Summary (in English)

 

This monograph in Dutch, literally translated as «Book Bullroarer» and subtitled ‘The Worldwide Cultural History of a Buzzing Tone’, deals with the subject of the bullroarer (also known as rhombus). This ancient instrument is generally held to be one of the oldest sounding implements of humanity. In former times it was known in Europe as a toy for children and was supposed to be a remnant of an object used for religious aims in earlier pagan society. 
This monograph of the Dutch publicist Phons Bakx (1956) who already wrote on the history of the Jew’s harp (1992), consists of four sections.

The first section contains 28 pages and introduces the reader to the bullroarer and gives an overview of all the cultures in which it is (or was) used.

Since 1880 the bullroarer has its own niche in the sciences of ethnography and anthropology and 32 prominent investigators on this subject are discussed. Attention is given to the mechanical details of its whirling, in fact a combination of pivotation and rotation. The basics of bullroarer acoustics are explained, but for the scientific background (physics) the author refers to several websites. A number of related types of ethnographical rotating and spinning instruments are described – some of these produce a buzz-sound while others do not. The author explores the question: what could have made these instruments so magical? Further, this section offers a short introduction on the bullroarer in the world of cinema, on YouTube and on Google.

The second section of the book (27 pages) explores the bullroarer from an anthropological point of view, and goes deeply into the concept of gender totemism in the old equatorial societies of Australia and Melanesia. This part of the book may be one of the very few writings on that focus on the bullroarer in its mytho-religious context. The author has extensively used the world wide web-documentations on the subject, The main theme of section two is the bullroarer as an ‘institution’, functioning in the traditional hunter and peasant societies of  the equatorial world. It is supposed that the bullroarer myths and magic support the groups of grown-up males against female power in society. The bullroarer has functioned as an instrument to repress the women almost continuously and pushed them back into a state of the wild nature. The author goes back into mytho-cultural history and argues that the bullroarer dates back to the former reign of a Mother­goddess in Australia and Melanesia. It seems that in Australia the bullroarer already was used in the cults that were held in her honour. Oral tradition generally holds that the bullroarer was invented by a woman’s hand, but that it was stolen from her by her husband. Several myths report the end of the reign of the Goddess and introduce the new era when the men’s group starts to dominate the female gender as they begin to shape their identity in a new way with the help of the bullroarer. The author introduces you to the world of gender totemism, and its most outra­geous attribute certainly can be found in the bullroarer, specially because of its ‘institutional’ opposition against the menstrual cycles of the female group. Other features of the use of the bullroarer have to do with fertile symbolism in dead celebrations and rebirths.

The third section (171 pages) is the main section of the book, containing the pictures and descriptions of 158 different bullroarers representative for Australia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Africa, South and North America and Europe. As for Europe, attention is paid to the prehistoric significance of the bullroarer as well. All the depicted examples in the book are shown in black and white photographs, but related samples that are in colour can be found on the websites mentioned. This collection of exclu­sively handmade replica’s by the author, were also painted and drawn by him. The pictures are accompanied by small stories about habits, iconography, people, magical contexts and rituals with bullroarers. All the written topics in book section 2 and 3 go together with a considerable amount of references in science literature. A small but very particular part of this section is directly derived from the old world of gender totemism, in which females were strictly prohibited to observe the attributes of male power. On two pages the author shows nine authentic bullroarers from the Papua-people in Niugini (by the way, replicas not made by himself). The author refers to the constitution of the traditional Papua’s where looking at bullroarers completely forbidden for the women and the children that had not been initiated in the tribe. The author kindly requests the female readers not to look into the two pages where the sacred Papua-bullroarers are exposed. The female reader will be helped to obey this request by the fact that the pages are sealed by a small paper seal, that is only allowed to be broken by the hand of a man. In a humorous way the author wishes to bring back to life this relic of an old-equatorial mythology and see what happens in the 21st century, however without the malicious threats that used to accompany it.

The last and fourth section (12 pages) completes the scientific value of the book. It contains a lot of additional documentation, for example more than 320 titles of books, articles etc. on the bullroarer. Here you can also find each of the 638 vernacular names that (at least) have been in use for the instrument all over the world. It is not unlikely that this publication by Foundation Antropodium will be considered as a standard work, quite near to the 68 years old German monograph Das Schwirrholz by Otto Zerries, generally seen as the most prominent work on this subject since 1942.