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Marking the start of spring with a festive ritual
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승인 2011.02.06  10:48:04
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▲ One of the traditional rituals that play a key role in ushering in spring. Photo courtesy Jeju City Hall

Witness firsthand the mystical and colorful powers of Shamanism come alive.

Tamnaguk Ipchun Gutnori will usher in spring during Jeju’s most noted folklore festival and is divided into four main events held over two days. Locals will wish for a bountiful harvest, and a sacred cow will parade through the streets of Jeju City. Hundreds of people will perform, and thousands will watch.

That’s just day 1.

The re-enactment begins with Nangsha-kosa at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11 at City Hall’s Main Plaza. The ritual (kosa) of the wooden cow (nangsha) is a traditional rite done by farmers to ask gods for an abundant crop. Thirty minutes prior, village pungmul (folk, drum and dance music) troupes will perform and inform those in attendance of the opening ceremony.

Following Nangsha-kosa, Part II starts at 6 p.m. Hundreds of musical performers and dancers will follow the sacred cow parade as it leaves Jeju City Hall for Gwandeokjeong Square, near Jungang Rotary.

This is the 13th annual festival since its restoration in 1999. It was originally passed down from Tamnaguk, meaning Tamna Kingdom – the independent state on the island between the 7th and 11th centuries. However, the event was quashed due to colonial Japan’s culturally genocidal policies.

Saturday’s main event (Part III) begins at 11 a.m. with the Ipchun (beginning of spring, one of 24 seasonal divisions in the solar calendar) Gut (Shamanic ritual). This practice derives from the many shrine guts held in villages throughout the island. The gods will be asked to protect people’s well-being and provide a good harvest. The warm-up event, one hour before, will be a street-performance gut aimed to exorcise and cast away bad luck from all of Jeju City.

At 3 p.m. commences Part IV, the Ipchun Talgutnori, a one-hour masked dance and drama, also thematic of a plentiful harvest.

Don’t miss the other events at Gwandeokjeong on Saturday. These include a Korean traditional tea ceremony, calligraphy performance, eating Ipchun noodles, and a gime exhibition.

Gime happen to be shamanic paper flags used to decorate the location of a gut. They can be thought of as antennae which call gods and create a place where the spirits and people come together.

Tamnaguk Ipchun Gutnori – the island’s only recent festival (as of this writing) not canceled due to foot-and-mouth disease – is hosted by Jeju City and managed by The Korean People Artists Federation, known as Jeju Min-yea-chong in Jeju Island. Traditionally, Feb. 4 is the only day where Ipchun gods come down to earth, but this overlaps with the 2011 Lunar New Year, so the festival was pushed ahead one week.

Gods or no gods, Jeju’s spirit will march on.

See it in person.

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