Korean shamanism

Korean shamanism or Korean folk religion, also known as Shinism[note 1] (Hangul 신교, Hanja 神敎; Shingyo or Shinkyo, "religion of the spirits/gods")[1][2] or Shindo (Hangul: 신토; Hanja: 神道, "way of the spirits/gods")[3][4], is the polytheistic and animistic ethnic religion of Korea which date back to prehistory[5] and consist in the worship of gods (신 shin) and ancestors (조상 josang).[4] When referring specifically to the shamanic practice (Hangul: 무속, Hanja: 巫俗; musog or musok), the term Muism (Hangul:무교, Hanja: 巫敎; Mugyo or Mukyo, "religion of the mu (shamans)") is used.[6][7]

The general word for "shaman" in Korean language is mu (Hangul: 무, Hanja: 巫).[5] In contemporary terminology, they are called mudang (무당, 巫堂) if female or baksu if male, although other terms are used locally.[6][note 2] The Korean word mu is synonymous of the Chinese word wu 巫, which defines both male and female shamans.[10] The role of the mudang is to act as intermediary between the spirits or gods and humanity in order to solve hitches in the development of life, through the practice of gut rituals.[11]

Central to Korean shamanism is the belief in many different gods, supernatural beings and ancestor worship.[12] The mu are described as chosen persons.[13] (see: Korean mythology)

Muism is related to Chinese Wuism,[14] Japanese Shinto and to the Siberian, Mongolian, and Manchurian shamanic traditions.[14] According to some scholars, the Korean ancestral king and later mountain god Dangun is related to the north Asian sky god Tengri ("Heaven").[15][16] Hereditary shamans, who are typical of South Korea, are called tangol (당골)[8] or tangur-ari, a word considered related to the Siberian word Tengri (gods or spirits).[17] Mudang are similar to Japanese miko and Ryukyuan yuta. Korean shamanism has influenced some Korean new religions, such as Cheondoism and Jeungsanism, and some Christian churches in Korea make use of practices rooted in shamanism.[18]

A mudang performing a gut in Seoul, South Korea.
Korea-Samseonggung 11-07500
Gardens of the Samseonggung, a shrine for the worship of Hwanin, Hwanung and Dangun.


Male mudang
A baksu.

Names of the religion

Besides "Shinism" and "Muism", other terms used to define Korean shamanism include Goshindo (고신도, 古神道; "way of the ancestral gods"), used in the context of the new religious movement of Daejongism,[19] and Pungwoldo (風月道, "way of brightness"), used by the Confucian scholar Choe Chiwon between the 9th and the 10th century.[20] Shamanic associations in modern South Korea use the terms Shindo or Mushindo (무신도 "shamanic way of the spirits") to define their congregations or membership, and musogin ("people who do shamanism") to define the shamans.[4]

Names of the shamans

The Korean word 무 mu is related to the Chinese term 巫 wu,[21] which defines shamans of either sex, and likely also to the Mongolic "Bo" and Tibetan "Bon". Already in records from the Yi dynasty, mudang has a prevalent usage.[22] Mudang itself is explained in relation to Chinese characters, as originally referring to the "hall", 堂 tang, of a shaman.[22] A different etymology, however, explains mudang as stemming directly from the Siberian term for female shamans, utagan or utakan.[22]

Mudang is used mostly, but not exclusively, for female shamans.[22] Male shamans are called by a variety of names, including sana mudang (literally "male mudang") in the Seoul area, or baksu mudang, also shortened baksu ("doctor", "healer"), in the Pyongyang area.[22] According to some scholars, baksu is an ancient authentic designation of male shamans, and locutions like sana mudang or baksu mudang are recent coinages due to the prevalence of female shamans in recent centuries.[9] Baksu may be a Korean adaptation of terms loaned from Siberian languages, such as baksi, balsi or bahsih.[6]

The theory of a indigenous or Siberian origin of Korean shamanic terminology is more reasonable than theories which explain such terminology as originating in Chinese,[6] given that Chinese culture influenced Korea only at a relatively recent stage of Korean history.[6] Likely, when Koreans adopted Chinese characters they filtered their previously oral religious culture through the sieve of Chinese culture.[6]

Types and roles of shamans

Mudang performing a ritual placating the angry spirits of the dead
Mudang Oh Su-bok, mistress of the dodang-gut of Gyeonggi, holding a service to placate the angry spirits of the dead.

