Shamanism as an auspicious guardian

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Comments (7)

Ian Stehbens on May 6, 2009

Do you have some story to go with this interesting one, Stephan?


stephan Seo on May 10, 2009

LacramitzZe,Thank you so much for your dropping by.I'm glad you like it.

Greetings, Stephan Seoul South Korea

stephan Seo on May 10, 2009

Dear Ian,

I'm so sorry for missing your visit.Every day...Please forgive my rudeness for taking so long to reply. Yes! Just bear with me one or two days! I will check it.I little dreamed that it was so hard to translate English as the shamanist custom.

Greeeeeeeeetings,Stephan from my country home

AnnaJolanta 2 on May 12, 2009

Beautiful picture!!!

stephan Seo on May 17, 2009

Dear Ian and Anna,

In order to understand the religion and shamanism in Korea~

As one lives in or visits Korea, there are many quirky cultural encounters that one will experience. Some of the oddities easily surpass those of most Third World nations in their exotic and odd nature. These quirks and oddities are striking all the more in Korea because of the remarkable technological development it otherwise displays.

With a naturally superstitious culture , Korea is in a sense a very religious'' society. Koreans easily refer to Hanu-nim,'' meaning ``God'' as a general term for the Supreme Being, in their daily lives without any particular denominational reference.

Korean belief in God is diffused with shamanism , Korean most native religion, as much as Christianity and Buddhism. It is fair to say that Korea's religious distribution is roughly about one-third shamanism, one-third Christianity, and one-third Buddhism.

Within the Christian church, Catholicism is said to be the fastest growing branch in Korea. Oddly, they call Protestants Christians'' and CatholicsCatholics.''

As well you know that visitors are impressed by the numerous church steeples with illuminated crosses at night, virtually one on every block in Korea ― especially compared to its neighbor, Japan, where one can hardly find a church.

Ian, Did you have seen it ? That common are scenes of people carrying the Bible and street vendors reading it fervently while manning their wares. Famous evangelists, such as Billy Graham, pack their revivals with great Korean multitudes flocking to them. Representing the ubiquitous nature of religion, a few churches and Buddhist temples in Korea are situated above restaurants or even drinking establishments.

The fervency of their religion reaches its peak during November when high school students take their all-important college entrance exam. In the days prior to the exam, one can see parents and grandparents praying unceasingly for a good score for their children. In general, Koreans pray fervently to ``Hanu-nim'' whenever the need arises, and it seems to matter little to which specific deity the reference is made.

For a nation as advanced in science and technology as Korea, the extent to which shamanistic tradition, indistinguishable from established religions, pervades is striking.

Shamanism is a primitive religion of the natives common in tribal societies. Eskimos, African natives, and American Indians, for example, have practiced shamanism more visibly and extensively than most, until their Christian or Islamic conversion overtakes them. As an ostensibly technologically advanced nation, Korea's mind is deeply infused with the shamanistic imagination.

Shamanism is a traditional belief in an idea that gods are imbedded in all aspects of life and nature. There is a god of trees, a god of good fortune, a god of health and illness, a god of marriage, a god of employment, and so on, almost infinitely as the need arises.

When a person encounters a problem, say, with health or employment, he hires a shaman, a professional practitioner of this craft who is largely self-ordained upon his or her awakening on the calling. The shaman, who is thus engaged to appease the health-god, or the employment-god, performs the ritual and helps the client with the problem. Even among the more educated segments of Korea, and many who belong to other established religions, this belief in shamanism runs deep and wide as a subconscious reliance on the supernatural.

Naturally, one is often startled to observe in Korea the casualness with which religious denominations are mixed. For example, Catholic Koreans mix their religious practices with those of shamanism in ancestor worship, as they pay homage to their ancestors' graves on Chusok holiday, Korea's largest holiday.

One of the presidential candidates recently was accused of mixing his religious beliefs because he claimed to be Catholic yet was observed to be comfortably participating in certain Buddhist rituals at a temple.

Religious passions notwithstanding, denominational differences rarely matter in matrimonial considerations because of this diffusion of religious practices and rituals. Even the Catholic Church unofficially sanctions the acceptability of shamanistic ancestor worship.

This tendency of taking all different religious ― or quasi-religious ― practices into a holistic oneness is quite postmodern, most popular in America. But in Korea, postmodernism is still years or even decades away, and its arrival at modernism is a far more urgent task. To observant foreigners, it is somewhat strange to see such religious practices ― Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, shamanist, whatever ― taken so casually as to become somewhat meaningless that one is a Catholic, a Protestant, a Buddhist, or a shamanist.

Consider the simple fact that Christianity came to Japan years before Korea, perhaps by a couple of centuries. Today, less than one percent of Japanese people are Christian, compared to over 35 percent of Koreans.

What accounts for Korea's ready conversion to Christianity at a rate fantastically greater than that of Japan? Aside from Japan's own tendency to be xenophobic, I believe it is in the deep nature of the Korean character, which beseeches a Heavenly edict to explain things that happen, mostly evil, to Korea and Koreans that cannot be explained by normal human rationality. Indeed, Korea's history is so full of grief and grievance that something supernatural is needed to console the Korean soul.

Koreans are soulful people, by and large, and rational-scientific explanations for social phenomena, for example, in power, class, resources, laws, human nature, and so forth, do not hold much appeal to them. Along with their propensity of the superstitious, it is one small step from superstition to established religions for the consolation of their native souls. Christianity, together with Shamanism, performs this function.

It is for this reason that, although the history of Christianity in Korea is over two centuries old, very little in public rituals can properly be called ``Christian'' in nature. Government inaugurations, weddings and burials, remembrance of the ancestors, celebration of birthdays, among other recurring rituals, have very little or none of the Christian flavor.

In these repeated rituals, Koreans are more vaguely Confucian or shamanistic than Christian or even Buddhist.

Even in the normal run of daily life, the role and influence of established religions in Korea seem almost negligible. It is indeed surprising, given the number of Christians in Korea, so little of anything in Korea has a Christian flavor.

It is more surprising that this is so when we see the brightly lit crosses on church steeples all over the country.

"These birds were closely associated with the sympathetic shamanism.A flock of birds are also one of the sacred mythical and auspicious guardians which Joseon Dynasty(1392-1910) people believed would help ward off disasters.The custom can be traced back to the feudal period. Some old customs still obtain in this part of the country as my country home.(:-D)

Greetings,Stephan from Shamanism country to faith country

AnnaJolanta 2 on May 19, 2009

Many thanks Stephan for very interesting description of the men's spiritual life in Your country! I greet, Anna

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Photo taken in Nusan-ri, Yangchon-eup, Gimpo-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

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  • Uploaded on April 29, 2009
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    by stephan Seo