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Shamanism in Korea

     The term 'shamanism' is derived for a Tungus (Northeast Asian) language term for spirit mediums who practice healing
rituals to help individuals and the human community live in harmony with each other, nature, and ancestors, and all the spirit powers in heaven, earth, and underworld. The term has become generalized to refer to similar patterns of religious healing and trance ritual around the world. In Korean language, a spirit medium healer is termed 'mudang' or 'mansin'. Often they are
simply referred to in direct address with a term of respect for a teacher or elder. Many Korean shamans also blend their
practice with Buddhism; they may be referred to as 'bosal nim', which is a term for a Buddhist devotee. Most Korean
shamans are women. The cultural pattern of beliefs, values, and activities closely connected with the work of the mansin is termed 'musok', meaning 'shaman culture'. The wider cultural context of grass-roots animistic worldview and traditions that includes musok is termed 'minsok'. Within musok and minsok there are many kinds of healers, helpers, diviners and artists
along wtih the daily lifeways connected to animism and shamanism. Shamanism is probably the oldest indigenous spiritual
system of holistic helping in Korea.
     In this section of the gallery, you will see images relating to the wider context of minsok, such as sacred mountains and mountain spirits, a Neolithic burial dolmen, agricultural ritual percussion, rural village scenes, and indications of shamanic-Buddhist blending. You will also see images specific to musok, including: (1) a ritual to honor the principal guiding spirit (Taegam) of a shaman, and (2) a ritual to resolve suffering and misfortune in three families by conducting two spirit marriages with trance dancing and communication of messages between relevant ghosts and living loved ones. In the second ritual, one marriage is between a living man and his deceased fiancee and the other is between his deceased brother and a deceased woman from another family. The ghosts were experiencing distress in the afterlife and this was affecting their living family members. The spirit marriages were intended to resolve this problem.