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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Shaman's initiation ritual in Ohmynews

The initiate Mr Chông and his spirit mother Ch'oe posal bow in front of the ritual altar. ⓒ2005 한성희
Ohmynews presents a two-part article of an inititation ritual (naerim-kut) of a shaman; a very detailed piece, very interesting reading. The one who receives the initiation is a man, Mr Chông (age 40), who is married, and who most likely (even though not directly mentioned in the article) has contracted the so-called spirit disease (sinbyông 神病) or shaman disease (mubyông 巫病) so that he cannot but receive a shaman initiation.

There are four shamans participating in the ritual. Ch'oe posal who will be the spirit mother (sinômôni) and Ku pôpsa who is the spirit father (sinabôji) of Ch'oe posal and will thus become the spirit grandfather

The spirit has descended on Mr Chông. Ku pôpsa is standing on the left. ⓒ2005 한성희
(sinharabôji) of Mr Chông, and two others. As the name naerim-kut says, the ritual is about spirits descending upon the person who is initiated. It's the responsibility of the spirit mother to prepare the mind of the initiate ready to receive the spirits. This time the mind of Mr Chông was ready, and the spirit favorable; at one o'clock in the evening after two hours Mr Chông began to shake and shiver and jump up and down. That was the chômsa halmôni spirit, divination grandmother, which is important in fortune-telling.

In the second part of the article we learn that Mr Chông has actually received the shaman initiation ritual already seven years ago, but then he failed. It's not told how he failed, but perhaps he did not succeed in opening his "word gate" (malmun), that is talk the words of the spirits or ancestors. The writer of the articles tells that about 70% of the initiated fail to become shamans.

Mr Chông on the chaktu knives. ⓒ2005 한성희
At 5 in the morning the 12-scene ritual (12-kôri kut), in which the initiate receives all the twelve spirits, exchanging his set of clothes for each scene and spirit. At the end of the 12 scenes, the shaman will walk on the blades of two chaktu, kind of a cutting knife. The 12 scenes last no more than half an hour, and it's time for Mr Chông to step on the knives, which he failed in seven year earlier. The chaktu spirit is so important that without its benevolence and power one really can't be a shaman. The writer tells that the knives have been sharpened, so we can't but believe her. This time Mr Chông succeeds, as can be seen from the picture.
- Ku pôpsa wore makeup, and you as well. Why is that?
- "When the sônnyôsin (kind of a female spirit) enters you, you wear makeup. It's not always, but male shamans often get female spirits, and female shamans often get male spirits. When the sônnyôsin enters, you were flashy clothes and makeup."
When the sônnyôsin enters a male shaman (paksu mudang), he puts on skin powder and lipstick, wears women's clothes and talks in a woman's voice. I'm reminded what the grandmother shaman just had said:
"The most pitiable person in the world is the spouse of a shaman. The shaman's body is not her own you know. It's a body given to the spirits."

Now I'm beginning to think where André Kim is getting inspiration.

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Comments to note "Shaman's initiation ritual in Ohmynews" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Anonymous Lauren> said on 11.11.07 : 

Thank you for this important information, including the photos. I'm very interested in naerim-gut and would always be interested to learn more.

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