A Rasch said...

Hey Mark,

I was working on my kid's pirogue today, but I think I may take some time out tomorrow and see if I can make me a 'Bull Roarer.' I live in an suburban apartment complex, with plenty of young kids. This is a great project to share with them!

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit
Southeast Regional OBS Coordinator

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