In Northern Australia the Didjeridu is seen as a phallic symbol and therefore a male instrument. Women are prohibited from playing.
Stories of the Didjeridu vary from place to place among the different language-speaking groups in this large continent.
In the beginning, in the North of Australia, a giant captured two young girls to be his wives. One day they escaped and made their way back to their tribal people.
The tribal elders knew the giant would ccme looking for his brides so they dug a huge pit along the path leading to their home camp as a trap. They waited behind an anthill.
In his anger and haste, the giant came running and fell into the pit. The tribal hunters threw their spears, mortally wounding him. The giant curled into a ball in his death throes. As he curled into himself he began to blow on his penis, making an eerie droning sound. He rolled and roared, thrashing around in the pit, the deep drone of his penis thrummed through the earth and caused the birds to fly high into the heavens.
The men wanted to recapture such a sound of power, so they searched for and found a large hollow log with the centre 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 throes.
And from that time, the didjeridu is a sacred instrument to men, for it holds the power of the giant.
In another story from the South-East of Australia, three men were camped in the bush on a cold night in the middle of winter. One of the men, watching the fire, picked up another log to feed the flame which was getting low. As he picked up the log he found it was hollow but thought no more about it until he turned to drop it into the fire and noticed the entire length was covered with termites.
He didn't know what to do for the termites were his totem ! He couldn't throw the branch into the fire, because it would kill the termites but the fire had to be kept burning on such a night.
He carefully removed all the termites from the outside of the log by scooping them into his hand and gently placing 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 made.
The didjeridu is the world's oldest known musical instrument. Traditionally, it's made from a branch in which white ants eat their way up through the centre towards the sunlight. The outer shell of the branch remains solid and protects the ants. Eventually the branch dies and falls to the ground. After shaping the ends and marking it with personal designs, this becomes the didjeridu.
Many Aboriginal people believe that there is a man's spirit inside the didjeridu - so women may not play it.
And if you listen now to the didjeridu it will go into your ears, open your heart and lift your spirit.
Susanna Duffy is a Civil Celebrant, grief counsellor, professional storyteller and a creator and guide of Rites of Passage. Her ceremonies are used in home offices, corporate boardrooms and civic functions. http://celebrant.yarralink.com