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Korea’s largest folk religious (shaman) music, dance at Ansan Culture CenterOver 1,000 guests to attend 2015 Seonghwang gut rite

The 9th Ansan Seonghwang Folk Religious Rite and Dance Festival is scheduled to be opened at the Dalmaji Theater of the Ansan Cultural Center in Anshan City at 2p.m. on Oct. 23, 2015 co-hosted by President Lee Eun-sook of the Asia Traditional Seonghwang Gut Rite Research Institute and the House of Nature.

▲Ansan Culture Center where the Seonghwangdang Gut Rite will take place.

President Lee was recently inaugurated as new publisher of the Hankuk Minsok Sinmun (Korean Folk Religious Newspaper) at the Crown Hotel in Seoul which is distributed to 300,000 members of the Federation of Korean Folk Religious Organizations.

Ambassadors and spouses are invited to attend the large variety of Gut rites to see the genuine traditional Korean folk religious rites with songs and dances.

Repertoire of the Festival consists of a number of different Gut rituals, namely the Dodang Salpuri (Village Shrine Exorcism), Bonhyangsan-geori (rite for Home Village Deities), Chunaeng-jeon (Spring Nightingale Rite), Seonghwang-geori (Village Deity Rite), Jeseok-geori (rite for Korean Progenitor King Dangun), Gyobang Sword Dance, Dodang-sori (song), and Sinjang Daegam-geori (rite for Zodiac Animal Generals and Excellencies), and finally the main Seonghwang-geori (Local Deity Rite).

▲Finale of the Seonghwang Gut rite.

The different parts (exorcist rites) of the Festival are designed to appease the deities of the different localities as seen in the foregoing list of gut rites with music and dance as well as all types of folk religious foods and beverages, including a wide variety of rice cakes and cookies, fruits, meat and fish.
Standing out from them is the ritual offering of a whole pig on the right hand side of the wide spread of the food and beverage which all but cover the entire length of the stage that is about 20 meters long.
They are offered to the deities in hopes of receiving from them good health and good luck for the entire city and the country as well as the individual attendees at the Festival.

▲Guests watching Seonghwangdang Gut rite.

At the Dodang Salpuri (Village Shrine Exorcism), Chairperson Lee presents an exorcist dance clad in all-white Hanbok costume with a long white cloth. The dance derives from Namdo-gut (Southern Exorcist Rite) of Korea.
The Bonhyangsan-geori (rite for Home Village Deities) is performed by traditional Korean folk religious dancer Ms. Song Ji-soo. The dance is designed to appease the deities of the birthplaces of one’s parents and oneself.
The Chunaeng-jeon (Spring Nightingale Rite) is presented jointly by Koh Jae-hyun, Kim Woo-hyang, Song Hye-ran and Lee Eun-jeong. The ritual was originally presented in celebration of the 40th birthday of Queen Sun Won-suk on orders of Crown Prince Hyomyeong of King Sunjo of the Joseon Dynasty in 1828. The dance is presented as inspired by the chirping nightingale on a sunny spring day.

▲Two Korean folk religion practioners present a Korean folk religious dance.

▲Director Lee Eun-sook of the House of Nature presents a traditional Korean shaman dance.

Jeseok-geori (rite for Korean Progenitor King Dangun) consists of an exorcist dance which very much resembles Bara Dance of Buddhism, in which the performer wears a white conical hat. The Sesok-geori dance is in supplication for pregnancy and safe child birth. It derives from the birth of three sons by the sole daughter of a wealthy man as a result of relationship with a Buddhist monk.

Gyobang Sword Dance is presented jointly by four dancers, namely Koh Jae-hyun, Kim Woo-hyang, Song Hye-ran and Lee Eun-jeong. Four dancers present their performance, each wielding a pair of short swords, one in each hand. Originally, Gyobang Sword Dance derives from an old tale where Silla warrior Hwang Chang-ryang killed the King of his enemy country, Baekje, while dancing the sword dance. However, the dance has then undergone changes and become a court dance. The dance can be performed by two persons, four, six and eight--in even number.

▲A Budhist dance presented by Director Lee.

▲Director Lee (center) plays with a ‘Mountain Deity’ (in white robe) and another shaman dancer.

Sinjang Daegam-geori (rite for Zodiac Animal Generals and Excellencies) is presented by Chairperson Lee Eun-sook. In this dance, the performer lets the guests pick one of the five flags of the General Deities and determines the luck of the person picking the flag. The performer also summons the spirit of the Excellency Deities and asks them to give good luck and good health to the person who has picked the flag.
Finally, the main Seonghwang-geori (Local Deity Rite) is presented by Chairperson Lee Eun-sook together with the other shaman performers and dancers. It is for the good luck and health of the people in the Ansan City where there are shrines for the local Mountain Guardian Deities. In the past, the Ansan Seonghwang-geori was presented also for the bumper crop for the farmers and good catch for the fishermen because the area, adjacent to the West Sea, was noted for good farming and fishing. One local folk religious shrine (Seonghwang-dang) used to stand at the Nojeokbong-san Mountain shrouded with castor aralia and pine trees that are several hundred years old and another one near the Siheung City (Siheung City Cultural Legacy No. 14) surrounded by zelkova trees that are equally several hundred years old. The Seonghwang-gut used to be held at such shrines in the past.
Korean shamanism today, known as Mugyo, encompasses a variety of indigenous religious beliefs and practices of the Korean people in both parts of the Korean peninsula.

Chairperson Lee Eun-sook of the Asian Traditional Seonghwang-gut Research Foundation, who performs shaman practices, was born in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, and lived with her grandmother who provided folk religious services to help ailing persons with prayers.
When she was a girls’ middle school student, she lost her senses all of a sudden and fell into the state of coma. In her dream in that state, she found herself following after an old man in a field covered with all kinds of beautiful flowers. The old man told her not to follow him and that was when she awoke from the dream. When she awoke, she found herself in the infirmary of the school. She has had a similar dream on many other occasions since then.
She was ordained a shaman after an invocatory gut rite on March 10, 2003, as a spiritualistic medium between the realm of deity and the human world.

▲A Seonghwang Gut in progress.

Once she becomes a shaman, she cannot marry anyone because she is married to the Deity and maintains her chastity lest she should incur the curse of Deity for her loss of purity.
Then she established the House of Nature in Ansan and started her shamanistic practices, which included Saju (fate-and fortune- telling), physiognomy, Sinsu (predicting one’s personal fortune), Gunghap (marital compatibility and harmony), Byeongjeom (divination on illness), Sinjeom (divine fortune-telling) and various other prophesying.
She has performed various gut rites on a total of over 20 different occasions, including the Ansan Seonghwang-gut rites.
In 2010 she appeared at a KBSTV program on traditional Korean folk religion, and has won many awards, which included a certificate of achievement from the Daehan Kyungsin (Korea Deity-worshiping) Federation and the Governor of the Pyongan-buk-do Province (North Korea) appointed by the Republic of Korea.
The 8th Ansan Seonghwang Gut Korean Folk Religious Rite and Dance Festival was held at the Ansan Culture & Art Center in the Ansan City last year where some 1,000 Korean and international guests are known to have attended.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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