Open menu


Open menu


Open menu
three pairs of lovers with space



Presented here is a translation for this website by Olius Belombre of an article of 1941 by Joseph Baptiste Martin de Lyon, a Dutch colonial civil servant born in Java[1], preserving priceless information about a then already-endangered pederastic cultural institution centred on Ponorogo, a town in the residency of Madiun in the province of East Java in the Dutch East Indies. Titled “Over de waroks en gemblaks van Ponorogo” in the original Dutch, it was published in Koloniaal Tijdschrift, vol. 30, pp. 740-60.

De Lyon used a large number of Javanese words with no explanation of their meaning or (occasionally) inadequate ones, besides some French words. These, together with some translated Dutch words requiring explanation, have been collected together as a glossary at the end, and are also footnoted on their first occurrence. The inconsistencies in italicising or not local Javanese words are de Lyon’s.

The last eleven colour illustrations presented are taken from Enslaved by the Cult, a Russian Television documentary of 2018, which preserves valuable reminiscences by very old waroks and a former gemblak, occasionally marred by a hostile voice-over by an English narrator bearing no relation to anything said by the interviewees. The boys shown are implied (through context) rather than explicitly stated to have been gemblakan.


On the Waroks and Gemblaks of Ponorogo

East Java 1906 dtl
Part of East Java, including the regency of Ponorogo, in 1906

It is a well-known fact that a bad reputation outlasts a good one and casts a longer shadow. Ponorogo enjoys this kind of dubious renown. “The pederasts, the waroks[2], associate openly there with their kept boy, the gemblak[3], and nobody takes offence.  Pederasty must be an endemic disease there, the cause of which is to be sought in the presence of many men’s-houses, the pondoks[4] and the pesantrens[5]”. So it has been said.  

Just what is true about this? 

As far as I can ascertain, nothing has ever been published about it. Even in the administrative archives I could find no more than a few loose references and notes on this subject, scattered here and there in memoranda and documents.  

However, an investigation into the occurrence of homosexuality in this jurisdiction, set up at the start of 1939 in parallel to similar investigations throughout the Indies, has given me a more than superficial view of this matter.[6]

What is a Warokand what is a Gemblak?

Tracing the origin of these terms requires us to cast our minds back to the beginning of the 16th century.  

At that time, this region formed part of a territory[7] that was subordinate to Majapahit[8] and governed by a Demang.[9]  

The capital of the territory was Kutu, located near the current subdistrict capital Jetis. Then as now, the surroundings of this town are amongst the most densely populated parts of Java, at 1,228 souls per square km.  

This Demang of Kutu was a fearless knight who possessed formidable magical powers. He also owned a miraculous kris[10] called Kyai[11] Djabardas, which made him invincible in battle[12]

Now this territorial chief was in revolt against the authority of the Prince of Majapahit, an authority already on the wane in those days. The Kyai Demang repeatedly beat punitive expeditions sent against him to a bloody retreat. The people of Kutu fought bravely, led by a small vanguard of mighty warriors, an elite corps of heroes, who were amongst those initiated by the Kyai into the art of invincibility. These heroes of the Kyai Demang were given the honorific warok!  

Javanese soldiers temple relief 1347
                                        Majapahit soldiers depicted in a temple relief of 1347

The waroks, the bodyguard of the Kyai Demang, were strikingly garbed. These martial fellows wore very wide black trousers, the crotch of which was at knee-height. The lower edge was trimmed with red fabric or red frills. The waistband (kolor), red as well, was very long, usually reaching to the ground and also serving to adorn the front. The special cut of the trousers (very wide with a very low crotch) causes a rustling sound when walking.  

These trousers went with a short, tight-fitting black jacket with long sleeves (beskap). The pockets and cuffs were decorated with red fabric or red frills.

The moustachioed head was covered by a black kerchief, tied at the back with red tips hanging very low down the nape of the neck. 

To preserve their bravery, their formidable powers and their fighting spirit, the waroks were bound to very strict rules of life. One of these rules was “abstinence from sexual intercourse with women”. 

This prohibition appears tied in with the belief, general in Java even today – and professed almost everywhere in the world by practitioners of magic and occultism – that contact with a woman presents an obstacle to a man seeking to acquire and master magical powers.

The waroks, therefore, were not allowed to have intercourse with women. Nonetheless, they were lusty fellows, males through and through. ”On chasse la nature, elle revient au galop”[13]. True enough, nature came back “au galop”, and galloped rather too far! The waroks, barred from satisfying their libido in a natural way, sought and found compensation for this with the young pupils of the Kyai Demang, among the jatils[14] or gemblaks!

Originally, “gemblak” was nothing more than a kind of name for the Kyai Demang’s younger pupils (who studied magical doctrine and the art of dance); it was only later that the name became synonymous with being a kept boy.

Inseparable from the warok was his gemblak, as the squire was inseparable from the knight.

The further history of the waroks of the Kyai Demang.

Brawijaya V
Statue of Brawijaya V, the posthumous literary name of Girindrawardhana, the last Majapahit king, who reigned 1474-98

Several punitive expeditions against the rebellious Kyai Demang of Kutu having been defeated, the Prince of Majapahit, Bratawijaya V, finally sent his own son, Raden Katong, on an expedition to Kutu to capture the rebel dead or alive. 

Prince Raden Katong was a personality endowed with a very clever mind. He realised that action must be taken against the Kyai Demang in a different way than by brute force alone. After all, the brave Kyai Demang, aided by the wondrous powers of the magical kris Kyai Djabardas, and by his warriors commanded by the fierce, redoubtable waroks, was more than prepared to resist force. No: a different course of action was required, namely a ruse.

Batara[15] Katong undertook the journey at the head of a host of hand-picked brawlers. His first goal was the territory of Mirah, situated on the southern spur of the Gunung Lawu (Mirah is near Sukorejo, in Somoroto district).

This territory had recently been converted to Islam. Its ruler, Kyai Ageng Mirah, was known as a zealot, infused with the holy fire of spreading the new religion. For a long time this ruler had nurtured the plan to Islamise the infidels of nearby Kutu. His zeal, however, met with mockery and scorn, while his missionaries were persecuted and mistreated.

This Kyai Ageng Mirah, who harboured feelings of resentment and enmity against the Kyai Demang, had his spies in Kutu and was naturally kept well-informed about the state of affairs, intrigues and so on in that territory for the purpose of furthering his aims, would be the right ally for Raden Katong!

Accordingly, the Prince entered into negotiations with this Kyai, which resulted in an alliance. They would march on Kutu together and, once the Kyai Demang had been defeated, Kutu would be Islamised!

The campaign plan was an ingenious one, the main weapon being demoralisation.

A beautiful woman would be smuggled into the Kyai Demang’s camp. A cunning stratagem would aim to get her employed as a maid in the Kyai Demang’s household. She was then to seek to seduce the Kyai Demang, to steal his closely guarded miraculous kris and to deliver it to the enemy. The plan worked splendidly! The fair Delilah was able to cut off Samson’s hair, and the theft of the kris had a comparable effect!

