All We Know about Korean Shamanism

Korean Shamanism is a religion founded somewhere in present-day South Korea between 50 BC and 30 AD.

It is really difficult to determine the initial history or the origin of this religion due to limited evidences and facts. Some scholars say that this religion is thoroughgoing synthesis of Taoism and Buddhism. While, the original form of Shamanism is quite affected.

The History

Mount Chiri, South Korea

Between 50 BC and 30 AD; the religion originates with a man by the name of Bupu Whasang from present-day Hamyang, South Korea was passing by Mount Chiri who witnessed a strong and tall woman known as Holy Mother who is believed to be a spirit or a goddess-like figure. She became a human being and married Whasang. They both were blessed with eight daughters. All of the daughters were taught about various facts, techniques and the way of life. All of those teachings originated the religion, Shamanism. The daughters were properly taught the ways to connect to the god or energy. The daughters with the family later spreaded the religion by preaching at different places around present-day North Korea and South Korea. (Reference: ‘Numen’ by Mr. Jung Young Lee on Jstor)

Some Basic Facts

Religious symbol
  • Korean Shamanism believes in Amida Buddha.
  • Holy Mother is considered as a spirit or god-like figure who is the mother of Heavenly King.
  • Whasang is one of the most important characters in the religion who is believed to be one of the chosen human by the god to spread the religion.
  • There is official body of sacred texts for the religion, though, the believers practice on their own based on the teachings from their ansestors and some different scriptures.
  • The dates of this religion is unknown or debatable. Hence, there is no actual idea of the origin or how old the religion is. The mentioned time period is just an assumption. It is possible for this religion to be older.
  • Korean shamanism has mostly full-time practitioners that are categorized under five headings, The Mutang (a female Shaman whose main functions include curing and exorcism), The Paksoo (the male equivalent of a Mutang), The Pansoo (who practices both exorcism and divination), The Chikwan (whose work usually involves only geomancy) and The Ilkwan (who is concerned exclusively with divination).
  • The people who practice this religion can be called ‘Shamans’ who believe in spirits and incarnations.
  • Amida Buddha is the god as per the believers.
  • Shaman Shrines, Shaman Temples and Gung are the places where Shamans worship.

Current Demography

A Shaman practicing his religion in South Korea
  • North Korea and South Korea are the two highest contributors of Shamans around the world.
  • North Korea is officially an atheist state where the citizens don’t have freedom to practice any religion. Though, there are people who practice their religion unofficially.
  • According to some estimates in 2005, 16% of the North Koreans practice this religion.
  • There is no estimate of Shamans in South Korea, though it can be said that their population is less than 1%.
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