Relationship between animism and shamanism in korea

Korean shamanism - Wikipedia

relationship between animism and shamanism in korea

For more on shamanism in Korea, read Seoul's Shaman Village. Showing the strong connection between shamanism and Buddhism, this shaman calls. is related to folk beliefs and practices associated with animistic faith. The shamanic journey helps us forge powerful relationships with the world around us, . and believer, so there is no difference from any other monotheistic Korean shamanism is very similar to animism, because in. Korean.

Paekche monks served as the primary transmitters of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese culture to Japan. Along with Buddhist scriptures and Buddhist art, Korean artisans were sent to aid in the construction of Buddhist temples.

In return, Japanese monks traveled to Paekche for study. These dates parallel the timing of each respective kingdom's establishment of formal contacts with China. In this respect, not only was Buddhism a cultural import but, more importantly, it functioned as a vehicle of political relations.

Hence, Sundo was an envoy-missionary who came to cement political relations between the two states. The ambassadorial nature of the visit is indicated by the fact that King Sosurim made the extravagant gesture of meeting Sundo at the city gate. State interest and royal patronage explain the rapid establishment of Buddhist temples and the intense evangelization of the population.

The large numbers of Korean monks who traveled to China for study and to Japan as missionaries during this early period was yet another facet of state patronage. It is similarly related that the Paekche king greeted the monk at the city gate.

In Paekche, too, Buddhism was established initially as a royal cult. When a monk cured King Nulchi's r. This story suggests that the success of Buddhism in Korea hinged on its ability to replicate key functions of shamanism.

The curing of illness is the central element here, and the establishment of Buddhism as a state religion replicates the close ties between kingship and shamanism in the pre-Buddhist period. As a direct result, the mudang 's social and political standing became decidedly ambiguous.

On the other hand, the records also detail the persecution of mudang s by other officials and royal proclamations against "licentious" musok festivals within the city walls. The levying of taxes on mudang also suggests that the court sought to discourage people from taking up the shamanic calling. The records paint a picture in which most individuals still adhered to the traditional cosmology of spirits and believed in the efficacy of the mudang, but in which the rise of an official and elite ideology led to the repression of musok as superstitious and morally corruptive.

On the other hand, it is interesting to note that in overtaking the role of state protector, Buddhism took on the very same ritual tasks so central to musok. The P'algwanhoe, a ceremony first performed inwas a state-sponsored Buddhist festival that ostensibly encouraged lay people to adhere to the eight ascetic precepts p'algwan of the monk. The most significant aspect of the ceremony, however, was the prayers for the state, which consisted of spirit propitiation as well as supplication of the Buddha.

The other significant aspect of these festivals was their gaiety, being an occasion for singing, dancing, and feasting. Following musok custom, entertainment was considered integral to the task of pleasing the spirits and sending them on their way. It might very well be claimed that the P'algwanhoe is simply a case of native shamanic practice in Buddhist garb, but the more significant point is that the garb of official choice had direct, negative consequences for the continuing practice of musok.

From its close association with kingship, still symbolically visible in the royal regalia of Silla kings, musok became the province of peasants who augmented their profession with fortune-telling and sorcery. To be sure, Buddhism stretched its ideology in order to accommodate the native Korean spirit world, and musok in turn incorporated Buddhas and bodhisattvas into its pantheon. Beyond this, however, Buddhism ultimately trumped musok because of its political support and because of the plasticity and sophistication of the Buddhist belief system.

relationship between animism and shamanism in korea

These latter qualities are particularly visible in Buddhism's dissemination into the larger populace. The practice of mortuary rites provides the best illustration. The aforementioned P'algwanhoe, from its early sixth-century origins, functioned as a feast for the dead, particularly for the spirits of men fallen in battle. This festival, however, was quite explicitly enveloped in a Buddhist scriptural and ritual web, and it demonstrates the deftness with which the pervasive concern with ancestral spirits was integrated into the Buddhist worldview.

Manghon-il derives from the Chinese "ghost festival," which emerged during the Tang dynasty. The festival got its charter myth from a popular tale about Mulien, a disciple of the Buddha, who journeys to the lowest of Buddhist hells in order to rescue his mother. The tale fuses the Buddhist cosmology of rebirth and the Chinese value of filial piety, testifying to the manner in which the ghost festival allayed the charge that Buddhist monasticism was antifamily.