Hereditary and initiated mu

Korean shamans may be classified into two categories:[23]

  • sessǔmu or tangol (당골),[8] people who are shamans and have the right to perform rites by family lineage;
  • kangshinmu, people who become shamans through an initiation ceremony. Hereditary shamans were historically concentrated in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, while initiated shamans were found throughout the entire peninsula but were peculiar to the northern half, the contiguous areas of China inhabited by Koreans, and the central regions along the Han River.[24]

The work of the mu is based on the holistic model, which takes into consideration, not only the whole person, but the individual's interaction with his environment, thus both the inner and outer world. The soul is considered the source of life breath, and any physical illness is considered to be inextricably linked with sickness of the soul. Illness of the mind has its cause in soul loss, intrusion or possession by malevolent spirits. The gut rites practised by Korean shamans, have gone through a number of changes since the Silla and Goryeo periods. Even during the Joseon dynasty, which established Korean Confucianism as the state religion, shamanic rites persisted. In the past, such rites included agricultural rites, such as prayers for abundant harvest. With a shift away from agriculture in modern Korea, agricultural rites have largely been lost and modern-day shamans are more focused on the spiritual issues of urban life. But government promotions support the revival of ancient rites.

"Self-loss" and "divine wind" experiences

Jeonsusa Sansingak (Ganghwa) 13-01409
Altar of a Sansingak, "Mountain God shrine". Mountain God shrines are often controlled by Buddhist temples. This one belongs to the Jeongsusa (Jeongsu Temple) of Ganghwa Island.

People who become shamans are believed to be "chosen" by gods or spirits through a spiritual experience known as shinbyeong ("divine or shaman illness"), a form of ecstasy, which entails the possession from a god and a "self-loss". This state is said to manifest in symptoms of physical pain and psychosis. Believers assert that the physical and mental symptoms are not subject to medical treatment, but are healed only when the possessed accepts a full communion with the spirit.[24]

The illness is characterised by a loss of appetite, insomnia, visual and auditory hallucinations. The possessed then undergoes the naerim-gut, a ritual which serves both to heal the sickness and to formally establish the person as a shaman.[25]

Korean shamans also experience shinmyeong ("divine wind"), which is the channelling of a god, during which the shaman speaks prophetically.[26] Shinmyeong is also experienced by entire communities during the gut hold by the shaman, and is a moment of energisation which relieves from social pressure, both physical and mental.[27]

Myths about the origin of the shamans

In all the myths which figuratively explain the role of the shamans, it is implied that they are a media, intermediaries, of gods, spirits or even demons.[28] They are not ordained institutionally, but receive ordination from supernatural beings themselves.[28] Generally, these myths explain that shamans, whom in the most recent history of Korea are regarded as belonging to the lowest class of society (cheonmin 천민), have a forgotten their divine or princely nature,[29] often coming from a blood lineage that may be traced back to the early founders of civilisation.[29] Further features of these myths are symbols of divine presence, such as the holy mountain and the holy tree,[30] and tragic or painful experiences.[31]

The bear is an animal often present in such myths, with parallels in the mythologies of Siberia.[32] In Korean shamanism the seven stars of the Big Dipper, and the associated divine influence, are considered fundamental for childbearing.[33]

Sungmo—the Holy Mother

Korea-Bukhansan shrine-01
A shrine on Mount Bukhan in Seoul, South Korea.

In a collection of myths, the origin of the shamans is linked to a mother goddess associated with a mountain and presented as either the mother or the spiritual daughter of the "Heavenly King". She has different names according to different regions and associated mountains: Sungmo ("Holy Mother"), Daemo ("Great Mother"), Jamo ("Benevolent Mother"), Sinmo ("Divine Mother"), Nogo ("Olden Maiden"), and others.[34] In other myths she is a mortal princess who is later turned into a goddess.

These myths usually tell of a man, Pobu Hwasang, who encountered the "Holy Mother [of the Heavenly King]" on the top of a mountain.[35] The Holy Mother then became a human being and married the man who met her, giving birth to eight girls, the first mudang.[35] According to some scholars, this myth was first elaborated in the Silla period, when Buddhism and influences from China had already penetrated the Korean peninsula.[36]

The myth of the princess is the most popular, and it differs from region to region.[37] In one of the versions, the princess is Ahwang Kongju of the Yao kingdom, located on the Asian mainland.[37] The princess had a strong link with divinity, granting welfare to her people.[37] Her father sent the princess among the people, whom began to worship her for her healing powers.[38] The first mudang were established as her successors.[38] The princess is worshipped with seasonal offerings in Chungcheong.[38] The yellow and red clothes worn by the mudang are regarded as Ahwang Kongju's robes.[38]

