Shamanism is a spiritual shuttle between three realms of existence: Heaven, Mankind and Earth

Being a medium who can communicate with souls isn’t the same as one who can interact with them. It’s the difference between listening in on a conversation and changing the subject

S. Kelley Harrell, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism

 

Korean Shamanism, also known as Muism or Sinism is the ethnic religion of Korea and Koreans. Although used synonymously, the two terms are not identical: Jung Young Lee describes Muism as a form of Sinism – the shamanic tradition within the religion. Other names for the religion are Shindo, Shindoism, Gosindo and Pungwoldo. It has approximately 5-15 million followers.

In contemporary Korean language, the shaman-priest or mu is known as a mudang if female, or baksu if male. Korean mu “shaman” is synonymous with Chinese wu, which defines priests both male and female. The role of the mudang is to act as intermediary between the spirits or gods, and the human plain, through gut (rituals), seeking to resolve problems in the patterns of development of human life.

Central to the faith is the belief in Haneullim or Hwanin, meaning “source of all being”, and of all gods of nature, the utmost god or the supreme mind. The mu are mythically described as descendants of the “Heavenly King”, son of the “Holy Mother [of the Heavenly King]”, with investiture often passed down through female princely lineage. However, other myths link the heritage of the traditional faith to Dangun, male son of the Heavenly King and initiator of the Korean nation.

Korean Muism has similarities with Chinese Wuism, Japanese Shinto, Ainu religion and with the Siberian and Manchurian religious traditions. In some provinces of Korea the shaman is still called dangul dangul-ari. The mudang is similar to the Japanese miko and the Ryukyuan yuta. Muism has exerted an influence on some Korean new religions, such as Cheondoism and Jeung San Do. According to various sociological studies, many Christian churches in Korea make use of practices rooted in shamanism.

Korean Muist temples are generically called myo (meaning “temple”) or gung (“palace”, a complex of multiple temples). Historically, the Korean traditional religion also included the institutional worship of the originating gods of a kinship in ancestral temples, the sadang, similarly to the religions of other East Asian cultures. Muist temples are distinguished by the use of the taegeuk symbol on their doorways, and many of them have gates similar to Shinto torii.

The worship of kinship gods and their shrines have been nearly entirely obliterated due to the political disarray of the 20th century, with only few, mostly unused, shrines still surviving. Recently there have been cases of reconstruction of shrines and reactivation of traditional rites in some villages. Jeju Island is a center of Muism.

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