Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shamanism, Korea's spiritual core

Bowls of fruit are laid out on the altar. There are also bottles of whiskey and a meter-high stack of Marlboro cigarette cartons. With a grin, Korean shaman Tae Eul says his gods like to drink and smoke.

You'd be mistaken if you thought tech-savvy South Koreans only worshiped smartphones and the latest cars -- many believe in an ancient, animistic spirituality. At the center of Korean shamanism is the mudang, or shaman, the medium between the material and spirit world.

"People hear about me through word of mouth," explains Eul, from inside his temple on the slopes of Korea's Mt Samgak. "I try to figure out how the energy of the universe flows through, then the gods show the way." The 38-year-old shaman says that even if he wanted to stop being a mudang, he couldn't -- the spirits control him now. Inside his mountain temple, a robed Eul asks a Korean woman to light candles and bow in front of an altar as he summons the gods of the mountain and sky and calls out to her ancestors.

Amid the crashing of cymbals and the blaring of a horn, Tae Eul stands barefoot on knife blades that somehow do not puncture his skin. He spins in circles waving a sword in one hand and a silk scarf in the other.

After the ceremony is complete, Tae Eul says his client will be fine. The gods have opened a door for her to solve her financial problems, he says, and will make sure she'll spend her money more wisely and have a luckier future.

Shamanism is the indigenous faith of the Korean people and despite centuries of influence from other religions, it still appears in many aspects of modern life there. Tae Eul says that many of his clients are not necessarily believers in shamanism. Some are often devoutly religious in other faiths.

In Korea, religious beliefs are not always mutually exclusive. For example, a mother might pray at a church, then a Buddhist temple, and then visit a mudang all in hope of bringing good luck to her family. It's this intrinsic search for spiritually divined good luck that keeps the nation's 50,000 mudangs in business, says David Mason, author of Sacred Mountains, a book on Korean shamanism.

"He adds: Koreans are still shamanic believers at the core of their psychology and then layers of Buddhism or Confucianism, then Christianity and modern scientific thinking as the outer layers."

1 comment:

A'wena said...

I see no comments or particular interest about this topic. Too bad. I occasionally hear about a distant shaman, but have rarely met one. Most are reclusive. Usually draw by attraction. The ones who are to find us, do.

There is something so full of beauty, grace, practicality, and spiritual empowerment associated with the shamanic way of life. I have become very respectful and grateful and appreciative of those who serve this path. Life rejoices, i sense, when we seek the natural ways.

I was spirit called at 23, but i did not understand the call, did not respond again until a near death experience drew me to a shamanic healer. My suffering was immediately healed and, at the same time, my path revealed. I can not imagine my life any other way now. I am not a shaman. I am "Shaman". I live the sacred circle way. Thank you for sharing this information. I am glad to hear of and about authentic Shamans. I have personally met only one other - the one who saved my life from my soul's illness.

I am glad for all paths and expressions that reveal the wonderful facets of Life/Nature/Spirit/Creation. I feel happy to now know of a Korean Mudang. I make an offering to the spirits on behalf of his service. My winged body dances in flight, my heart sings to the beyond with gratitude. I bow to him, and Zen Mirror, for sharing this post.

Journey well,