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Shamanism print

Various shamanistic practices are well-developed in Korea. Korean shamanism has deep roots in folk beliefs from ancient times. It is closely related to ancient rites offered to the gods of heaven and has, over time, become infused with Buddhist tradition.

In ancient times these heavenly rites doubled as agricultural rites in prayers for abundant harvests. Shamanism thrived during the time of the Three Kingdoms Period (B.C. 57-A.D. 676) and the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), whereas it was oppressed during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and the Japanese Colonial Period (1910-1945). The Joseon Dynasty's Confucian society did not allow the practice of shamanism to flourish, but it was tolerated. All folk religions were forbidden under the Japanese Colonial Period. Post-liberation Korean shamanism was further weakened over time as a result of modernization and westernization. However, even with the development of a technological society, shamanism still influences parts of Korean life.

Korean shamanism focuses on solving the problems of daily life through communication between humans and the spiritual world, with shamans acting as liaisons. Shamanistic rituals and rites (referred to as ‘gut’ in Korean) still hold much significance and are still widely observed today.
The 'gut' is a rite in which the shaman offers a sacrifice to the spirits and, through singing and dancing, begs them to intercede in the fortunes of the world. The shaman wears a colorful ritual costume, speaks while in a trance as a spiritual oracle, and sings and dances to the accompaniment of music.
There are three characters that are necessary to perform the 'gut': those from the spirit world, believers praying to those spirits, and the shaman mediating between the spirits and the believers. Specifics of the 'gut' vary depending on the ‘gut’s’ region of origin and the expressed purpose of the ‘gut,’ but the most representative shamanistic rites are the 'byeolsin gut,' which asks the gods for peace and an abundant harvest, the 'byeong gut,' for the recovery of sick family members, and the 'nara gut,' which asks the gods to meet the needs of the king. There is also the 'village gut' that brings together local townspeople to perform ancestral rites ceremonies; festivals are also held to bring regions together. Gangneung is one area that still holds the 'Gangneung Dano Gut' every May 5th of the Lunar Calendar.

Shamanism in today's society
Remnants of shamanism are still live and well in modern society. The 'mudang' (a shaman, usually female), 'jeomjip' (fortune telling establishments), 'gut,' and 'saju cafes' (fortunetelling cafes) all are parts of modern society that point to Korea’s traditional shamanistic culture. The overall strength of shamanism has decreased partially due to the spread of Christianity in Korea, but many people still visit a fortuneteller before making a big decision or when faced with a difficult situation. Employment, examinations, and wedding matters are all common reasons for people to see fortunetellers. It is said that fortunetellers can tell both the positive and negative aspect of a person’s future and give good counsel. Some fortunetelling establishments have become so well known for their accurate predictions that they are often frequented by celebrities. The Miari area is home to many fortunetelling establishments in Seongbuk-gu. Recently, many young people have been going to 'saju cafés' to have their fortunes read while enjoying a cup of coffee. All you need to do is tell the fortuneteller your time and date of birth to start your reading. Sinchon, Apgujeong, and E-dae Ap are hot spots for 'saju cafes.'
The Korean people still consider traditional shamanism important and have designated it an official ‘important intangible treasure.’ Many regions hold festivals to carry on this important tradition, including Gyeongsangbuk-do Province's 'Hahoe Byeolsingut Tallori' (traditional masked-dance drama), which asks the gods of the village for peace and a plentiful harvest. The port city of Busan holds the 'Donghaean Byeolsin Gut' and the province of Gyeongsangnam-do holds the 'Namhaean Byeolsin Gut' to pray that fishermen bring in a bountiful catch. These festivals have all been named ‘important intangible treasure’ as they help preserve the culture of shamanism.

Related links
Hahoe Mask Dance Drama Performance (Hahoe Byeolsingut Exorcism) Gangneung Danoje Festival

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