Seventh Annual Ansan Seonghwang-gut and Dance Festival
A grand Korean folk religious rite
and shaman dances for good luck
When one is asked what the traditional Korean religions are, many will answer, “Yu-Bul-Do,” meaning “Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.” This is wrong. The traditional Korean religion is Mugyo (巫敎) which some translate “Shamanism,” but which properly means Saeng Saeng (生生) meaning “Benevolence for All” vis-a-vis Sang Saeng (相生) or “Mutual Benefit.”
Confucianism and Taoism came from China and so did Buddhism which originated in Pakistan. Christian religion came later. Mugyo was developed in ancient Korea which then included a part of Siberia as well as Manchurian region of China.
The representative religious rite of Mugyo is Gut and there are many different types of Gut, of which Seonghwang (Village Deity) Gut is the largest as it is not for the benefit of any specific person but for the entire region that is protected by the Village Deity enshrined in Seonghwang-dang (Shrine for the Village Deity).
A grand traditional Korean folk religious rite and shaman dance art festival is scheduled on Friday Oct. 18, 2013 at the Ansan Art Center in Ansan City some 26 miles south of Seoul. Officially named the Seventh Annual Ansan Seonghwang-gut and Dance Festival, the rare traditional Korean shamanistic performing art festival is hosted by the Asian Traditional Seonghwang-gut Research Foundation (ATSRF). Korean society leaders and foreign dignitaries (eg ambassadors and spouses) are invited to attend the rare Korean folk religious rite and dance.
Supported by the Ansan Culture Institute, the large-scale traditional Korean shaman music-dance festival, according to Chairperson Lee Eun-sook of the ATSRF, will feature various Korean folk religious dances and narrative songs performed by more than a dozen professional Korean folk musicians and shaman practitioners of both genders.
Chairperson Lee expects that the Festival will be attended by over 1,000 local government and society leaders as well as the believers in traditional Korean folk religion.
In a congratulatory message on the rite, Governor Kim Moon-soo of the Gyeonggi-do Province congratulated Chairperson Lee of ATSRF on her hosting of the traditional Korean folk religious rite for the benefit of the 760,000 citizens of the Ansan City through restoration of the folk religious culture that has been facing the danger of extinction. Then he expressed hopes that the annual Ansan Seonghwang-gut Dance Festival will contribute to the promotion of harmony and unity of the different strata and ages of the Ansan citizens.
Mayor Kim Chul-min of the Ansan City said that the Festival provided a good occasion for the citizens of the Ansan City and visitors from all parts of Korea to enjoy the traditional Korean local folk religious rites dating back to the ancient times. He said that K-POP and other popular performing artists are introducing Korea widely through Hallyu Korean War and that it is important to properly preserve and develop the traditional Korean folk religion and introduce it wide to the outside world.
Director Kim Bong-shik of the Ansan City Cultural Center expressed his congratulations on the opening of the Seventh Ansan Seonghwang-gut Rite and the traditional Korean Mugyo rites were observed at the Court hosted by the Royalties.
Chairman Jeon Jun-Ho of the Ansan City Council said that from thousands of years ago the Korean people observed the Seonghwang-gut Rite for the good luck and development of the community and that because the Ansan City was located near the West Sea there were many traditional Korean folk religious rites held for the benefit of farmers and fishermen, including Jaenmeori Seonghwang-gut, Gunjabong Seonghwang-je and Dunbae Nori rite.
Repertoire of the Festival normally 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last year at the 6th Ansan Seonghwang- Gut and Dance Festival many ambassadors and other senior diplomats attended the opening ceremony with their spouses arranged by The Korea Post.
This year, even a larger of number of members of the Diplomatic Corps are expected to attend due to the continuously rising popularity of the traditional Korean folk religious rites. k