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Shamanism in Korea - Essay Example

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The study of Shamanism gives an extremely interesting understanding of indigenous folk religions of Northeast Asia. Shamanism deals with a wide range of practices and beliefs through which their practitioners (shamans) communicate with the spiritual world. Ordinary individuals can only become shamans when they receive their calling. They tread supernatural dimensions and specialize in spiritual, mental and physical healing with the help of spirits (San-Hung A3). The present paper portrays an overview of shamanism in Korea. Korean shamanism is still an active practice and is deeply rooted in the people's ethnic consciousness (Stutley 23). It not only coexisted with other major religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, but also influenced them. The rituals performed by Korean shamans range from pig offerings for placating the gods, to walking barefoot on sharp knives to intimidate evil spirits (San-Hung A3). Shamanism in Korea has a rich history. It has affected the political, cultural and religious aspects of the country and survived years of suppression by foreign and local powers. This paper attempts to provide a brief overview of Korean shamanism, detailing its origins, concepts of god, rituals, songs, materialistic beliefs, and healing therapies. It also discusses the suppressions experienced by shamanism, and its post-modern revival. This would provide a good understanding of the Korean folk religion that is witnessing a growing interest from all quarters of the world. Korean Shamanism Overview Shamanism in Korea is known as sin'gyo, which means 'the religion of the gods'. It includes a sun and a bear cult apart from ancestor worship, suggesting a link between Korean shamanism and Siberian, Manchurian and Central Asian cultures. Prior to the advent of the Choson Dynasty, Korean shamans had a high social status and some were even rulers. For instance, the second ruler of the Sila Dynasty, Namhae, was a shaman. The high social standing and privileges enjoyed by shamans were lost since the arrival of other religions in South Korea. Yet, there were about 100,000 shamans in Korea in 1973. Until Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910, most shamans retained their functions at national sacrificial and royal rites. The Japanese destroyed most of the native religion by arresting shamans and raiding sacrificial ceremonies and offerings. Once Korea was liberated from Japan in 1945, shamans and their followers were persecuted by hostile Christians, who called them "devotees of the devil" (Stutley 23). Shamanism in Communist North Korea had to go underground due to its intolerance towards the folk religion. Shamanism in Korea is based on native ancient beliefs and traditions. Most shamans are women who found their calling after realizing they could serve as mediators between the spirit world and the human world, after surviving a critical sickness. According to their beliefs, spirits of ancestors, animals, trees and even non-living things exist in the air and interact with people, affecting their lives and fortunes (San-Hung A3). The Origin of Korean Shamanism The origin of Korean shamanism is not certain and is difficult to determine (Lee 135). This is because of the complexity of the religion as its practices diversified in different provinces, making it difficult to trace the source of its origin. Unsuccessful attempts were made during the end of the Yi Dynasty to unify the various practices of shamanism into one system (Lee I 135). While the term Mu was used to refer to shamans prior to the Yi Dynasty, ...Show more
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Shamanism in Korea.
The study of Shamanism gives an extremely interesting understanding of indigenous folk religions of Northeast Asia. Shamanism deals with a wide range of practices and beliefs through which their practitioners (shamans) communicate with the spiritual world…
Shamanism in Korea
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