Matraca–the death rattle

matraca, n. Forms: 19– matraca, 19– mattraca.
[‘ In Spain and Spanish-speaking countries: a wooden rattle used instead of church bells on Good Friday, and often at other celebrations.’]

Pronunciation: Brit. /məˈtrɑːkə/, U.S. /məˈtrɑkə/

Etymology: < Spanish matraca type of wooden rattle (1570) < colloquial Arabic maṭraqa hammer, hammer for making noise (in literary Arabic miṭraqa hammer) < ṭaraqa to knock, to hammer.  In Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries: a wooden rattle used instead of church bells on Good Friday, and often at other celebrations.

1883 J. de J. Costales Havana Guide Bk. 16 On Holy Thursday at eleven in the morning the bells of the churches cease to ring… The national flags are displayed at half mast and the hours of the day are indicated by matracas, rattles.

1910 C. B. Luffmann Quiet Days in Spain i. 14 A singular contrivance in the high towers takes the place of bells on Good Friday; this is the ‘mattraca’—three long boxes of heavy wood arranged round a spindle, with several roughly fashioned hammers with rings in their handles… At short intervals during the whole of Good Friday the mattraca is turned round, grindstone fashion, and creates a most awful din.

1929 E. C. Thomas Lay Folks’ Hist. Liturgy ii. iv. 173 At Seville during the Adoration of the Cross the bells are sounded by wooden clappers which are called the ‘Matraca’.

1974 S. E. Morison European Discov. Amer.: Southern Voy. v. 92 Holy Week in Seville… The supreme Passion on Good Friday is heard with  the clacking of the matraca in place of cheerful bells.

1999 Ventura County (Calif.) Star (Nexis) 2 Nov. b1 Gomez said noise from rattles or matracas and fireworks, along with the scent of marigolds lure the dead to altars built by loved one

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