Ever parish needs a crotalus or two!

Need a Triduum "crotalus"? Click to buy!

Thinking ahead to the Triduum?  Perhaps it will be this year that Father changes out the bells after the Gloria on Holy Thursday to the crotalus or “ratchet”, the harsh wooden noisemaker.

In some places a wooden gizmo with little hammers or clappers are used. In others it is more like a ratchet.

If this is the year the crotalus is added to the solemnity, you are in luck.  A reader alerted me that you can order them through amazon (which means you can order them right here).

You should probably order them in pairs, since during the Eucharistic procession to repose the Blessed Sacrament after Mass of Holy Thursday, the altar boys could alternate as they went.

They will be delighted.

Click HERE or use the amazon search for “Toca T-WR Ratchet”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Bad news for us Canadians. I tried to order 2 from amazon and it could not ship to my address. It seems like these can be ordered in the States only, and I will have to see if any Canadian distributors exist.

  2. JimGB says:

    My parish used the clapper variation of this device (actually, two devices that were used by alternating servers during the Eucharistic procession as Father Z suggests) for decades, through numerous pastorates, up until the assignment of our current pastor about 4 years ago; he discontinued their use (“old Church”). For a time, we had a newly-ordained priest on the parish staff while they were still in use and he had never heard of them before, much less experienced them in use. It would be great to restore them but not likely under the current pastor.

  3. Legisperitus says:

    I’ve heard the clappers many times, but never one of these. I wonder what it sounds like.

  4. jaykay says:

    Our parish here in Ireland has always used them – the clapper variety.

  5. moosix1974 says:

    I’ve only heard this in one parish out of many that I have attended over the years. The head of the altar servers actually made it himself and he is the one who carries it in the procession. The first time I heard it, it was simply powerful. It truly embodies the spirit of the moment. That loud “CRACK!” reminds me of the whip on Jesus’ back as He is carrying His heavy Cross. Powerful, powerful stuff.

  6. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    Arrived as Pastor at a Parish that didn’t have one…and got one two years ago!

  7. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Truly, you haven’t experienced liturgy until you’ve heard (and seen) an altar boy accidentally break one on Maundy Thursday. (I have).

    Of course, if you’re in one of those parishes which doesn’t use bells to begin with, throughout the year, it loses some of its significance when the crotalus replaces the Sanctus bells.

  8. LarryW2LJ says:

    When I was young, at the Polish parish that I belonged to (St Mary of Ostrabrama) these were called klekotki.

    I loved the “solemness”of the sound. As moosix said, “powerful, powerful stuff” – indeed.

  9. dep says:

    A bit of trivia: “Crotalus” is also the scientific name for the genus of rattlesnakes. Really.

  10. Volanges says:

    Une crécelle! Haven’t heard one of those in years. That’s what they always used during the Triduum in the parish where I grew up. Hmm, I wonder how it would fly with the Pastor if I got the parish one of those? We do use bells at Consecration, at least we do if we have altar servers, so maybe he’d appreciate the change.

  11. Matt R says:

    We already have one, and since I stick around on Good Friday for the extra Offices and devotions, I shall make sure I use it this year!

  12. lizaanne says:

    Father! I was so hoping you would say WHY we change to the crotalus! Is it because bells are a joyous sound, and not appropriate? (totally guessing…)

    Our parish does use the clapper style, and the boys are very good and making it LOUD. It is indeed a very powerful sound, especially when you’ve forgotten about it since last year, and hear it for the first time.

  13. Muv says:

    Fr. Z, I’ve looked at your Amazon link. Gosh, a bit pricey.

    Julian Barkin et al, no need to look any further than Britain. Search for “Wooden football rattle.” It’s exactly the same thing and MUCH CHEAPER. I expect His Hermeneuticalness and his Millwall fan parishioners might be thinking of setting up a sideline exporting football rattles across the Atlantic for liturgical use.

    The temptation to break out into a rousing chorus of “No one likes us, we don’t care” in the sacristry must be overwhelming for him.

  14. patergary says:

    I have my own personal clapper (not the same as the Toca T-WR ratchet) and I always bring it with me whenever I am assigned in a new parish. My present parish doesn’t have this until I came. I also have a processional canopy that I use during the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament during Holy Thursday.

  15. CatholicCaliGirl says:

    I remember back in ’09, my dad and brothers made a homemade crotalus for our little Latin Mass community. I think it’s still around, too. :D

  16. momoften says:

    Father you are so right when you say,”They will be delighted” all my serving sons have LOVED
    TO USE THEM!!!! I think the monastery in town was the only place that used them, but there
    may be another place or two now……

  17. SimpleCatholic says:

    if anyone is interested in hearing how the specific crolatus Fr. Z links to sounds, here’s link to the manufacturer’s website. http://www.tocapercussion.com I personally think it sounds a bit wimpy – I think the sound should be loud and more like a “crack” – shocking in a silent church. Judging by the recording on the website, I don’t know how effective this particular instrument would be in a space as large as a church.

    Does anyone know of some Best Practices (I’m betraying my IT background here) for making a crolatus or clapper? What kind of wood to use, most effective designs, etc? links would be helpful. I’d love to make one for my parish and any other priest in my town who’d want one.

  18. Muv says:

    SimpleCatholic – the rosewood looks nice.


  19. frjim4321 says:

    We have one of the hammer-styles here but since we don’t use bells at all during the main part of the year it would seem odd to use the hammer-style on the few days that it would be subbed for the bells.