In the north of the Korean peninsula the princess is known as Chil Kongju (the "Seventh Princess"), seventh amongst the daughters of the king.[38] The myth tells that she was rejected by her father, who sealed her in a stone coffin and cast it into a pond, but she was rescued by a Dragon King sent by the Heavenly King, and ascended to the western sky becoming the goddess of healing waters.[38] Names of the goddess in other local traditions Pali Kongju and Kongsim.[38] In the tradition of Jeju Island, where there are more male baksu than female mudang, the myth tells of a prince as the ancestor of all shamans.[39]

Dangun—the Sandalwood King

Korea-Jinan-Isanmyo (shine) 3848-07
The Isanmyo, a shrine built in 1925 dedicated to the four holy kings Dangun, Taejo, Sejong and Gojong.

Dangun is traditionally considered to be the son of Hwanin, the "Heavenly King", and founder of the Korean nation.[40] This myth is reputed to be older than that of the mother goddess.[40] Myths similar to that of Dangun are found in Ainu[32] and Siberian cultures.[14]

The myth starts with prince Hwanung ("Heavenly Prince"), son of Hwanin. The prince asked his father to grant him governance over Korea.[41] Hwanin accepted, and Hwanung was sent to Earth bearing three Heavenly Seals and accompanied by three thousand followers.[41] The prince arrived under the holy tree of sandalwood (Sintansu 신단수, 神檀樹)[42] on the holy mountain, where he founded his holy city.[41]

At the time of his reign, Ungnyeo or Ungnye (웅녀, 熊女)[42]—who was a she-bear—and a tiger were living in a cave near the holy city, praying earnestly that their wish to become part of mankind might be fulfilled.[41] Ungnyeo patiently endured weariness and hunger, and after twenty-one days she was transformed into a beautiful woman, while the tiger ran away for it could not tolerate the effort.[41] The woman Ungnyeo was overjoyed, and visiting the sandalwood city she prayed that she might become the mother of a child.[41]

Ungnye's wish was fulfilled, so that she became the queen and gave birth to a prince who was given the royal name of Dangun, the "Sandalwood King".[41] Dangun reigned as the first human king of Korea, giving to his kingdom the name of Joseon, "Land of the Morning Calm".[41]

Dangun was the first shaman, intermediary between mankind and Haneullim, to whom he worshipped and prayed on the behalf of his people.[43] Later in the myth, Dangun becomes the Sansin, the "Mountain God" (metaphorically of civilising growth, prosperity).[44]

Worship of ancestors and gods represent a very important and integral part of Korean folk religion.[24]


Korea-Mudang performing gut-01
A famous mudang holding a five-days long gut in rural South Korea in 2007.

Gut rites

The gut or kut are the rites performed by Korean shamans, involving offerings and sacrifices to gods and ancestors.[45] They are characterised by rhythmic movements, songs, oracles and prayers.[46] These rites are meant to create welfare, promoting commitment between the spirits and mankind.[45] The major categories of rites are the naerim-gut, the dodang-gut and the ssitgim-gut.

Through song and dance, the shaman begs the gods to intervene in the fortune of men. The shaman wears a very colourful costume and normally speaks in ecstasy. During a rite, the shaman changes his or her costume several times. Rituals consist of various phases, called gori.[47]

There are different types of gut, which vary from region to region.[24]


Purity of both the body and the mind is a state that is required for taking part in rituals.[48] Purification is considered necessary for an efficacious communion between living people and ancestral forms.[48] Before any gut is performed, the altar is always purified by fire and water, as part of the first gori of the ritual itself.[48] The colour white, extensively used in rituals, is regarded as a symbol of purity.[48] The purification of the body is performed by burning white paper.[48]


The depiction of a mudang performing at a gut in the painting entitled Munyeo sinmu (무녀신무, 巫女神舞), made by Shin Yunbok in the late Joseon (1805).