Batara Katong ca. 1447 1517 statue
Statue of Batara Katong (ca, 1447-1517), who founded Ponorogo and islamised the area

The Kyai Demang was utterly broken and dispirited, having violated his vow of abstinence and received prompt punishment for it through the loss of his miraculous kris! When, on top of this, the report was then spread that the miraculous kris was in the hands of the enemy and that he would turn its magical powers against the Kyai Demang, the latter felt that the end of his power and his realm was at hand.

Understandably, these events, and especially the dejected state of the Demang, sapped of his courage, had their repercussion on his followers.

When Raden Katong and his prajurits[16], supported by auxiliaries of Kyai Ageng Mirah, launched their attack on Kutu, the Kyai Demang fled. His army, not only bereft of his inspiring leadership but also quite demoralised by the flight of the leader they had believed invincible, fell into disarray. In a few battles, this army was easily and utterly defeated, in spite of the brave fight put up by the waroks.

The Kyai Demang was pursued relentlessly but, thanks to his ilmu[17] of making himself invisible for a few moments, managed to escape time and again. However, he was seriously injured in this hunt. He was last seen on a hill, the Gunung Jimat. This hill was immediately surrounded on all sides, making escape impossible. After some days, there was a terrible stench of corpses... The Demang must be dead... The cordon was lifted and the mount was known thenceforth as the Gunung Bacin. (This hill is located near the dessa[18] of Wringinanom, subdistrict of Sambit).

The Prince of Majapahit now appointed Raden Katong Governor of Kutu. In view of the cunning and courage displayed by Raden Katong in his campaign against Kutu, the Prince granted him the title of Batara.

Batara Katong established his kraton[19] further to the north, in a place he called Ponorogo.[20] His realm included all the land between the great marsh (Madiun) in the north, the Lawu in the west, the Wilis in the east and the ocean in the south. This entire area was brought under Islam. Batara Katong’s faithful helper, Kyai Ageng Mirah, became the Head penghulu[21] in this realm!

Batara Katong cemetery
Batara Katong's grave

Batara Katong’s reign was a most propitious one, bringing not just the new religion to his subjects but peace and prosperity as well. His name was kept alive among the people of Ponorogo, especially as a deliverer from paganism and bringer of Islam, but also as the first Bupati[22] of Ponorogo, a great, wise and just ruler.

Batara Katong’s grave is in the perdikan[23] dessa of Setana, in the capital of the Regency. This grave has a holy aura, in consequence of which many sacrifices are made at it. However, there is a taboo on government officials entering this cemetery. Breaking this taboo is said to cause disease and other disasters.


Rebirth of the Waroks.

In the preceding part we saw how the waroks, the heroes of Kutu, perished fighting bravely in the battle for Kutu.

A very long time after these waroks retreated into the nebulous, slumberous background of unwritten history, with only the bright halo of their courage, bravery and heroism still discernible, a new generation of waroks was born.

This time, however, they were not Chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche[24]; no heroes who pledged their lives to a good, just and lofty goal, but mere branis who, through an ostentation of audacity and belligerence, were able to inspire and spread fear and awe. Such fellows always attract a bevy of followers who are at their beck and call, and who apparently do not mind being so, knowing as they do that the branis will protect them. These branis or jagos[25] called themselves waroks. In addition to the name, they also appropriated the costume of their illustrious predecessors, as well as the relationship with the kept boy, the gemblak. Once more, warok and and gemblak were inseparable.

Ponorogo major reog in 1920
                                                  Réyog in Ponorogo in 1920

Currently, however, it is no longer the prescribed and aspired-to abstinence from intercourse with women that leads the warok to choose a gemblak. The emphasis is now on the magical and physical powers obtained by possessing a gemblak.

Once a means, the relationship with a gemblak has now become the end!

This belief in the transmission of magical powers through intercourse with a child of the same sex, the gemblak, became so rooted that there were even women here who also began to keep a gemblak, although a female gemblak. These women were called warok estri. It is said there was still a warok esteri in Jetis around 1935. The current Regent once saw her there. She was said to have been a “virago” who spoke in a heavy, loud voice and was feared by people. She wore the “beskap”[26] of the waroks, but wore a sarong instead of the black, broad trousers.

Due in part to this same belief – i.e., the transmission of magical powers by the gemblaks – gemblaks here began to be ‘borrowed’ to be present at wedding ceremonies (among wealthier people, of course). The protagonists at such weddings were the gemblak, the groom and the bride – in this order. The gemblak even joined the bridal couple in bed on the wedding night![27]

It is quite remarkable that no one took offence at this; on the contrary, people thought very well of it. A gemblak’s presence at a wedding or other celebration was seen as adding to its lustre and, what’s more, as probably also bringing happiness and blessings.

Ponorogo Bedingin village ca. 1935 1
Réyog in Bedingin village, Ponorogo, ca. 1935

As described above, the reborn warok was nothing more than a brani or jago. These waroks claimed to have ilmus and magical powers. It became apparent, however, that these ilmus and magical powers were rather to be found in feats of strength and proneness to knife-fighting. Through this they sought to impress and dominate their fellow dessa residents, and they were highly successful in doing so.

They soon acquired a host of followers, whom they instructed in martial arts and in the so-called ilmus.

Promoting agreeable pastimes in the dessa was another one of their goals; they organised dice games and cockfights. They dealt harshly with informants, and no dessa constable or administration constable would have dared to be the spoilsport breaking up such games.

Wherever these waroks made an appearance, they always sought to call attention to themselves by being loud and rowdy or picking fights. Anyone who showed displeasure at this was considered to have insulted them and a fight would promptly follow, involving knives if need be!

Together with their gemblaks and followers, the waroks further practised “réyog”[28], a type of barong[29] performance, the characteristic and beloved popular performance seen in Ponorogo. In this réyog they played the lead role, namely that of the tiger. The gemblaks, seated on kuda képang[30], played horsemen menaced by the tiger.

Once a year, on lebaran[31] day, the residents of Ponorogo could enjoy a spectacular “Invasion of the Waroks”. Many long processions of cheerful festival-goers from the dessa, dressed in their finest, would then enter the kotta[32] and head for the alloon-alloon[33] to celebrate the largest of the annual holidays.

At the head of such a procession danced, heartily and indefatigably, the Warok, dressed up as Réyog, the tiger beautified with peacock feathers, followed by neatly dressed gemblaks seated on kuda képangs and by a large orchestra. The rhythm of gongs and angklungs[34] sounds loud and monotonous. The slomprèts[35] ring out hoarsely, causing an exotic and barbaric melody to reverberate. The cheers and shouts of encouragement from the very numerous followers, along with the absolutely regular rhythm of the gongs and angklungs, is audible from afar. In the procession could be seen persons carrying baskets laden with mertjons[36].

Ponorogo Bedingin village ca. 1935 2
Réyog in Bedingin village, Ponorogo, ca. 1935

In the alloon-alloon, the waroks performed their show, watched and cheered on by the elated, fascinated audience: Réyog dance – feats of strength and daring displayed while setting off handheld fireworks.  The bigger the explosive set off, the longer the rèntèngan[37], the greater and louder the applause and acclamations. If one warok is surpassed by another in daring, the followers hold a collection. Money and even jewellery are parted with generously to enable the purchase of new supplies of mertjons. In a memorandum from 1908 I read that on one such lebaran day, over f 25,000 (twenty-five thousand guilders) worth of fireworks was set off in the alloon-alloon! The things seen and experienced in the alloon-alloon, in particular the Réyog dances and the so-called “heroic feats” of the waroks, had the villagers talking, telling stories and bragging for many months.