The festival celebrated the emergence of the monastic community from its rainy season meditative retreat. By making donations of food, clothing, and other necessities to the monastic community at this time which also coincided with the harvest seasonthe laity reaped the benefit of the heightened ascetic and religious power of the monks, which translated into significant karmic merit.

This merit in turn was dedicated to the lay ancestors for the purpose of ensuring their favorable rebirth. The Chinese ghost festival was a significant community celebration that operated with the financial assistance and ritual participation of the emperor. The festival and the texts demonstrate how Buddhism was able to mythically and ritually co-opt the native Chinese worship of ancestors.


Transmitted to Korea, which also received the tale of Mulien, the Buddhist belief in rebirth finessed the more fundamental fear of malicious spirits and the need to properly dispatch them from the world of the living. The P'algwanhoe reflects the idea that those who die violently or unexpectedly come back as disgruntled spirits who harass the living through illness and misfortune. The ability of Buddhism to usurp the function of spirit propitiation was a key element in the spread of Buddhism among the masses.

The mortuary rituals of musok may have remained competitive with Buddhist ones, but its cosmological beliefs were simple in contrast to the great metaphysical and doctrinal systems of Buddhism. Particularly in its missionary travels to Japan, Korean monks acted the role of conduits of culture from the West.

The full emergence of Korea into the international scene bred an elite culture and learned community that grew increasingly unkind in its view of the native tradition of musok. Taejo looked, as in previous eras, to China for a model of state, but this time to Confucianism, paralleling China's own ideological shift. Integral to the new state was a system of learned Confucian scholars who functioned as ministers and advisors to the king.

Hence the official learning of the land became Confucian, although Buddhist learning and piety was never fully abandoned by the aristocracy and royalty. Buddhist monasteries, however, were banished beyond the capitol to remote mountains, and monks were reduced to the status of pariahs.

In a sense, monks joined the ranks of mudang, and the intermingling of Buddhism and shamanism at the popular level allowed Confucians to dismiss both as "super-stition. These same kings and queens, however, routinely turned to Buddhism in their private lives, particularly when vicissitudes in the exercise of power brought home the Buddhist message that all worldly gains are ultimately empty. Taejo himself bestowed the title of "Royal Preceptor" wangsa on the Buddhist monk Muhak —who functioned as his confidante and spiritual advisor.

These tendencies were shared by the ministers and officials, who were also vulnerable to swings in political fortune.

The evidence of this appears in literary works that gave voice to personal feelings. The longing for nature and retirement from political life was a persistent Buddhist-Daoist theme in literati poetry, for example.

Korean Shaman Presentation

Buddhism's cultural presence straddled the social hierarchy, reaching down to the peasants. Pure Land Buddhism and the cult of Amida Sanskrit: The musok rite, known as Kut Tungus, kutumeans "happiness" and "good fortune," and it was performed for private individuals and families, as well as for the community.


The basic categories of Kut, which continue to the present day, were mortuary rites for ancestors, healing rites, and good-luck rites that invoked heavenly and natural spirits, as well as village tutelary gods. The mudang who had access to these residences were known as kongmu, or "national shamans.

relationship between animism and shamanism in korea

The strict rules of relation between parents and children, mothers-in-law and daughters in-law, and village hierarchies were temporarily suspended for cathartic celebrations in which spirits and humans enjoyed themselves and entertained each other into a renewed harmony. Unlike Confucian ancestral rites, in which social order and familial obligations are sanctified, musok rites were dramatic, improvisational affairs in which personal feelings and grievances are aired by humans and spirits alike.

The significant difference between the Confucian concept of ancestors and the human spirits propitiated by Kut bears elaboration here. The basic purpose of Confucian ancestor worship is to define and revere the family line, which is traced through the male side. The continuity of the clan is maintained through marriage and the birth of legitimate male offspring.

Firstborn sons carry out the ancestral rites, which pay homage to agnatic ancestors who have bequeathed property to the descendents. This selective definition of ancestors not only excludes collateral family members, such as second-born sons, daughters, secondary wives, and concubines, but also eliminates anyone who has died a violent or unnatural death. Musok, on the other hand, is attentive to these very ancestors who have reason to be restless and troublesome to the living.

