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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
       be killed.

       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 (pigface@zurich.gcomm.com) 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.

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Didjeridu History

   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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