While such a holiday started out peacefully and cheerfully, it almost always ended in a “warok battle”. In these battles the waroks were assisted boldly and valiantly by their followers. These sprawling fights in turn brought many more fights in their wake to settle feuds and carry out reprisals.

This long chain of disturbances, begun on lebaran day, was the reason, after one such new year’s celebration about a quarter of a century ago, when the fighting was particularly egregious and bloody, the administration thought it necessary henceforth to ban for good such warok performances in the alloon-alloon involving réyog, fireworks and feats of strength.

It was not considered dishonourable to be a warok; on the contrary, in the public perception the warok was shrouded in romance. Indeed, among the waroks were men from very respectable families. In a memorandum from 1908 I read that at the time, two sons of a Regent were among the waroks: R. M. Tjokrodirdjo and R. M. Said, sons of the retired Regent R. M. T. Tjokronegoro. It is likely that their proclivity for playing warok was to blame on the blood inherited from the renowned, brave fighter Sentot, from whom their mother was descended. A certain Pardan, the cousin of another former Regent, was a well-known warok as well. This person was killed in a bloody brawl some twenty years ago.

Ponorogo Bedingin village ca. 1935 3
Réyog in Bedingin village, Ponorogo, ca. 1935

In many cases, the waroks fomented vice, disturbances and offences. Their brawls, dice games and cockfights were the spark for many subsequent offences. The wicked ones among them were found to organise or encourage bouts of rampok[38] and street robbery. In addition, there were waroks who were prepared to assault people or animals for pay.

Here and there, there could even be said to be a warok terror! In those cases, complaining was no good, as the revenge of the warok is terrible! For fear of this, there were never any witnesses who might incriminate the waroks. In practical terms, only major excesses committed by the waroks came to light; lesser acts of terror were rarely reported. The dessa administration was too afraid to cooperate!

It was only when the Field Constabulary was established that a clean sweep was made in the dessas. No half measures were taken. The dessa administration once more felt supported and the dessa residents felt more protected, causing people to speak out. Within about ten years, the evil of the waroks had been extirpated!

Currently, there are no waroks left.


On gemblaks and homosexuality.

Ponorogo is notorious for the high incidence of homosexuality, which is even called an “endemic disease”. The waroks and gemblaks of Ponorogo were even discussed a few times in the People’s Assembly in the course of the debates (held in 1933) on combating homosexuality.

However, the relationship between warok and gemblaks cannot truly be described as homosexuality. Homosexuality, after all, is seen by the discipline of psychopathology as a pathological disorder characterised by a firm sexual aversion to the opposite sex.

Warok-gemblak relations, by contrast, have nothing to do with sexual aversion to the opposite sex. On the contrary: many waroks have wives and children, and there have been cases of adultery and rape committed by waroks. Nor can the gemblaks be qualified as “urnings” or “third sex”. An investigation set up in 1939 showed that they marry at the age customary in this region and move on to normal married life.

Reog Ponorogo

Nor can waroks and gemblaks be considered so-called “bisexuals”, as the waroks and the members of the gemblak club (more on which later), once married, cease to pursue relations with a gemblak.

The propensity for “gemblak love” is a temporary one. The time comes when the Ponorogo “pederast” marries, at which point the “love” of lads is over with. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is never temporary. According to psychopathology, it has its origin in an inherited “tendency”, which continues to develop and grow stronger, and which is hard to rein in and suppress at a later age. It is not, then, something that stops at a later age.

By contrast, this is precisely what happens with the pederasts and gemblaks of Ponorogo, which shows that their case is not one of true homosexuality.

Naturally, there are instances here, too, of true “urnings”. After all, why would nature, which produces such “deviations from the normal” all around the world, have skipped Ponorogo?

But here too, such deviations are exceptional. If one wished at all to characterise the occurrence of “same-sex intercourse” in Ponorogo as an “endemic disease”, then its cause is not to be sought in the field of pathology, but rather in the realm of religion and magic!

In my opinion, one can safely speak of a “cult of the gemblak” in Ponorogo: the veneration of the gemblak on magical-religious grounds; a kind of “erotic fetishism”.

The gemblak here is the human fetish that emits miraculous powers and whose beneficial influence can be undergone through communion that is as intimate as possible: friendship, camaraderie, sleeping together.

In my opinion, possible factors underlying this gemblak cult include: Firstly, the survival of pederasty from the time of the so-called “men’s-houses”, which have existed here as well, latterly in the form of pondoks and pesantrens. In addition, the ancient belief – a remnant from primitive times and persisting in the subconscious – that the Gods are highly jealous of human pleasures. To placate these Gods, they are given a part of these pleasures by way of a sacrifice. One sacrifice these Gods must appreciate particularly is abstention from the highest pleasure, i.e. coitus.

Circumcision, too, in its ancient origins must have been intended as nothing other than a sacrifice of sexual pleasure, in that a part of a person’s sexual organ is sacrificed. Without this sacrifice, the wrath of the Gods might be expected each time coitus is practised!

I propose the following mental development that led to the cult of the gemblak:

a.    survival from animism: Abstinence from sexual intercourse with the opposite sex is a sacrifice that greatly pleases the Gods and is rewarded with miraculous powers.

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 2 Gemblak

b.    survival from the “men’s-houses”.

The heroes and brave warriors “love” each other. This is the sublimated form of camaraderie and friendship. This camaraderie gave them the energy and courage to perform even mightier deeds and feats.

c.   = (a + b). Love of the gemblak is highly pleasing to the Gods and rewarded richly.

d.     the gemblak confers miraculous powers on his “friends”.

The fact that public opinion in this jurisdiction, in spite of 400 years of Islam, sees neither sin nor shame in the relationship with the gemblak demonstrates how deeply the superstition around this gemblak fetishism is rooted in the region.


Gemblak cult.

Although the name gemblak (or also gemblakan) goes back to the time of the Kyai Demang of Kutu, “boy love” will have been “endemic” much earlier.

It was the history of the waroks of Kutu that first revealed the open practice of “boy love”. So as to preserve their power, courage and valour, the brave waroks were not allowed to sleep with women. They chose a “boy friend” from among the Kyai Demang’s pupils, called gemblaks or jatils.

The gemblak became the warok’s inseparable companion and was much more than just a friend or a mate. The gemblak is the warok’s “lover”. Since this time, the name “gemblak” has been synonymous with “lover” of the warok. We call this a “schandknaap”[39] or “knaap der schande”, but according to the views of the people of Ponorogo there is nothing “shameful” about this relationship, which is in fact rather magical-religious in nature.     