  20. ReginaMarie says:

    Our Eastern Catholic parish uses a clapper at the Great & Holy Friday solemn procession during which the plaschinitza (large cloth, embroidered & often richly adorned with an icon depicting Christ after He has been removed from the cross, lying supine, as His body is being prepared for burial) is carried, draped over the priest’s shoulders & down his back. While church bells ring the funeral toll, the altar servers process with incense & the instruments of the Passion, as one server uses the crotalus/clapper, while the faithful follow in procession with candles. Truly, it is a powerful sound bringing to mind the pounding of the nails at Our Lord’s crucifixion.

  21. kallman says:

    I think the word for this clacker is spelt crotulus. Crotalus is a snake.

  22. eulogos says:

    Regina Marie, my Eastern Catholic parish always used the clapper during the procession with the shroud also, until last year when we had a new priest. I wondered why he didn’t use it. Is it actually a Latin thing which the Eastern rites in the US had just kept up? The new priest is from Eastern Europe and is very “all Eastern all the way.” I couldn’t think of any other reason why he would not use it. The feeling of solemnity was very reduced by its absense, in my opinion. We don’t toll the bells either. In this parish the children of the parish all dressed in black pants or skirts, white blouses, and little capes,(I think they are black with red trim but they could be red) carry symbols of the passion around behind the priest-a crown of thorns, a hammer, nails (a plaque with a raised picture of two spikes), dice(for the gambling over his cloak), a ladder (used to go up and get the body down and present in a lot of religious art apparently) -more than I can think of now. We sing ‘the noble Joseph’ during the procession, alternatingly in English and Church Slavonic. Oh yes, and the priest wears black vestments embroidered in silver for this, the only time we ever see those vestments during the year. I have a little video of the first part of it taken with a cheap camera. I stopped after the priest *glared* at me when he went by; he did not approve of cameras in church I guess and I felt very guilty. I wanted to save it to share it with some people so they would know what a wonderful ceremony we had, and indeed people said to me that it was wonderful and they wished I had captured more of it. I can see though that the attitude of filming is different from the attitude of worship, so he may have been right. The current priest’s wife videos all the major ceremonies so I guess he feels differently.
    The new priest loves to have us process outside, around the church, which I like, but it is very difficult to accomplish having the end of a procession singing at the same point as the front of it!
    Susan Peterson

  23. dwrobles says:

    You are correct DEP. I’m a Wildlife Biologist and I saw the post thought – “why would we need a rattlesnake?”

  24. Bastiat Fan says:

    Julian Barkin–

    I did a quick little search, and here’s a link to my results:


    Apparently this is a form of musical [percussion] instrument, so if none of the resources at the link I provided are able to ship to Canada, you might try a local music store? Good luck.

  25. APX says:

    If you’re from Canada, sometimes it works to make friends with someone living there and have stuff shipped to their address and then have them ship it to you. You can often get free shipping to US addresses too.

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If you think the priest won’t go for it, you can always try the organist/music director.

  27. Volanges says:

    SimpleCatholic, I think the sound we hear at the Toca website is more like the sound of those New Years noisemakers I’ve played with. The large wooden ones have a deeper sound which certainly resonated through our large country church.

  28. yatzer says:

    I had wondered for a long time what that was and why it was used. Thanks.

  29. marajoy says:

    A parish near me, which is somewhat “traditional,” although not particularly, has apparently been using these (or clackers? whatever the difference is…) since the beginning of Lent. Not sure how I feel about that, or how “legit” that is.

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  31. jflare says:

    Guess I need to actually see/hear this thingamajig in use to “get it”, but off the top of my head…
    Given the state of music in the average parish these days, I’m not ecstatic about intentionally adding anything that hints of harsh, grating noise.
    While I suppose we can make a case about bells being inappropriate for a repentant/mournful moment, I thought we already addressed that by failing to use the organ during Lent.
    If we’re that fussy about typical bells being “too beautiful”, I would think we’d sub in a cow bell. That coarse enough I should think. And it doesn’t seem as though it’d be something that’d remind me of spinning a giant disk like they do on Wheel of Fortune.

  32. The Masked Chicken says:

    The ratchet is a musical instrument, derived from Jewish origins for Purim as a means of drowning out the name of Haman every time it occurs in the service. In Christian use, it can describe the, “death rattle,” of bones as one is about to die. It has been used in opera (Til Eulenspiegel), in Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder (War Song), and in the works of Edgar Varese.

    They have been used for non-musical purposes by police to summon help and in WW II to warn of poison gas.

    Ratchets may be purchased from a number of outlets from about $4.00 to $25.00.

    The Chicken

  33. Therese Z says:

    Actually, the “death rattle” is a sound in the throat of a dying person, as muscles relax and collapse and air is drawn past them in the larynx and throat. An unforgettably distinct sound.

  34. APX says:

    So, I re-looked at the link, there is one available on Amazon for $38 that the seller ships internationally. Your other option is to go to a good music store that sells auxiliary percussion instruments and ask if they sell ratchets (that’s what they’re called in the percussion world). Failing that, or if you prefer the price of free, see if there is anyone in your parish who is a high school teacher, or is friends with a band director who has access to one at a school that would lend you it. Now that I see what they look like, I recall our high school having one in the band room.

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    Therese Z.,

    You are correct. I was remembering a passage from Scripture, I think, about someone being so frightened their knees knocked together.

    The Chicken

  36. Muv says:

    APX, Julian Barkin, Simple Catholic,

    I’m only trying to help you all.

    Has anybody looked at the links I gave? If you would rather spend almost $40 and call it a ratchet and buy it in the States , feel free. Alternatively, you can spent just under £3 and a bit of postage from Britain if you call it a football rattle. It’s exactly the same thing, perhaps not such a classy model, but does that really matter taking into account it would be used infrequently?

  37. Andkaras says:

    There is a scene in that wonderful movie about St. Theresa of Avila (Spanish with English subtitles),In which the sisters are awakened using this crotulus.

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