Korean shamanism goes back to prehistoric times, pre-dating the introduction of Buddhism and Confucianism, and the influence of Taoism, in Korea.[14] It is similar to Chinese Wuism.[14] Vestiges of temples dedicated to gods and spirits have been found on tops and slopes of many mountains in the peninsula.[14]

Although many Koreans converted to Buddhism when it was introduced to the peninsula in the 4th century, and adopted as the state religion in Silla and Goryeo, it remained a minor religion compared to Korean shamanism.[49]

Since the 15th century, in the state of Joseon, things changed with the adoption of Neo-Confucianism as the state religion.[50] Non-Confucian religions were suppressed and Korean shamanism started to be regarded as a backward relic of the past.[50] In the late 19th and 20th century, a series of circumstances, namely the influence of Christian missionaries and the disruption of society caused by modernisation, contributed to a further weakening of Korean shamanism, ultimately paving the way for a significant growth of Christianity.[51][49]

In the 1890s, when the Joseon dynasty was collapsing, Protestant missionaries gained significant influence through the press, leading a demonisation of Korean traditional religion and even campaigns of violent suppression of local cults.[52] Protestant demonisation would have had a long-lasting influence on all subsequent movements which promoted a complete elimination of Korean shamanism.[52]

During the Japanese rule over Korea, the Japanese tried to incorporate Korean shamanism within, or replace it with, State Shinto.[53][54] For a short period in the 1940s, however, after the defeat of the Japanese, Korean shamanism was identified as the pure Korean national essence.[55]

The situation of Korean shamanism worsened after the division of Korea and the establishment of a northern Socialist government and a southern pro-Christian government.[56] South Korean anti-superstition policies in the 1970s and 80s forbade traditional religion and wiped out all ancestral shrines.[57] These policies were particularly tough under the rule of Park Chung-hee.[54] In North Korea, all shamans and their families were targeted as members of the "hostile class" and were considered to have bad songbun, "tainted blood".[58]

In recent decades, Korean shamanism has experienced a resurgence in South Korea,[59] while in North Korea, according to demographic analyses, approximately 16% of the population practises some form of traditional ethnic religion or shamanism.[60]


Since the early 19th century, a number of movements of revitalisation or innovation of traditional Korean shamanism arose. They are characterised by an organised structure, a codified doctrine, and often a holy scripture. They may be grouped into three major families: ❶ the family of Daejongism or Dangunism, ❷ the Donghak-originated movements (including Cheondoism and Suunism), and ❸ the family of Jeungsanism (including Jeungsando, Daesun Jinrihoe, the now-extinct Bocheonism, and many other sects).[61]


Shamanic temple in Ansan 01
A shamanic shrine in Ansan, South Korea. On the left window it shows a manja, which in Korea symbolises a shamanic facility.

Historically, Korean shamanism and traditional religion relied upon a system of ancestral shrines, sadang (사당), similar to those found in China and Japan. Larger temples are called myo (literally "temple") or gung (literally "palace"). Korean shamanic temples may be distinguished by their use of taegeuk (태극) and manja (만자) symbolism, and some of them have gates similar to Japanese Shinto torii.

Almost all traditional shrines were destroyed in the 19th and 20th century during Christian waves of persecution and the governments' campaigns for "modernisation". In recent years there have been cases of reconstruction of shrines and resumption of rites in some villages.[62]

See also


  1. ^ Superscript H in "Shinism" and "Shindo" means that the terms may be spelled either "Shinism" and "Shindo" or "Sinism" and "Sindo", with no difference.
  2. ^ Other terms include tangol or tangur (당골; used in southern Korea for hereditary shamans) and mansin (used in central Korea, the Seoul area, and northern Korea).[8] The word mudang is mostly associated, though not exclusively, to female shamans due to their prevalence in recent history. This prevalence of women has led to the development of new locutions to refer to male shamans, including sana mudang (literally "male mudang") in the Seoul area or baksu mudang ("healer mudang"), shortened baksu, in the Pyongyang area. It is reasonable to believe that the word baksu is an ancient authentic designation for male shamans.[9]