In my discussion of the waroks I already wrote how strong the belief in the “gemblak fetish” used to be here. The waroks were convinced that their relationship with their gemblak was the source of their power and courage, and their followers were convinced that the gemblak confers magical powers and inspiration for ilmus on his warok. This type of belief, or superstition if one wishes to call it that, i.e. the ability to transfer willpower and strength from one person to another, is widespread around the world. Even in our days and in our Western world, very many people believe in occult powers: “Human beings are a living source of power. Every individual continuously radiates his own magnetic power, and persons in his vicinity undergo this radiation, while he undergoes the influence of the others in turn”. Mesmerism, hypnotism, telepathy, suggestion, etc. are thus explained as the effect of personal magnetism. It is not my intention to expound on this further here; however, it is beyond dispute that especially in the East people are highly susceptible to this type of belief, which along with many other beliefs receives the collective name of occult science (occultism, ilmus, etc.).

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 5 Warok
A warok of very long standing

The belief in the miraculous powers of krises and old weapons, in premonitions, in being “sial”[40], in good days and bad days, in animals that bring good luck (perkututs[41], riding-horses drawn in special ways, etc.) – all these are examples that can be found daily of the still very strong belief in “magic”, a survival from animistic prehistory.

In this jurisdiction, then, the belief in miraculous “radiation” by gemblaks is real and essential. People do not, however, describe it this way; they do not look for explanations. They simply believe for a fact that the gemblak is a bringer of good fortune. The mere belief in this renders a person ready to experience, and susceptible to experiencing, the influence of beneficial forces through contact with a gemblak. Call it suggestion or auto-suggestion; it is a fact that through this contact those involved feel healthier and stronger in body and mind. And this, after all, is what matters!

In the past, “gemblaks” were very frequently invited to weddings. They join the procession and, during the festivities, are seated next to the bride and groom. Gemblaks sometimes even join the bride and groom in the nuptial bed during the wedding night! All this is due to the property of bringing good fortune and happiness ascribed to these gemblaks.

It is not only men who keep a gemblak, though; there are also women who seek to obtain magical powers through the gemblak.

It is a well-known belief among women, especially dancers and prostitutes, that coitus with an immature, virgin boy is rejuvenating. This belief is very widespread, including in this jurisdiction. Psychopathologically, this could be classed coldly and soberly as paederosis, a sexual tendency towards immature children. However, this would not be entirely correct, as the above-mentioned, too, has a basis in the mystical or the occult.

In practising paederosis, the female waroks adhere to the warok way and rent a gemblak of the same sex. Accordingly, this cannot be classed as female urningdom or tribadism, but rather forms part of the typical gemblak fetishism that is endemic here!

If one wishes to find an explanation for this, as for so many typical phenomena in this country, one must look for the hidden animist, or, to paraphrase a well-known expression: ”Cherchez le païen”[42].

Very many typical customs and practices can be traced back to some kind of belief dating from prehistory. And we find time and again that 400 years of Islam has only provided a very thin coating for the sake of appearances! The core remains animistic. Inside of the simple Javanese in the dessa, the old pagan, the animist, remains strong!

 Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 1 Gemblak 

The gemblaks.

The gemblaks are not chosen for possessing certain characteristics to which magical properties are ascribed (unlike what applies, for example, to the choice of a kris, a horse, a perkutut, etc.). Although these gemblaks will fulfil a magical-religious function, they only obtain their magical value through their intimate contact with the waroks. It is the waroks who confer on the gemblaks their miraculous magical “charge”.

The only requirement the gemblak must meet is being able to arouse erotic feelings in the warok and to make him forget women. He must look lovely and have a feminine touch about him. Apparently, he is to give these non-homosexual (not constitutionally so) waroks the illusion of being with a girl “en travesti”!

If the warok has found a boy he considers suitable, has made his acquaintance and has made conversation, he should receive a magical indication that confirms the rightness of his choice. This will come to him in the form of a remarkable, unexpected stroke of luck, and usually the sign takes the following form: a positive dream, a dream that according to the customary interpretation of dreams must convey a prediction or promise of good fortune.

If, on making the acquaintance of the boy in question, he has such a dream, then his choice has been the right one. Next, the warok takes the necessary steps to obtain this boy as his gemblak.

Whereas in years past a lad was approached straightforwardly and openly to become a gemblak, in recent years this happens more covertly. This is so for fear that the government will intervene, but certainly also because at least among the better classes, those who have enjoyed education, and in the larger population centres, we are seeing hints of a change in public perception of the gemblakan, if only in a passive sense for now.

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 10 implied gemblak

The warok asks the lad and his parents if he wants to work for him as a pangon[43] (shepherd). The lad is easily won over through gifts, promises and flattery. What remains is to obtain the parents’ permission. The parents usually give in to the rewards offered for the boy’s pangon services.

A salary of ten to twenty guilders per year, or the gift of a cow after a year has passed, is almost always welcomed by the poor parents.  

They can be assumed to be aware, however, that their lad will be used as a gemblak and that the title of the position offered him, “pangon”, is a euphemism, a polite term. This must already be clear to them from the salary offered, as the usual payment for pangon ranges from f 2.50 to f 3.00 per year, or alternatively a cow after two to three years.

Otherwise, however, the fact that a few days after having agreed to his “service” their lad goes about in new clothes and can show presents such as a watch, silk handkerchiefs, fountain pen and pencil, bottles of perfume, pocket mirror and pocket comb, powder boxes etc. etc. should make it plain to them, if after the fact, that their lad has become a “gemblak”.

They – the parents – see no harm in this, nor apparently do the public in the dessa, the dessa administration and the religious leaders – yet!

Most gemblaks are aged 9 to 12; only rarely does one find any who are over the age of 12. This age, of course, is related to the start of puberty, the wondrous age that was considered of great magical significance in prehistory and was marked by special rites and celebrations.

The gemblak who enters puberty becomes conscious of belonging to a particular sex. Nature intervenes, and awakens in the young person the awareness that he has a natural calling with regard to his sex. “Puberty makes the individual feel part of a specific kind of living being, more precisely to one half of it that seeks to complement itself through the opposite sex”.

The start of puberty causes the gemblak to see his state of being a gemblak as something unwanted! He becomes shy and no longer gives himself fully!

However, at this point something changes in the waroks as well. According to the belief these waroks adhere to, the gemblak-in-puberty needs all of his magical powers for himself in order to mature into a man. He no longer returns with greater potency the magical “charge” transmitted to him, but consumes it for himself. The gemblak no longer serves as a source of magical powers; he can no longer be used to this end, is no longer suitable, and the waroks start to look for a replacement!

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 3 Gemblak

The investigation set up here at the start of 1939 found, with regard to a very large number of gemblaks, that they practically do not continue or expand the homosexual inclination.

In the district of Arjowinangun, the region at the heart of the one-time Wengker empire of the Kyai Demang whose court was in Kutu, where, according to tradition, the warok-gemblak cult originated, and where up to a few years ago most gemblaks were found, the 1,006 pederasts known in the dessas only included 19 former gemblaks. The 165 registered pederasts in the other three districts of this regency only include two former gemblaks.

It was also found that almost all of the known former gemblaks in the dessa tie the marriage knot at the age that is customary here (about 23), and most even earlier.

