An African fly-whisk from Côte d'Ivoire, made of horsehair with a decorated wooden handle.
Goat-hide and horse-hair Hausa fly-whisk, from near Maradi, Niger, early 1960s, overall length 28".

A fly-whisk is a tool to swat or disturb flies. It is used as a regalia in some cultures.

In Indonesian art, a fly-whisk is one of the items associated with Shiva. The fly-whisk is frequently seen as an attribute of both Hindu, Daoist, and Buddhist deities.[1] The fly-whisk is evident in some configurations of the Ashtamangala, employed in some traditions of murti puja, particularly the Gaudiya Vaishnava.

Fly-whisks are in use in parts of the contemporary Middle East, such as Egypt, by some classes of society, e.g. outdoor merchants and shop keepers, especially in summer when flies become too bothersome. Those have a wooden handle and plant fibers attached to them. The more expensive ones are made from horse hairs.

Fly-whisks appear frequently in traditional regalia in many parts of the African continent. This use has sometimes carried on into modern contexts: Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta carried a fly-whisk, a mark of authority in Maasai society,[2] as did Malawian leader Hastings Banda, while South African jazz musician Jabu Khanyile also used a Maasai fly-whisk as a trademark when on stage.[3]

The fly-whisk is one of the traditional symbols of Buddhist monastic hierarchy in China and Japan, along with the khakkhara, jewel scepter and begging bowl. The fly-whisk in Buddhism represents the symbolic "sweeping" of ignorance and mental afflictions.

A fly-whisk forms part of the royal regalia of Thailand. It consists of the tail hairs of an albino elephant.[4] Fly-whisks were also used in Polynesian culture as a ceremonial mark of authority.[5]

Algeria incident

In 1827, the last Ottoman ruler of Algeria, Hussein Dey, struck the French Consul in the face with a fly-whisk during a dispute over unpaid French debts to Algeria. This insult became a pretext for the French invasion of Algeria in 1830.[6]


See also


  1. ^ Shiva and Parvati, Rijksmuseum, accessed 14 November 2006
  2. ^ Dress codes and prestige staffs: constructing political authority with staffs in Tanzania, Fadhili Mshana, Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World, 2002
  3. ^ Jabu Khanyile, Contemporary African Music and Arts Archive, accessed 13 November 2006
  4. ^ Thai Royal Regalia, Thailand Government Public Relations Department, accessed 15 November 2006
  5. ^ Fly Whisk Handle, Metropolitan Museum of Art, accessed 14 November 2006
  6. ^ "History of Algeria". HistoryWorld. Archived from the original on 2005-09-02. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • fly whisk — noun : a device that consists of a bundle of flexible fibers (as horsehairs) mounted in a handle, that is used primarily to brush away flies (as from a person or a horse), and that has often served as a symbol of high position or authority * * *… …   Useful english dictionary

  • fly-whisk —    In Hindu art the fly whisk or fan is one of the attributes of the god Shiva, especially in Indonesia. But Shiva is not the only figure to hold this attribute. It occurs frequently as an attribute of other Hindu and Buddhist deities. Heavenly… …   Glossary of Art Terms

  • fly whisk — noun Date: 1841 a whisk for brushing away flies …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Whisk (disambiguation) — Whisk refers to:* Whisk a kitchen utensil * Fly whisk used as a flyswatter or as regalia * Whisk broom a cleaning instrument * cooking technique …   Wikipedia

  • fly — [v1] take to the air, usually employing wings aviate, barnstorm*, bend the throttle*, buzz*, circle, circumnavigate, climb, control, cross, dart, dash, dive, drift, flat hat*, fleet, flit, float, flutter, glide, hop, hover, hurry, jet, jet out,… …   New thesaurus

  • whisk — [v] brush quickly; hasten barrel, bullet, dart, dash, flick, flit, flutter, fly, hurry, race, rush, shoot, speed, sweep, tear, whip, whiz, wipe, zip; concept 152 …   New thesaurus

  • fly — I v 1. take wing, wing one s way, take off, take to the air, become airborne; soar, sail, zoom, cruise, coast, sweep, skim, Inf. kite; glide, plane, volplane, sailplane; dart, flit, flirt, hop, volitate. 2. float, hover, drift, hang, poise, float …   A Note on the Style of the synonym finder

  • fly — I (New American Roget s College Thesaurus) v. soar, wing, aviate; float, wave; speed, bolt, dart; flee, decamp, disperse, scatter. See aviation, velocity, escape. II (Roget s IV) n. 1. [An insect] Syn. housefly, bluebottle, bug, winged insect,… …   English dictionary for students

  • whisk — verb 1) the cable car will whisk you to the top Syn: speed, hurry, rush, sweep, hurtle, shoot 2) she whisked the cloth away Syn: pull, snatch, pluck, tug, jerk; informal whip …   Thesaurus of popular words

  • fly — Synonyms and related words: abscond, absquatulate, advance, aeroplane, airlift, airplane, applique, arachnid, arise, arthropod, ascend, aspire, bait, ball the jack, balloon, barnstorm, barrel, be airborne, be annihilated, be consumed, be… …   Moby Thesaurus

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