In addition to those who die before their time, there are others whose lives are "incomplete," such as females who never marry and mothers who fail to bear legitimate heirs. In addition, there are those who are disgruntled simply because they are ignored by their descendents. It is these "polluted" ancestors to which musok attends, not with the formality and decorum of Confucian rites but with complete abandon to interpersonal drama.

The inherent drama of the Kut, with its tradition of music, song, and dance, is not limited to family affairs. Shamanism arose in Korea when most Koreans lived in fishing and farming villages. Animism associated with the culture of fishing villages and rural communities has continued even into Seoul, a megalopolis of twenty million people. Revival as cultural element Eating food consecrated to Dangun The Korean government, since liberation from Japan, has periodically persecuted shamans and attempted to eradicate shamanism, especially under the rules of Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee.

In North Korea, Shamans have suffered persecution and campaigns of eradication along with all religions, but even in totalitarian North Korea the attempts have failed. Shamanism has proven impossible to eradicate because the religion is basic to human nature. Originating from spiritual experience, a call from the Sky Spirit, the religion is less dependent upon doctrine and scripture than Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

In addition, Shamanism is part and parcel with the founding of Korea in the Dangun myth. In recent years, the South Korean government has acknowledged that the dances, songs, and incantations that compose the kut make up important aspects of Korean culture. Beginning in the s, rituals that formerly had been kept out of international tourists view have begun to resurface. Often, executives of international hotels and restaurants attend shamanistic purification rituals in the course of opening a new branch in Seoul.

Some aspects of kut have been designated valuable cultural properties for preservation and transmission to future generations of Koreans.

The future of shamanism became uncertain in the late s. Many upper and middle class Koreans observers believed that psychiatry would replace shamanism as the government expanded mental health treatment facilities. That has proven a false concern. Koreans exhibit reluctance to employ a psychiatrist for personal and family ills, preferring the traditional way of finding solutions within the family, through fortune-telling and shaman rituals.

Even Christians who seek the guidance of pastors engage shaman's and fortune tellers to deal with life's critical turning points. Types of mudang Mudang categorized into two basic archetypes: The essential characteristic of the kangshimu that she becomes one with a god or spirit as part of her ceremony.

Two types of kangshimu exist. The kangshimu-initate becomes possessed by a spirit during the ceremony. Physical pain and psychosis accompany the act of possession.

Believers assert that the physical and mental symptoms resist medical treatment, but may only be cured through receipt of and full communion with the spirit. Momju perform fortune telling using their spiritual powers derived from their possession. They preside over a gut involving song and dance. Some male shamans, called paksu, belong to the posal calling. Shimbang, similar to the kangshimu types of mudang with the godhead and importance of spirituality emphasized.

Unlike the kangshimu, shamans inherit the right to conduct ceremonies. A shimbang differs from a kangshimu in that their bodies are not possessed by spirits or gods during her gut. The shimbang does not maintain a shrine.

The tang'ol of Honam each had districts tang'olp'an over which they had the exclusive right to perform certain shamanistic ceremonies or gut. The gut performed by the tang'ol involves song and dance that serves to entertain a god or goddess, leading to interaction with or channeling of the god.

Both the rights of succession and the ceremonies themselves have been systematized through the years so that they now bear the characteristics of a religious rites. Unlike other types of mudang, tang'ol do not receive a god as part of an initiation ceremony. A tang'ol will not have a shrine in her home and will not generally have a defined belief system in a particular god.


Also called the spirit sickness or self-loss, a loss of appetite, insomnia, visual and auditory hallucinations characterizes the illness. A ritual called a naerim-gut cures the illness, which also serves to induct the new shaman. For example, in the most basic, frequent type of shinbyeong, the characteristic symptoms afflict the initiate without apparent cause. The mudang cannot eat, becoming weak physically and psychologically.

In another type of shinbyeong, physical illness precede those basic symptoms. In yet another, a psychotic episode causes the shinbyeong.

In a relatively rare type of shinbyeong, the mudang's mental state becomes weakened by an external shock. Another rarely occurring type of shinbyeong, called the "dream appearance type," a dream in which the mudang sees a god, spirit, or unusual occurrence, accompanied by a revelation triggers the shinbyeong.