They do not look upon the time they spent as gemblak as something “shameful”. On the contrary, they are somewhat proud of it. The ties of friendship with their waroks have also continued to exist. They look back on this time as a pleasant, exciting period in their life. Also, nobody looks askance at them!

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 11 former gemblak proudly recounts while 2244    
                                  A Ponorogo man proudly recalls his boyhood as a gemblak

Gemblakan associations.

The gemblak fetishism described above, typical for this region as it is, is also encountered in a very special form, namely one gemblak kept collectively by several persons.

If here, again, we look for the “pagan”, then we can ascribe this phenomenon to the tendency of primitive man (a concept to be understood very broadly) to get together in fraternities of a magical-religious nature. In Africa, Melanesia, New Guinea and other primitive regions, fraternities based on magic are very numerous. This tendency is not only found among primitive peoples. I shall only mention the mystical fraternities of Islam, the Tarekats, and the Tongs among the Chinese, but in the West and in America too there are large numbers of such fraternities based on mysticism or magic.

What is remarkable about the gemblak fraternities of Ponorogo is that they find their origin among the santris![44]

Ponorogo, and especially the region around Kutu, is famed for its renowned religious teachers and its many pesantrens. For example, Kasan Besari I (1760-1783) in Tegalsari was highly renowned, and after him his grandson Kasan Besari II (1799-1852), also in Tegalsari. There was also Kyai Mohamad Nangin, c. 1850 in Josari.

Thousands upon thousands of eager students came from far and near to imbibe these sources of wisdom.

Pesantren Tegalsari
                                                      The great pesantrèn of Tegalsari

In the time of the famed guru Kasan Besari I there must have been periods in which 5,000 to 6,000 students (male-only, naturally) resided in and around the great pesantrèn of Tegalsari. These santris lived together in groups in the numerous pondoks around the large pesantrèn. The santris, too, believe that if they are to share in God’s wisdom and grace, they must make the sacrifice of abstention from intercourse with the opposite sex. A good santri must not associate with women!

Homosexual vice became commonplace in these “men’s-houses” of the santris; initially amongst themselves, later also with the boy hired to keep the house clean, carry water, buy groceries etc etc. In such men’s-houses there was great camaraderie, and having a communal gemblak intensified this camaraderie to true brotherhood.

Later, this fraternity did not remain restricted to the residents of the santri house; external strangers were also admitted to it. They shared the gemblak’s favours with the others. Still later, this fraternity began to “externalise” itself. There came a time when most of its members lived externally. Later again, the connection with the men’s-house was severed entirely. It became a fraternity-around-a-gemblak, a gemblak association!

It was the waroks who adopted this idea and began to found such fraternities.

These gemblak fraternities were the precursors and served as an example for the imitations, the gemblak associations, that later cropped up everywhere. In this process, however, the internal significance was lost completely, and only the camaraderie and having a gemblak for collective use were retained.

Naturally, the numerous Sinoman[45] associations (associations of young men for mutual assistance, pastimes, sports, etc.) also had to have a gemblak. This makes them look “genuine”; that is, just like real fraternities!

Thus it was that, until some years ago, many such “imitation” gemblak fraternities arose among the Sinomans. “Genuine” gemblak fraternities became scarce, and those that existed veiled their activities carefully. The “normal” gemblak associations, on the other hand, took a different approach. These, apparently, actually sought to cause a stir. They could be seen together daily, the members and the gemblaks, going to the passer[46], to festivities, etc.  

All costs incurred over the gemblak, including gifts and treats, are apportioned among the association’s members. Although members are free to give extra gifts or treats to the gemblak, the other members will frown upon this, as it may prevent the gemblak’s affections from being distributed evenly amongst all club members.

Nowadays, it is a rare occurrence for gemblaks to be kept by one man alone. There must be almost as many gemblak associations as there are gemblaks.

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 8 gemblak

The investigation into the occurrence and prevalence of homosexuality set up in this jurisdiction at the start of 1939 found 154 gemblaks, all aged between 8 and 16, and most aged around 10. Of these 154 gemblaks, 44 were found to be kept by associations that numbered over 10 members (one association even had 22 members!), 65 by clubs of 5 to 10 members, 28 by clubs of 2 to 5 persons and 17 by 1 person.

These 154 gemblaks were paired with 1,171 pederasts, most of whom were below the age of 30. Among these pederasts are found young persons as well as adults and married persons.

As for the age of these pederasts, the investigation conducted in the district of Arjowinangun, the focal point of this veneration of gemblaks, found that of the 1,006 identified pederasts, 563 are aged up to 23, 419 are aged between 23 and 30, and only 24 are over 30.

Given that in this jurisdiction the age at which people get married is usually between 23 and 27, the aforementioned appears to show that the further one goes beyond the average age of marrying, the fewer pederasts remain. Only a few are over 30.

The investigation further showed that all pederasts – barring rare exceptions – get married at one point or other, generally within the customary limits of the marriageable age. As soon as the pederast is able to maintain a family, he does so!

On embarking upon marriage, the homosexual ballast is thrown overboard. Married life for these former pederasts takes its normal course and differs in nothing from that of their fellow dessa residents!

Out of habit, some remain members of the gemblak club, among other reasons so as not suddenly to break off contact with their friends. However, at this point they no longer avail themselves of the gemblak! The sexual aberration, then, has only been of a temporary nature and has no apparent continued influence on their further sex lives. Apparently, married life fulfils them completely!

As to the suppression of the gemblakans, we shall cite a few passages from the minutes of the people’s assemblies of mid-1939:

From the branch minutes:

“Some members enquired whether – and if so, why – the investigations and criminal prosecutions are limited entirely or chiefly to European circles. They had the impression that serious misconduct of this kind found in the native population is disregarded. Accordingly, they would like to know, among other things, what attitude is taken towards the waroks in Ponorogo, whose relations with boys even appear to enjoy a certain prestige in the eyes of the population of the said region. If it is the case that the interior department has drawn up a report on this matter, these members respectfully ask to be informed what action has been or will be taken on the basis of it”.


From the response:

“It is true that investigations and criminal prosecutions are restricted in the main to European circles, given that the evidence underlying the prosecutions specifically pointed this way. In no way, however, is it our intention to give free rein to the evil, where it is encountered, of homosexual vice involving minors in Eastern society. Insofar as this is found not to meet with the same levels of disapproval in Native circles as in Western society, and this appears to be the case in Ponorogo, a policy of pedagogical and cautionary intervention is to be taken and prudence is to be exercised in applying criminal law; accordingly, the line taken is that prosecution shall only take place in egregious cases.

This statement from the government is the guideline for the suppression of gemblak associations.

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 6 Warok explains
A warok describing waroks and gemblakan

Naturally, this form of suppression does not permit this task to be finished within the space of a few months or years. It will require constant attention and interest on the part of the administration and the police over the course of many years.

One of our key allies, however, is the progression over time in thinking and attitudes. In the larger kottas, people are already beginning to see these gemblakans differently, and as a result almost no gemblakans will be found there anymore. In its place, nonetheless, has come prostitution with everything it entails: venereal disease, the disruption of domestic happiness, etc. etc.