  1. ^ Korean Cultural Service (1998), p. 33.
  2. ^ Yunesŭk'o Han'guk Wiwŏnhoe (1985), p. 22.
  3. ^ Korean Cultural Service (1992), p. 27.
  4. ^ a b c Kendall (2010), p. x.
  5. ^ a b "무교". Educational Terminology Dictionary (in Korean). 29 June 1995. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lee (1981), p. 4.
  7. ^ Kim (1998).
  8. ^ a b c Kendall (2010), p. ix.
  9. ^ a b Lee (1981), pp. 3–4.
  10. ^ Lee (1981), p. 5.
  11. ^ Choi (2006), p. 21.
  12. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 5, 17–18.
  13. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 5–12.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Lee (1981), p. 21.
  15. ^ Sorensen (1995), pp. 19–20.
  16. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 17–18.
  17. ^ Lee (1981), p. 18.
  18. ^ Kim, Andrew E. (1 July 2000). "Korean Religious Culture and Its Affinity to Christianity: The Rise of Protestant Christianity in South Korea" (PDF). Sociology of Religion. 61 (2). pp. 117–133. doi:10.2307/3712281.
  19. ^ Lee (2010s), p. 12.
  20. ^ Lee (2010s), p. 14.
  21. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 3–5.
  22. ^ a b c d e Lee (1981), p. 3.
  23. ^ Kim (1998), pp. 32–33.
  24. ^ a b c d "About Korean shamanism and shamanistic rituals".
  25. ^ Kim (1998), pp. 42–43.
  26. ^ Kim (2005), pp. 9–10, note 10.
  27. ^ Kim (2005), pp. 53–54.
  28. ^ a b Lee (1981), p. 10.
  29. ^ a b Lee (1981), p. 11.
  30. ^ Lee (1981), p. 19.
  31. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 11–12.
  32. ^ a b Lee (1981), p. 20.
  33. ^ Korean Cultural Service (1998), p. 34.
  34. ^ Lee (2010s), pp. 6–7.
  35. ^ a b Lee (1981), pp. 5–6.
  36. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 5–6, 13.
  37. ^ a b c Lee (1981), p. 6.
  38. ^ a b c d e f g Lee (1981), p. 7.
  39. ^ Lee (1981), p. 12.
  40. ^ a b Lee (1981), p. 13.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h Lee (1981), p. 14.
  42. ^ a b Lee (2010s), pp. 10–13.
  43. ^ Lee (1981), p. 17.
  44. ^ Lee (1981), pp. 16–18.
  45. ^ a b Lee (1981), p. 27.
  46. ^ Lee (1981), p. 40.
  47. ^ Lee (1981), p. 31.
  48. ^ a b c d e Lee (1981), p. 38.
  49. ^ a b Pyong Gap Min (2010). Preserving Ethnicity Through Religion in America: Korean Protestants and Indian Hindus Across Generations. New York University Press. ISBN 081479615X. p. 44.
  50. ^ a b Choi (2006), p. 15.
  51. ^ Kim, Andrew E. (October 2001). "Political Insecurity, Social Chaos, Religious Void and the Rise of Protestantism in Late Nineteenth-Century Korea". Social History. 26 (3). pp. 267–281. JSTOR 4286798.
  52. ^ a b Kendall (2010), pp. 4–7.
  53. ^ Sorensen (1995), pp. 11–22.
  54. ^ a b Choi (2006), p. 17.
  55. ^ Sorensen (1995), p. 23.
  56. ^ Sorensen (1995), pp. 24–27.
  57. ^ Kendall (2010), p. 10.
  58. ^ Demick, Barbara (2009). Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. Spiegel & Grau. ISBN 0385523904.
  59. ^ Choi (2006), pp. 17–19.
  60. ^ "Country Profile: Korea, North (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)". Religious Intelligence UK. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007.
  61. ^ Lee (2010s), passim.
  62. ^ Kwon, Heonik (15 June 2009). "Healing the Wounds of War: New Ancestral Shrines in Korea" (PDF). The Asia-Pacific Journal. 7 (24/4).


Further reading

  • Hogarth, Hyun-key Kim (1998). Kut: Happyness Through Reciprocity. Bibliotheca shamanistica. 7. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 9630575450. ISSN 1218-988X.

Bocheonism (Korean: 보천교 Bocheongyo or Pochonkyo, "religion of the vault of heaven/firmament") was one among more than 100 new religious movements of Korea of the family of religions called Jeungsanism, rooted in Korean shamanism and recognizing Gang Il-sun (Kang Jeungsan) as the incarnation of Sangje, the Supreme God. It was founded by Cha Gyeong-seok (1880-1936) on Ibam Mountain in Daeheung-ri, Ibam-myeon, Jeongeup, Jeollabuk-do, in the year 1911. Today this site is part of Naejangsan National Park.

