Myths and Legends
* From Alistair Black
There are a number of stories revealing something of the
significance of the Didjeridu in the Aboriginals of northern
Australia. It is seen as a phallic symbol and male instrument,
with women in many areas traditionally prohibited from playing.
Legend has it that if a woman plays the Didjeridu, she is likely
to give birth to twins. Being a nomadic hunter gatherer people,
the extra mouth to feed is seen as a liability; one baby may then
In the beginning of time, the Rainbow Serpent played a part in
creation, sliding across the earth, making riverbeds and the
accompanying landscape features. A particular long (2.5m)
Didjeridu is used in "Djungguwan," ceremonies, where it presents
"Yurlunggur," or the Rainbow Serpent.
Another story that links the Didjeridu with creation tells of how
in the beginning the Great Spirit Balame (Byamee) created man and
woman and they in turn had the responsibility to create the
animals and birds which they did by either singing them into form
or sounding them into form through playing the Didjeridu.
The Didjeridu itself was supposed to have been created or
conceived a long time ago. In the North of Australia, two young
and beautiful adolescent girls were captured by a mean giant who
wanted them to be his wives. After some time the girls managed to
escape and hastily made their way back to their tribe. The mean
giant was angry when he discovered what had happened and
endeavored to reclaim what he considered his property. Meanwhile,
the elders of the young girls' tribe set a trap for the giant.
They dug a huge pit along the path leading to their home camp. The
giant, in his angry haste, fell into the pit and was immediately
killed with many spears thrown by tribal hunters hiding nearby. As
he curled on his penis, looking very much like a huge porcupine,
he began to blow on his penis, making an amazing droning sound.
They tried to copy it, to no avail' so they searched for and found
a large hollow log, the center of which had been eaten out by
termites. By blowing on one end of this hollow log, they were able
to create the sound made by the giant in his death throws.
* Gary Fenstermacher (firstname.lastname@example.org) relates a wonderful
story that he heard from the didj player, Paul Taylor :
Three men were camped on a cold night in the outback. One of the
men told another to put another log on the fire, because the fire
was getting low and it was so cold. So, the other man turned
around and grabbed a log, which was awfully light to the touch,
for it was hollow. As he turned to drop it into the fire, he
noticed the entire length was covered with termites. He didn't
know what to do, for he could not throw the branch into the fire,
because it would kill the termites, and his friends were telling
him to do so because it was cold. So he carefully removed all the
termites from the outside of the log by scooping them into his
hand, and he deposited them inside the branch. Then he raised the
branch to his lips and blew the termites into the air, and the
termites blown into the air became the stars, and the first
didjeridu was created.
The origin of the Didjeridu is not accurately known, though some
research indicates it's birth may have been as recent as one thousand
years ago (World Archaeology-vol 12, no 3, Alice Moyle).
Traditionally, it comes from the north of Australia and is played by
males. It is not normally used as a solo instrument, but rather
accompanies clicking sticks, singing and dancing. It is used
primarily, but not exclusively, in "more open" ceremonies, clan songs
and fun songs. Boys learn to play the Didjeridu from an early age, the
most efficient player is recognized and held in high esteem. The
player may tap out rhythms using click sticks or his fingers on the
instrument while playing.
Increasingly, Didjeridus are included in music groups, rock bands,
orchestras and in a solo capacity as atmosphere creators for seminars
and workshops. The haunting music of a solo Didjeridu touches people's
hearts and calls to remembrance our spiritual and earthly heritage.
- Alistair Black
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