In connection with this we may cite the most remarkable fact that in the sub-district of Badegan, which borders on the Self-governing Area and where gemblakans did exist, not a single prostitute was found at the time, whereas in the neighbouring Vorstenland[47] sub-district several hundred were found!

This, then, is or will be one more case where the suppression of one evil gives rise to a different evil. The question is whether the new evil will not actually be worse than the old one! Might the spread of venereal diseases perhaps not be a still greater evil than the gemblakan both in terms of public health and socially, considering that the investigation found that there are no lasting physical or moral consequences for either the pederasts or the gemblaks? And this spread of venereal diseases would be almost unchecked, widening like an oil slick, given that the local residents are still far from “hygiene-minded” and only avail themselves of a doctor in desperate cases. In fact, the number of doctors in this jurisdiction is very small; to wit, there is one Regency Indonesian Doctor, who is very busy, and one private Indonesian Doctor, who barely makes ends meet with the earnings from his practice! These two doctors serve a jurisdiction of 560,000 inhabitants! Imagine Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague with only two doctors!

A lot more might be written about the above-mentioned question, namely whether the new evil might not be much worse than the eliminated evil, at least in this region, but this falls outside of the scope of the present article.

The action undertaken since the start of 1939 has been fruitful. The hunt was opened for gemblaks and gemblak associations, and shortly afterwards clubs of pederasts and their gemblaks ceased to show themselves in public (passers, strolls, festivities). Reports were received from the dessas about the return of “pangons”, who really were gemblaks, to the parents. People had apparently been scared and first wanted to wait and see how things would go and whether this time around it was serious!

And this turned out to be so!

A few examples[48] were set. The severe punishments meted out by the landraad[49] were promulgated among the people. All of the known gemblaks in the dessa, and the persons who keep them, were registered. There are regular checks to make sure these persons have not relapsed into their old evil habits. The government is continually on the lookout for new gemblakans. A situation has now been achieved in which no open gemblakans are tolerated.

The evil may continue underground, but I see no reason to fear that it will assume significant proportions. There is a great risk of prosecution and severe punishment on discovery, and for a long time now people have not taken a great interest in these gemblakans anymore. Nonetheless, it will probably take years for the population to reach a point where they will spontaneously condemn the gemblakans.

It is remarkable that the ulamas and religious officers did nothing all those years to eradicate this evil, even though Islam also prohibits same-sex intercourse[50].

We were unable to obtain information on the occurrence of homosexual vice in pesantrens and pondoks. This is not to say that homosexual relations do not occur in typical men’s-houses of this kind, where one of the rules actually is that to be a good santri one must not have intercourse with women. However, it is very difficult for outsiders to get a look behind the scenes of these very private clubs.

Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 7 Warok explains
A still practising warok explains the value of the custom 77 years after de Lyon concluded "there are now no more waroks"


The establishment of the Field Constabulary in this jurisdiction some twenty years ago put an end to the warok evil. There are now no more waroks. Along with these waroks, the gemblak fraternities headed by them, the gemblak associations, disappeared as well.

If enthusiasm for this “predilection” has been on the wane for some time, its decline has accelerated since the nineteen-twenties. The distribution area shrank to the original focal point of these gemblakan, the sub-district of Jetis and Environs.

As a result of the action begun in 1939, the open practice of this evil has been banished there are as well. The hefty punishments meted out when some examples were set have made quite an impression and have further caused enthusiasm for this “predilection” to wither.

No doubt, this evil will attempt to perpetuate itself underground, as it is very deeply rooted here. But it could never grow to significant proportions, and the administration and police are vigilant. In due course, the underground proliferation too will have been starved of oxygen.

The public are now very clear about the Government’s unwavering decision: ”It is no longer allowed; it must end.” And the evil will disappear thanks to our determined and resolute action!

But that’s not when we will have achieved our aim. Only when public opinion ceases to remain passive but spontaneously decides: ”We no longer want this, we no longer tolerate this!”, only then will we have achieved our aim.

And this takes time ..... much time .....!


Ponorogo, June 1941.

 Ponorogo hostile video of 2018. 9 implied gemblak   


A civil servant having dedicated an article to the remarkable local phenomenon of the “warok” and the “gemblak” in Ponorogo is of special importance as it can stimulate sociologists to study, by means of comparison with similar phenomena elsewhere, the relationship that undoubtedly exists between ritual eroticism and military lifestyles (for relevant data, see: Westermarck ”The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas” II Chap. XLIII; Crawley: “Studies of Savages and Sex”).

It is known, for instance, that primitive secret societies, in which sexual intercourse is subject to disciplinary regulations, are often military organisations in America and Africa: in Melanesia the initiates spread terror, while sexual excesses are often characteristic.

Among the Dayak, headhunting is preceded by sexual taboos. We recognise that caution should be exercised when evoking individual psychology by way of explanation. It cannot be denied, however, that certain sentiments are among the preconditions for the formation of certain groups. On the other hand, there is a close relationship between erotic and aggressive impulses (see my “Magie en phallisme”, 1934). Almost everywhere, we see the phallic signal especially where people defend themselves against impending disaster (e.g., on grave markers). Is the said relationship physiological in origin? The erotic relief of tension caused by danger is attested to by life in bombarded cities and (in the Middle Ages) the sexual excesses during plague epidemics. Dare one suspect that erotic ecstasy and the distress-fear-aggression complex are closely related responses? We have already identified such a connection in the animal world.



Appendix:  Ponorogo, gĕmblakan by Th. Pigeaud

Pigeaud Theodoor in 1926
Theodoor Pigeaud

The following comes from pp. 300-302 of Javaanse volksvertoningen (Javanese Popular Performances) published by Volkslectuur in Batavia (capital of the Dutch East Indies) in 1938. The author, Theodoor Gautier Thomas Pigeaud (1899-1988) was a Dutch scholar long settled in Java and best known for his Javanese-Dutch dictionary published the same year.

This is not presented as a separate article because Pigeaud comes no closer to admitting or describing the sexual character of the warok/gemblak relationship than to say the gemblak was called “the darling (kĕlangēnan) of the singobarong[51]” and was referred to by terms meaning “sweet, handsome.” It does, however, add some colourful information about what is known from de Lyons’s franker account to have been a Greek love cultural institution, so is added here as an appendix.

The translation for this website is also by Olius Belombre.

If the aforementioned has made it clear that the performances to be discussed in this chapter are very much present in the Vorstenlanden, is it still true that in Java there is greater familiarity with the circle dances and the dancing-boy performances of East-Central Java, East Java, the Oosthoek[52] and Madura. To start with, those of Ponorogo and the surrounding regions. Here there is, or used to be, the gĕmblakan or gĕmblak performance; the dancing-boy or dancing-boys with the warok.

We shall first give some information about dancing boys and related matters, as found in the aforementioned article by Mr Darminto regarding the réyog performances in Ponorogo (§ 199). Mr Darminto first says that among the horse dancers who take part in the réyog performances there is a player, a boy, who is dressed as a woman, wearing a women’s skirt, a breast-cloth and earrings. This boy is called gĕmblakan; he is the darling (kĕlangēnan) of the singobarong or of the gēndruwon[53], according to Mr Darminto. Like the others, he rides a little horse; no further mention of him is made in the description of the réyog players’ performance. It can be assumed that he has no particular role in the performance. Possibly, the sheer popularity of the dancing boy in Ponorogo gave rise to the wish to see such a player among the horse dancers too. In the illustration accompanying this article, showing a réyog performance in Ponorogo (ill. 90) the horse dancers are female rather than male (see above, § 246 and 252). The “female horse dancer” on the left-hand side of the illustration, however, is a male cross-dresser.