Cha Gyeong-seok was originally a Donghak (Cheondoist) priest, who converted to Jeungsanism after meeting Gang Il-Sun. After Gang's death, Goh Pan-Lye (Subu, literally “Head Lady,” 1880-1935, although in Kang's circle there was more than one "Subu"), a female disciple of Kang Jeungsan, around September 1911 gathered around her a number of Kang's followers. Cha Gyeong-seok was Goh’s male cousin and became the leader of Goh's branch. Dissatisfied with this situation, Goh separated from Cha in 1919 and established her own new religion. Cha continued under the name Bocheon-gyo, which was adopted in 1921, at a great ritual held in Hamyang County, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Eventually, Bocheonism became the largest Korean new religious movement and possibly the largest religion in Korea, with some six million followers, including leading activists in the Korean independence movements. Bocheonism, however, declined rapidly after Cha's death in 1936, and fragmented into several competing group, as did Goh's organization. The largest among these branches is Jeung San Do.

Cha prophesied that the unification of the world would take place beginning in Korea. Branches of Bocheonism are also credited with encouraging local culture in the Jeongeup region, including the pungmulgut performance tradition.


Cheondoism (spelled Chondoism in North Korean sources) (Korean: Cheondogyo; hanja 天道教; hangul 천도교; literally "Religion of the Heavenly Way") is a 20th-century Korean religious ideology, based on the 19th-century Donghak religious movement founded by Ch'oe Che-u and codified under Son Pyŏng-Hi. Cheondoism has its origins in the peasant rebellions which arose starting in 1812 during the Joseon dynasty.

Cheondoism is essentially Confucian in origin, but incorporates elements of Korean shamanism. It places emphasis on personal cultivation, social welfare in the present world, and rejects any notion of an afterlife. Splinter movements include Suwunism and Bocheonism.


Daejongism (Korean: 대종교, romanized: 大倧敎 Daejonggyo or Taejongkyo, "religion of the Divine Progenitor" or "great ancestral religion") or Dangunism (Korean: 단군교, romanized: 檀君敎 Dangungyo or Tangunkyo, "religion of Dangun") is the name of a number of religious movements within the framework of Korean shamanism, focused on the worship of Dangun (or Tangun). There are around seventeen of these groups, the main one of which was founded in Seoul in 1909 by Na Cheol (나철, 1864-1916).Dangunists believe their mythos to be the authentic Korean native religion, that was already around as Gosindo (古神道, "way of the Ancestral God" or "ancient way of God") at the time of the first Mongol invasions of Korea, and that was revived as "Daejongism" (Daejonggyo) just at the start of the Japanese occupation. The religion was suppressed during the Japanese rule.The religion believes in one God manifested in three persons, whose earthly incarnation was the legendary king Dangun, who ruled over a Korean empire around 5000 years ago. Its main tenet is that the Koreans have their own God and they have no need to worship foreign gods. Its emphasis is on the national identity and unity of the Korean people (known as minjok) and as such has been associated with Korean nationalism (and sometimes ultranationalism).Daejongism does not focus so much on institutions or rituals but rather on central doctrines and associated mythologies, so that it is more definable as a creed or a faith system rather than an organized religion. In the decade of 1910-1920, it had its major growth, reaching an estimated following of 400,000. Its popularity was largely due to its efforts on behalf of Korean independence. Once this aim was achieved, its membership declined, although Daejongism acquired a reputation for its educational and scholarly institutions, which published in particular monumental works about Korea's struggle for independence and Daejongism's contribution to it. A 1995 census found that fewer than 10,000 Koreans claimed to follow the religion., although Korean census figures systematically underestimate the number of followers of new religions, who are often reluctant to indicate their religious affiliation.

From Silence to Sorcery

'From Silence to Sorcery' is an album of contemporary classical music by John Zorn which features three instrumental works touching upon themes of magic and mysticism. "Goetia" is a set of variations for solo violin written in 2002. "Gris-Gris" (2000) is a work for thirteen tuned drums performed by William Winant inspired by the music of Korean Shamanism, Haitian Voodoo and a scene from Howard Hawks’ classic film To Have and Have Not. Scored for clavichord, three muted strings and percussion, 'Shibboleth" (1997) is a tribute to the Jewish poet Paul Celan.

Gasin faith

In Korean shamanism, Gasin (Hangul: 가신; Hanja: 家神, literally House's God) are a branch of deities believed to protect the various objects and rooms of the house, such as jangdok or the kitchen. The Gasin faith is the faith based on worshipping these deities. The worshipping of the Gasin form a central and integral part of Korean shamanism.

Gut (ritual)

Gut, kut or goot (굿) are the rites performed by Korean shamans, involving offerings and sacrifices to gods, spirits and ancestors. They are characterised by rhythmic movements, songs, oracles and prayers. These rites are meant to create welfare, promoting commitment between the spirits and mankind. The major categories of rites are the naerim-gut, the dodang-gut and the ssitgim-gut.