Most mudang have little appetite during their shinbyeong, some having indigestion and partaking in only a limited diet. The body of the mudang becomes weak, subject to pain and cramping, accompanied by bloody stool in some cases. Physical symptoms progress to include mental illness. The initiate has a generally restless mind and experiences communication with gods or spirits. Eventually mudang has spiritual experiences diagnosed as hallucinations the the psychiatric profession but considered normal development for the mudang.

In some cases, the spiritual experiences become so extreme that the mudang leaves home and wanders through mountains and rice fields. The spiritual experiences resist psychiatric treatment, indeed such treatment only enhances the spiritual experiences. The mudang candidate's shinbyeong symptoms dispell through the gangshinje, a type of gut in which the mudang receives her god or spirit.

In the s, foreign teachers tried to teach their Miao students that a lunar eclipse were caused by the earth passing between the moon and sun. The students laughed at this implausible idea. Everybody knows, they said, that eclipses are caused when the frog spirit swallows the moon. The Miao also believe that the best way to avoid getting struck by lightning is not to avoid standing on high ground, but rather to avoid drinking milk.

Miao Festivals and Sacrifices Many Miao groups have their own festivals and ceremonies, which vary from village to village. Many also celebrate Han Chinese holidays. Some celebrate the new year according to Han Chinese calendar Others celebrate it in the 10th lunar month following the harvest.

relationship between animism and shamanism in korea

Other important festivals include the Dragon Boat festival, the Mountain Flower festival, which are important in bring in young couples together, and Drum Society festivals, which are held only in some years to honor ancestors. The Miao New Year is generally celebrated on the first four days of the tenth lunar month. It is the biggest event of the year.

relationship between animism and shamanism in korea

New clothes are put on, feasts are held, antiphonal songs are sung by courting couples, courting games are played, and ceremonies are held to honor household and ancestral spirits.

Each household sacrifices domestic animals and holds a feast. Weddings are often held. Some villages stage bullfights. Sometimes called Venus Day, it is a time when boyfriends and girlfriends are chosen and villages celebrate the occasion with singing, dancing, archery, wrestling, playing on swings, tug of wars, pole climbing and other activities.

The Dong and Miao celebrate the first day of the festival by eating and drinking milky white wine. On the second day girls give baskets of shrimp and fish to the boys they fancy. On the third day everyone meets in the town square to participate in "drum treading" and "reed-pipe" dances. On the night of the third day girls dress up in their most beautiful tribal costumes and go upstairs in their bamboo houses to sing to the boys who are waiting downstairs.

Boys then follow the girls to the gate of the bamboo houses and sing their reply. In this dance one man holds two daggers in his hand.

Korean shamanism

Another man holds a money bell. The man with the daggers tries to stab the man with the money bell, who in turn tries to run away. Miao Sacrifices Manuscripts with shaman texts in in the Yunnan Nationalities Museum Animal sacrifice ceremonies are held by the Miao to help sick relatives and assure that good tlan watch over their children. During the big ceremonies a cow is sacrificed in honor of relatives who died fighting in Laos. Eighty percent of the pigs in an average Miao village end up being consumed at spirit ceremonies.

When the ceremony is over the animals are eaten the spirits only take the souls of the pigs not the meat The remaining 20 percent of the pigs are slaughtered at weddings, funerals and christenings. The guest of honor at a ceremony is usually given the head, which is considered a real delicacy. Proper etiquette requires the guest of honor to suck out the brain.

Garret, National Geographic, January ] Each year the Miao hold four major sacrifices in which a cow or buffalo is offered. All four honor the rice spirit, Yang Coi. The first sacrifice is held before the land is cleared, the second before the seeds are planted, the third when the rice is half-grown and the forth after the harvest. The sacrifice ceremony takes two days. On the first day the sacrificial cow is lead by a shaman, a group of children and six musicians with a gong into a field.

Pieces of the cow's ear are cut out and buried near the borders of the field while a shaman chants a prayer. During the second day a huge bamboo pole is erected in the field and decorated with bamboo cut-outs of cows and people. At the base of the pole is an alter which holds offerings of rice, bananas, and eggs. After a prayer is said a cow is killed with a ceremonial ax.