Javaanse Volksvertoningen. Plate 90 dt
Pigeaud's illustration 90: "Horse dance, belonging to réyog Ponorogo, only indication of a fight."

In his article, Mr Darminto further notes the following regarding the warok. In the réyog troupes, the name warok sometimes designates the man who dances while wearing the singobarong mask, given that this always needs to be a tall, strong man. This, however, is mostly children’s language according to Mr Darminto. Strictly speaking, only the leader, the borĕg, of the réyog players is entitled to be styled warok. He usually dresses somewhat differently from the others, wearing a large, black pair of trousers with a tasseled string, a red sash around the waist, sometimes made of silk, and on top of this a leather belt of extraordinary width, reaching up to the chest. He ties his kerchief, also black, in such a way that long tips hang down the nape of the neck. In a performance by the réyog troupe, he usually beats the kĕnong[54].

Mr Darminto makes no mention of any particular role of the warok in connection with the gĕmblakan. This is another indication that the gĕmblakan and the warok are probably not properly part of the horse dance players and masked players; that here, again, there has been a fusion of performances: that of the horse dancers and the mask-wearers, and that of the dancing boy and his companion.

More on the dancing boy is found in the final short chapter of Mr Darminto’s article, where he discusses the jéor[55] performances. The jéor troupe also serves to accompany wedding processions and the like, and sometimes performs together with the réyog players; in these cases the jéor troupe walks behind the groom. The jéor music is made using one or two jéors (fairly large, deep drums, with a skin stretched over one side, slung around the neck on a rope and beaten with a stick with a knob on one end), four kĕmpyangs (tĕrbangs[56] with jinglers) and an accordion (called èrmonikah, èrmoni or simply musik). As we can see, it is an assembly of instruments of varied origin. Mr Darminto even compares this music to the jasbèn (jazz band), by which name imitations of modern European music have become known in a Javanese context.

Javaanse Volksvertoningen. Plate 75 dtl
Pigeaud's illustration 75. "Réyog Ponorogo: the monster in its fighter, before the fight; on the right the horse dancers idly watching"

Almost every pĕsantrèn (religious school) has one of these jéor troupes. When during processions one train meets another, they are sometimes led to fight, just like the réyog troupes. The jéors, the drums, are slammed into each other until one of them is broken. The jéor players together form a company and also like to dress similarly, wearing a black coat and trousers, along with a sarung palékat[57], tied together in advance. Such jéor companies usually include a gĕmblakan, a dancing boy. He is not dressed as a woman, however, as is the case among the réyog players, but only wears very beautiful and sumptuous attire. The dancing boy’s parents have lent him to the members of a jéor company at the request of the latter (nĕmbung: to propose). These members maintain him one at a time, in each of the members’ houses, and pamper him with tasty food and fine clothes. In the end, he is returned to his parents.

This concludes Mr Darminto’s article, which has already yielded so much remarkable information. Especially noteworthy is what he says here about the social relationship, apparently governed by adat[58], between the dancing boy and the members of the jéor company. We are again reminded strongly of what Prof. Snouck Hurgronje has written about the sadati boys of Aceh[59] (Achehnese, II, p. 221)[60]; they, too, are or used to be rented or bought by the members of a club for the performance of ratébs[61]. In an article on Warok and Gĕmblak in Ponorogo published in Poesåkå Djawi[62] I, p. 131, Mr Arjosumarto sees a link between this institution and the life of many young men far away from home, in the pèsantrèns, as well as the child marriages involving young girls who have to stay with their parents for years before they can start a family with their husbands. Such relationships are bound also to exist in other parts. In the Rembangese regencies, as well as elsewhere, maèr, maèril, mèrèl or maèn, or also mrèsèng, which is defined as sweet, handsome, appears to be a rather common form of referring to such boys, especially in pèsantrèns. The other party is sometimes called goen, or also ègot. Thus we find that in many parts there are different terms for these relationships; and they certainly also occur among the Madurese people. At the end of his treatise on betrothal and marriage ceremonies and customs among the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago (Verspr. Geschr. I, p. 605), Prof. Wilken already included some remarks on this.




Words that only appear in Pigeaud's Javaanse Volksvertoningen are followed by "JV" in brackets.

adat (JV) – custom
alloon-alloon – central open square
angklung – musical instrument consisting of bamboo tubes
barong – mythical animal represented in traditional dance
batara – king
beskap – shirt
borĕg (JV) – leader of the réyog players
brani – daredevil
bupati – regent
Cherchez le païen – Seek the pagan
Chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche – fearless, flawless Knights
demang – chief
dessa – village
èrmoni/èrmonikah/musik (JV) – accordion
gemblak (plural gemblakan) – the boy in a ‘pederastic’ warok-gemblak relationship
gēndruwon (JV) – type of spirit, or the dance named after this spirit
goen/ègot (JV) – a boy’s companion in a pĕsantrèn (Koranic boarding school)
ilmu – (occult) knowledge
jago – champion
jasbèn (JV) – jazz band
jatil – in traditional dance, rider of a woven horse
or (JV)– type of drum
kĕlangēnan (JV) – darling
kĕmpyang (JV) – type of drum
kĕnong (JV) – type of gong
kotta – city
kraton – palace
kris – dagger with a wavy blade
kuda képang – woven horses
Kyai – honorific prefix used for people and heirlooms
landraad – court for indigenous people
lebaran – an Islamic holiday
maèr/maèril/mèrèl/maèn/mrèsèng (JV) – sweet, handsome
mertjon – firecracker
nĕmbung (JV) – to propose
On chasse la nature, elle revient au galop – When you chase away nature, she returns at a gallop
pangon – shepherd
passer – market
penghulu – chief
perdikan – free(hold) (perdikan dessa: village exempt from taxation or corvée)
perkutut – type of dove
pesantren – boarding school for Koranic studies
Poesåkå Djawi (JV) – monthly journal in Java that often contained essays on Javanese performing arts and Javanese culture
pondok – lodging house
Ponorogo – regency of East Java in Indonesia (formerly in the Dutch East Indies)
prajurit – soldier
rampok – vandalism, plunder
ratébs (JV) – religious chants
rèntèngan – chain, sequence
réyog – traditional dance/performance of magical significance
sadati (JV) – boy dancer in Aceh
santri – student in a pesantren (boarding school for Koranic studies)
sarung palékat (JV) – length of fabric with a specific pattern, worn around the waist
schandknaap – kept boy, catamite (Dutch; literally ‘shame-boy’)
sial – unlucky, cursed
singobarong (JV) – tiger-headed character in the réyog dance performance
sinoman – a tradition involving social cooperation
slomprèt – double-reed wind instrument
tĕrbang (JV) – type of drum
Vorstenlanden – native princely territories on Java
warok – originally a warrior or brawler, later the man in a ‘pederastic’ warok-gemblak relationship


[1] In citations, the initials of the author's personal names are generally misordered as “J. M. B.”. The translator has found the following biographical information, some of which should be pertinent to understanding the author's perspective and the depth of his knowledge. He was born in Semarang, Java on 22 August 1900. His parents were Antoine Martin Baptiste de Lyon, commies (a specific rank of civil servant) at the Residentiekantoor, the colonial Residency Office, and Johanna Charlotta Apon. On 23 November 1921 Joseph, having become a civil servant in the Binnenlandsch Bestuur (Interior Administration) of the Dutch East Indies, married 27-year-old Winanda Johanna Deckstein (1893-1979) in The Hague. He returned from the Dutch East Indies to the Netherlands in 1946, and died at his home in The Hague, on 15 December 1963 at the age of 63.