Through song and dance, the shaman begs the gods to intervene in the fortune of men. The shaman wears a very colourful costume and normally speaks in ecstasy. During a rite, the shaman changes his or her costume several times. Rituals consist of various phases, called gori.


Haneullim or Haneulnim (하늘님 "Heavenly King"), also spelled Hanunim (하느님), Hwanin (환인), also called Sangje (상제 "Highest Deity") also known simply as Haneul (하늘 "Heaven") or Cheon (천 "Heaven", in Sino-Korean), or Cheonsin (천신 "God of Heaven"), is the concept of the sky God peculiar to Korean shamanism, and religions rooted in Korean shamanism (including Cheondoism and Jeungsanism). In some of these religions he is called Okhwang Sangje (옥황상제 "Highest Deity the Jade Emperor").

Korean mythology

Korean mythology (in Korean: 한국 신화 (韓國神話)) are the stories passed down by word of mouth over thousands of years on the Korean Peninsula and only written down in historical times. These stories serve as creation myths about the world and origin myths about nature or the social world. Korean myths are often localized and concern specific villages or clans.The earliest Korean myths predate Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist beliefs and are instead rooted in Korean shamanism. Rituals that glorify shamanistic gods are central to the retelling of Korean shamanistic myths.Many ancient Korean shamanistic myths were lost following the rise of Confucianism, which stressed pragmatism and rationalism. Only a fraction of Korean myths believed to have existed in ancient times were ultimately documented by Confucian and Buddhist scholars, many of whom modified the stories to fit within their own belief systems.

Misin tapa undong

The movement to overthrow the worship of gods (Hangul: 미신 타파 운동 misin tapa undong), also described as movement to overthrow superstition, as 미신 misin is also translated after the movement, was a series of waves of demonisation and attempted violent uprooting of Korean shamanism and folk religion that took place in the period between the late 19th century and the 1980s. In modern Korean language, misin has the meaning of "illusory" or "false spiritual beliefs", and implies that gods and ancestors do not exist. This term was adopted from Japanese in the late 19th century, and largely emphasised by Christian missionaries to target Korean indigenous religion.Waves of misin tapa undong started in the 1890s with the rise of influence of Protestant preachers in Korea, and culminated during the New Community Movement of the 20th century, in South Korea. These movements destroyed most of the indigenous cults and shrines of folk religion, which were largely replaced by Christianity.

Mu (shaman)

Mu (무) is an ancient Korean word defining a shaman in the Korean traditional religion. Korean shamans hold rituals called gut (literally "good") for the welfare of the individuals and the society.

In modern Korea different terms are used to define shamans, including mudang (mostly for females), baksu (only for males), tangol (for hereditary shamans) and musogin ("people who do shamanism", used in the context of organised shamanism).

Religion in Korea

Religion in Korea refers the various religious traditions practiced on the Korean peninsula. The oldest indigenous religion of Korea is Korean shamanism, which has been passed down from prehistory to the present. Buddhism was introduced to Korea from China during the Three Kingdoms era in the 4th century, and the religion flourished until the Joseon Dynasty, when Korean Confucianism became the state religion. During the Late Joseon Dynasty, in the 19th century, Christianity began to gain a foothold in Korea. While both Christianity and Buddhism would play important roles in the resistance to the Japanese occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century, only about 4% of Koreans were members of a religious organization in 1940.Since the division of Korea into two sovereign states in 1945—North Korea and South Korea—religious life in the two countries has diverged, shaped by different political structures. Religion in South Korea has been characterized by a rise of Christianity and a revival of Buddhism, though the majority of South Koreans have no religious affiliation. Religion in North Korea is characterized by state atheism in which freedom of religion is nonexistent. Juche ideology, which promotes the North Korean cult of personality, is regarded by experts as the national religion.

Religion in North Korea

There are no known official statistics of religions in North Korea. Officially, North Korea is an atheist state. Based on estimates from the late 1990s and the 2000s, North Korea is mostly irreligious, with the main religions being Korean shamanism and Chondoism. There are small communities of Buddhists and Christians. Chondoism is represented in politics by the Party of the Young Friends of the Heavenly Way, and is regarded by the government as Korea's "national religion" because of its identity as a minjung (popular) and "revolutionary anti-imperialist" movement.