Village women anxiously collect the spurting blood in bamboo containers which are later placed in the house to ward off evil spirits. While everyone sits around an drinks a rice beer called room they cow is cookedhooves, hide and alland later it is butchered and divided equally among the villagers.

relationship between animism and shamanism in korea

Miao Funerals After death, the Miao believe, the soul divides into three parts: The dead have traditionally been cremated by lighting branches piled on top of the body. Funerals generally last a minimum of three days and are attended by all male kin within the household of the deceased.

The ceremonies are often wailing affairs with mournful songs played by reed pipes to guide the dead on his or her journey to the other world. Cattle are sacrificed and the dead are buried in a place with auspicious feng shui. On the third day after the burial the grave is renovated. On the 13th day after death a ceremony is held for the ancestral soul so it will protect the household.

A final memorial service is held a year after death. Later the deceased spirts may be invoked to help cure illnesses or misfortunes. When an ancestor soul returns to its village it must collect its placenta which has been buried beneath his house. This journey is described in funeral songs in which parallels are drawn between its journey and the journey of the Miao out of China.

Miao Healing Ceremonies Sickness, many ethnic minorities believe, results when evil spirits lure the soul from the body. The Miao believe that the soul can only be taken through the front door and potential evil-spirit carriers such as pregnant women are supposed to enter through the backdoor. Wrist-tying is a custom performed by almost all the ethnic minorities do to keep an individual's 32 to 64 souls depending on the tribe within its body.

The Miao rely on shaman and female herbalist to treat sickness. During a ceremony that offers thanks to the gods for healing a sick baby, a Miao shaman known as tu-ua-neng mix rice and corn mix rice and corn liquor with herbs and folk medicine and offer it to chanting participants.

The shaman then goes into frenzied trances to make deals with evil spirits in the clouds, at the bottom of a pond, in China to exorcize evil spirits from a house. Deals with the spirits are usually sealed with a pig or cow sacrifice from a rich customer and chicken sacrifice from poor one.

Garret, January ] In another kind of healing ceremony a spider is dropped on the sick person's head. The Miao believe that a spider spirit is the most important spirit to have near one's head.

Each night the spider spirit leaves the head when a person sleeps, the Miao say, and it returns when he or she wakes up. Sickness occurs if the spider's spirit leaves the body when a person is awake. To become healthy again the spider's soul is encouraged to return to the body.

A census counted 2, Dong in China. They have their own language, Kam, a Sino-Tibetan tongue, and had no written language until the Communist government gave them one after Amy Tan, National Geographic, May ] The Dong believe in spirits, ghosts and supernatural being such as the ganjin, a gremlin-like creature that has backward feet and lives in the mountains and is blamed for causing illnesses and trouble.

Coffins are carved from trees selected for their future owners when they are born and cut down and carved when they reach old age. Amy Tan wrote that the coffins look like decorative cabinets resting on their sides. Major feasts and festivals are held on holidays and to commemorate births, weddings and funerals and the raising of the central beam in new houses. They usually feature slaughtered pigs and ceremonies with anyu fish paste. Dong Feng Shi Masters Oroqen shaman costume Ceremonies and healing rites are often conducted by village feng shui masters, who have learned their trade from a senior family members and serve as herbalists and village doctors.

Feng shui masters often receive patients in their kitchen may see a half dozen to a dozen people an hour. The herbalist burned paper and floated ash in water with rice grains. He said an incantation counted on his fingers the names of gods who might have answersGod of Kitchen, God of Bridges, God of Injury, The diagnosis came back, The boy had seen the ghost of his great-grandmother. As a remedy the woman should make the great-grandmother a feast of rice wine and anyu, then invite her to eat week before the journey to the world of Yin, the underworld.

A woman whose body hurt all over was inhabited but an ancestor who was unhappy that he never had a tombstone these past years. But his grateful patients gave small gifts, an egg, some rice. He argued with one woman, who tried to give him two kwai, about 2 cents, for a rice fortune that would tell her future.

As fragrant rattan burned under the benches, an assistant gave the men a rope of twisted straw to hold. More incantations were murmured, two bells rang, bowls of wine were stirred, and the 11 men slapped their bouncing knees, as if goading a horse to move forward.

Assistants kept the frenzied rider from falling. Soon more riders mounted their ghost horses. The Chief Feng Shui Master sprayed water from his mouth to light the way. With more incantations he ghost-horse riders could go to deeper levels. At each level they could see more. Stay with us, their parents urged. If the Feng Shui Master provided the wrong incantation, the riders would not return.