[2] Warok: Originally a warrior or brawler, later the man in a ‘pederastic’ warok-gemblak relationship. [Translator’s note]

[3] Gemblak (plural gemblakan): the boy in a ‘pederastic’ warok-gemblak relationship. [Translator’s note]

[4] Pondok: lodging house. [Translator’s note]

[5] Pesantren: Islamic boarding school. [Translator’s note]

[6] In 1938-39, the Dutch authorities in their colony of the Dutch East Indies cracked down on homosexuals (towards whom there had been increasing hostility in almost all of Europe over the 1930s), using a law of 1911 which had raised the age of consent for male homosexual acts from 16 to 21. As homosexuality in the East Indies was then overwhelmingly pederastic in character, this involved widespread suppression of what had hitherto been tolerated. In Bali, which was well-known as a paradise for those who loved boys, a number of Europeans were imprisoned, including the eminent German artist Walter Spies. [Website note].

[7] This must be the Wengker kingdom. See Dr. L. Adam: ”Geschiedkundige aanteekeningen omtrent de Residentie Madioen” (Notes on the history of the Madiun Residency). Djawa No. 3, 4 and 5, 1938.  [Author’s note]

[8] Majapahit: A Hindu-Buddhist empire based in Java from 1293 to 1498. [Translator’s note]

[9] Demang: chief. [Translator’s note]

[10] Kris: dagger with a wavy blade. [Translator’s note]

[11] Kyai: honorific prefix used for people and objects. [Translator’s note]

[12] Compare the beautifully named swords in Western mythology: Nagelring, Mimung, Eckesax, Excalibur, which conferred invincibility on the heroes Dietrich, Siegfried, Weyland and Arthur. [Author’s note]

[13] “When you chase away nature, she returns at a gallop.” (French) [Translator’s note]

[14] Jatil: in traditional dance, rider of a woven horse. [Translator’s note]

[15] Batara: king. [Translator’s note].

[16] Prajurit: soldier. [Translator’s note].

[17] Ilmu: (occult) knowledge. [Translator’s note]

[18] Dessa: village. [Translator’s note]

[19] Kraton: palace. [Translator’s note]

[20] Batara Katong founded Ponorogo on 11 August 1496. [Website note]

[21] Penghulu: chief [Translator’s note]

[22] Bupati: regent. [Translator’s note]

[23] Perdikan: free(hold). [Translator’s note]

[24] "Fearless, flawless knights” (French). [Translator’s note]

[25] Brani: daredevil; jago: champion. [Translator’s note]

[26] Beskap: shirt. [Translator’s note]

[27] See the periodical ”Kedjawèn” dated  1 August 1939 No. 61 page 995. [Author’s note]

[28] Réyog was a traditional dance/performance of magical significance first introduced by the Kyai Demang of Kutu in implicit criticism of his enemy King Bratawijaya V who had married a Moslem princess and was thought to incline towards Islam. The tiger head worn by the warok (who menaces the gemblakan in the dance) symbolises the King, subdued through seduction by a woman, symbolised by a peacock. A fictional story about the Bantar Angin Kingdom was later substituted as an acceptable explanation for the réyog once Islam was established (http://kimbatorokatong.blogspot.com/2012/03/spirit-kim-desa-ngunut-batoro-katong.html). [Website note]

[29] Barong: a mythical animal represented in traditional dance. [Translator’s note]

[30] Kuda képang: woven horses. [Translator’s note]

[31] Lebaran: an Islamic holiday. [Translator’s note]

[32] Kotta: city. [Translator’s note]

[33] Alloon-alloon: central open square. [Translator’s note]

[34] Angklung: musical instrument consisting of bamboo tubes. [Translator’s note]

[35] Slomprèt: double-reed wind instrument. [Translator’s note]

[36] Mertjon: firecracker. [Translator’s note]

[37] Rèntèngan: chain, sequence. [Translator’s note]

[38] Rampok: vandalism and plunder. [Translator’s note]

[39] ‘Schandknaap’: kept boy, catamite (Dutch; literally ‘shame-boy’). [Translator’s note]

[40] Sial: unlucky, cursed. [Translator’s note]

[41] Perkutut: type of dove. [Translator’s note]

[42] “Seek the pagan” (French). [Translator’s note]

[43] Pangon: shepherd. [Translator’s note]

[44] Santri: student in a pesantren (Islamic boarding school). [Translator’s note]

[45] Sinoman: a tradition involving social cooperation. [Translator’s note]

[46] Passer: market. [Translator’s note]

[47] Vorstenlanden: native princely territories on Java (Dutch). [Translator’s note]

[48]   Since the start of 1939, 11 persons were given prison sentences ranging from 1 to 2 years on account of gemblakan. [Author’s note]

[49]  Landraad: court for indigenous people (Dutch). [Translator’s note]

[50]   Koran, chapter 26, verses 165–167:

165: Why do you men lust after fellow men,
166: leaving the wives that your Lord has created for you?
         In fact, you are a transgressing people.
167: They threatened, If you do not desist, O  Lot, you will surely be expelled. [Author’s note]

[51] Singobarong: tiger-headed character in the réyog performance. [Translator’s note]

[52] Oosthoek: Eastern Corner, the Dutch name for the easternmost part of Java. [Translator’s note]

[53] Gēndruwon: type of spirit, or the dance named after this spirit. [Translator’s note]

[54] Kĕnong: type of gong. [Translator’s note]

[55] Jéḍor: type of drum. [Translator’s note]

[56] Tĕrbang: type of drum. [Translator’s note]

[57] Sarung palékat: length of fabric with a specific pattern, worn around the waist. [Translator’s note]

[58] Adat: custom. [Translator’s note]

[59] Sadati: boy dancer. [Translator’s note]

[60] Unlike Pigeaud, Hurgronje did not obscure the sexual role of his sadati: “many of the boys {…] as sadati (dancers) or otherwise are made to minister to the unnatural lusts of the Achehnese.” [Website note]

[61] Ratébs: religious chants. [Translator’s note]

[62] Poesåkå Djawi: monthly journal in Java that often contained essays on Javanese performing arts and Javanese culture. [Translator’s note]




If you would like to leave a comment on this webpage, please e-mail it to greek.love.tta@gmail.com, mentioning in the subject line either the title or the url of the page so that the editor can add it.