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This variation in its own rapid rate of spin is what produces the pitch variation.
This instrument has been used by numerous early and traditional cultures in both the northern and southern hemispheres but in the popular consciousness it is perhaps best known for its use by Australian Aborigines (it is from one of their languages that the name turndun comes).
Anthropologist Michael Boyd, a bullroarer expert, documents a number found in Europe, Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. Typically, the wood slat is trimmed down to a sharp edge around the edges, and serrations along the length of the wooden slat may or may not be used, depending on the cultural traditions of the region in question.
The cord is given a slight initial twist, and the roarer is then swung in a large circle in a horizontal plane, or in a smaller circle in a vertical plane.
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Henry Cowell composed a composition for two violins, viola, two celli, and two bullroarers.
Bullroarers have been used in initiation ceremonies and in burials to ward off evil spirits, bad tidings, and especially women and children.
In 1987, Midnight Oil included a recording of a bullroarer on their album Diesel and Dust (at the beginning of the song "Bullroarer") inadvertently causing offense In Ancient Greece, bullroarers were especially used in the ceremonies of the cult of Cybele.Such an explanation could be correct for an observer, but not for the user.For an observer other than the user, the bullroarer's blade alternately approaches, and recedes from, him or her, leading to the instrument's pitch rising and falling respectively.The aerodynamics of the roarer will keep it spinning about its axis even after the initial twist has unwound.The cord winds fully first in one direction and then the other, alternating.