Sanjo (music)

Sanjo, literally meaning 'scattered melodies,' is a style of traditional Korean music, involving an instrumental solo accompanied by drumming on the janggu, an hourglass-shaped drum. The art of sanjo is a real crystallization of traditional Korean melody and rhythm which may have been handed down by rote generation after generation.

The drummer who beats the janggu also makes chuimsae (exclamations) in order to please the audience.

The audience can also express their excited feeling with chuimsae while listening to sanjo. A big chuimsae indicates a good performance, so the musician can make a better performance. Like pansori, chuimsae plays an important role in sanjo. Without chuimsae, the music is meaningless. Chuimsae connects musician and audience during a sanjo performance. Almost every Korean traditional musical instrument is used in sanjo: gayageum, geomungo, daegeum, haegeum, piri, taepyeongso, ajaeng, danso.

Sanjo was said to be developed around 1890 by Kim Chang-jo (1865–1920) for the gayageum. Thereafter, it was expanded to other traditional Korean instruments, including the geomungo and Korean flutes. Its early development was informed by other genres of traditional music, including pansori, sinawi, and the performances of Korean shamanism.

Daegeum sanjo, played on the daegeum (a traditional Korean transverse flute) was developed in the 1920s. It has since become one of the most popular forms of sanjo. Its leading practitioner today is Yi Saenggang.

Sanjo is traditionally identified as a form of minsogak, or folk music.


Sanshin or sansin (Hangul: 산신; Hanja: 山神) are local mountain gods in Korean shamanism. They are often paired with tigers. In Korea, every Buddhist temple has a dedicated shrine called a sanshingak (Hangul: 산신각; Hanja: 山神閣) to the local sanshin, who is typically represented as an elder male figure surrounded by tigers.The Japanese equivalent is the Yama-no-Kami (山の神; also pronounced as yamagami).


Sinawi, sometimes spelled shinawi, is a traditional form of Korean music. It is performed improvisationally by a musical ensemble, and traditionally accompanies the rites of Korean shamanism. The style first emerged in the Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces, but is now widespread. The traditional sinawi ensemble followed the principle of sam-hyeon-yuk-gak (三絃六角), with two flutes, a haegeum, a daegeum, a janggu hourglass-drum, and a large buk drum. However, today other traditional Korean instruments such as the gayageum and geomungo are also often included.


Sinbyeong or shinbyong, also called "self-loss", is the possession from a god that a chosen mu (shaman) goes through in the Korean shamanic tradition. It is said to be accompanied by physical pain and psychosis. Believers would assert that the physical and mental symptoms are not subject to medical treatment, but may only be cured through acceptance of and full communion with the spirit.The illness is characterized by a loss of appetite, insomnia, visual and auditory hallucinations. A ritual called a naerim-gut cures this illness, which also serves to induct the new shaman-priest.


Sungmo (崇母, "Holy Mother"), also called Daemo ("Great Mother"), Jamo ("Benevolent Mother"), Sinmo ("Divine Mother"), Nogo ("Ancient Lady"), Chungkyun Moju ("Empress Mother of the Rightful View") and by other names, is a mother goddess in Korean shamanism. She is regarded as the mother or daughter of the Heavenly King and, in some myths, as the mother of all shamans. In other myths, the shamans are rather explained as descendants of Dangun.


Suunism (Hangul: 수운교; Hanja: 水雲敎; RR: Suungyo) is one of the Korean ethnic religions derived from Sinism. It is a splinter from Cheondoism that in turn originated as an organised formation of the Donghak movement. "Suwun" was another name used by Choe Je-u. Suwunists claim to have transmitted a purer version of his teaching.The religion's headquarters are located in Daejeon, where Suwun himself moved in 1929 after having preached in Seoul since 1923. The religion focuses on the worship of Okhwangsangje Hanulim (the "Great Jade Emperor of Heaven"), in order to make the earth a paradise through the reconnection to the One. An important symbol of the faith is Gungeul ("Archer Bird"). The doctrine includes belief in the Maitreya.


Taegeuk (Hangul: 태극; Hanja: 太極, Korean pronunciation: [tʰɛgɯk̚]) is a traditional Korean symbol. The word is derived from the Chinese term Taiji (old spelling "Taichi"), meaning "supreme ultimate".

The symbol was chosen for the design of the national flag in the 1880s, known as taegeukgi (Hangul: 태극기, with gi meaning "flag"). The Taegeuk is commonly associated with Korean tradition and represents balance in the universe: the red half represents positive cosmic forces, and the blue half represents the opposing negative cosmic forces. It is used in Korean Shamanism,

Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism.

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