Reog Ponorogo is identical to black magic, bad men, mystical world and supernatural power. Reog shors the strength of pembarong in lifting 50 kg dadak merak with the strength of teeth bite along the show. The instuments are kempul, ketuk, kenong, ketipung, angklung and salompret, creating slendro and pelog with mistical, unique and exotic atmosphere which trigger spirit. One reog troupe usually consists of Warok Tua, several young warok, pembarong and Bujang Ganong dancer and Prabu Kelono Suwandono. Usually the member of the troupe is 30 and the main roles are in warok and pembarong.
A Pembarong, should at least have extra power. He should have powerful jaw strength, to stand Dadak Merak with his bite. Dadak Merak is a tiger head decorated with 2 m high of feather of peacock which is around 50 kg, and dadak merak is bitten by pembarong along the show. It is said that Pembarong has supernatural power, which he gets from black magic practices such as applying susuk on his neck. It does not only take strength to be pembarong, he should also be equipped with wahyu as an important thing in pembarong life. WIthout wahyu, dance showed by pembarong will not be dynamic and nice to enjoy.
Reog is used as a mean to collect mass and an effective communication channel for authority in the past. Ki Ageng Mirah then made up a legend about Bantarangin Kingdom which is believed as a history by Ponorogo people.Adipati Batorokatong was a moslem who used this tradition to spread Islam. Singa Barongan name then changed to be Reog, derives from Riyoqun, means khusnul fatimah which means no matter human make sin in his life if they realize and do good deed, then they can achieve heaven.
According to Reog legend, from Demang Ki Ageng Kutu Suryonggalan story who wanted to satirize King of Majapahit, Prabu Brawijaya V. The king did not do his job well as he was controlled by his queen. Barongan made Javan Tiger skin which is ridden by a peacock. The king is metaphor for the king and the peacock is metaphor for the queen. To save his satire, he protect barongan with warok who were trained well and powerful. In the period of Batorokatong, who reigned Ponorogo about 500 years ago, reog evolved to be folk’s art.
Reog reffering on few chronicles, one of them was Kelana Sewandana. Kelana Sewandana is believed the original reog show. The story is similar to Bandung Bondowoso in Lara Jonggrang legend, Babad Kelono Sewondowo also tells about king’s love story, Sewondono from Jenggala Kingdom, who is almost rejected by Dewi Sanggalangit from Kediri Kingdom. The princess asked Sewondono to move forest to palace as a dowry. For that Sewondono should defeat the king of forest Singa Barong (dadak merak). Yet, this is not easy. All warok, soldiers, and patih from Jenggala are killed. Sewondono with his weapon, Samandiman, fights against Singobarong. Reog dancers are not only males but also females with dynamic moves of warok, nice costume of Sewandono , who looks for love.
Other Reog version was from Panji story. It was about the journey of Prabu Kelana Sewandana who looks for his soulmate, accompanied by his cavalry and his patih, Pujangganong. When the king falls in love with Dewi Sanggalangit, the princess wants a new art as a condition. That is when reog ponorogo is created. Reog letter represents the front letters in Macapat Pocung lyrics which says : Rasa Kidung/Engkang sukma adiluhung/ Yang Widhi/ Olah kridaning Gusti/ Gelar gulung kersaning Kang Maha Kuasa. Mystical element is a spiritual power giving a soul to Reog Ponorogo art.
Warok still important as elders in the society. The closeness to spiritual world often make a warok is asked for advice for spiritual matters or about life. A warok is said to master Reh Kamusankan Sejati or way to be good quality human.
Warok is troop fighting for justice in a battle between right and wrong. Warok Tua or old warok is a protector, while young warok are usually still studying. Until today, Warok is believed to have supernatural power to take role as warok. The stereotype of warok is : wearing shorts,black clothes, powerful and gemblakan. According to warok elder, Kasni Gunopati or known as Mbah Wo Kucing, warok is not an arrogant person for his power. Warok is someone with holy intention, ready to give guidance and protection unconditionally. He said that warok derives from the word wewarah means warok is someone who is rich of guidance about good life. Warok is someone who master perfect life guidance in his heart.
Warok should fulfill conditions. His body should be filled with suparnatural power, should curb his worldly will and lust, hold hunger and thirst, and may not touch women. Warok should prepare a rooster, white cloth of 2.5 m, pandanus mat, and trained with martial arts and spiritual power. After warok could mater them all, he then inaugurated as real warok. He receives weapon which is called as kolor wasiat, a white long rope, the weapon of warok. Nowadays, the real warok only legend.Several warok in villages can still be found and they maintain their culture and are still respected as elders and honored by community, even government officer ask for his bless.
Other condition should be fulfilled by warok is gemblakan. Warok usually has gemblak, teenage boys age 12 to 15 years, who are handsome and treated their bodies well, who usually are loved more than his wife and children. Looking after gemblak is a tradition in reog artist community. For warok, this is very normal and accepted by society. In the past warok fight using supernatural power for an ideal gemblak and beside that borrowing gemblak is also common. Cost for a gamblak is not inexpensive. If gemblak studies then warok should pay the study cost, gives him meals and place to stay. If gemblak does not go to school, warok gives him a cow. Warok’s power can be gained if he does not make love with woman. And it is imperative.
Warok’s main duty is to take care of his trusted gemblak to maintain his power. Beside that there is a strong belief in warok community that intercourse with women, even with wife can fade his power. Warok and gemblak relationship is caring each other and identified as momosexual practice as warok may not have sex with women.
Now there is a shift in gemblakan. Now gemblak is hard to find, and keeping gemblak as tradition is fading. In the past gemblak can dance in jatilan show, but now their roles are replaced by teenage girls.