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Honoring the universal mother at Jeju Stone ParkJeju’s mythology providing the foundation for a celebration of humanity and nature on May 15
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승인 2016.05.19  20:51:34
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▲ Seolmundae Halmang Festival 2016 Photo by Douglas Macdonald

“Love.”

That is the lesson of Seolmundae Halmang for the modern world according to Paek Uncheol, director of Jeju Stone Park and creator of the Seolmundae Halmang Festival.

The festival, in honor of Jeju’s creator-goddess, celebrated its 10th anniversary on May 15 in the park designed by Paek as a sprawling celebration of local nature and heritage.

Despite its Jeju focus, the event is increasingly international and members of the Ananda Marga Yoga Meditation Center present hailed from Russia, Taiwan, Canada, India, and Germany.

Center members joined the event and Canadian Shiilabhadrananda said that the ethos of the festival fits with their belief of the “universality of humanity.”

“The sooner we can break down the barriers of culture, nation, language, race, the better will be the welfare of all the beings of the planet,” he said.

His concern that people feel “disoriented” and “lost” in the modern world without the guidance of traditional wisdom is shared by Paek who says within the myth of Seolmundae Halmang is a universal maternal motif.

▲ Seolmundae Halmang Festival 2016 Photo by Douglas Macdonald

The goddess’s story has been reimagined in recent years but it is her sacrifice, after accidentally falling into a pot of porridge she was preparing for her starving sons, that resonates down the ages.

Her sons now stand guard as the 500 Generals on Hallasan’s Youngshil, petrified with grief after discovering they had eaten their own mother.

It was fitting, therefore, that the lasting memory of the morning was revelers leading a spiritual song and paddle in the Sky Pond, an ornamental body of water that represents the goddess’s fateful porridge pot.

The sight of knee-deep, colorfully garbed and long-bearded yogis swaying to guitar rhythms and melodic chants was the perfect manifestation of Paek’s vision for the festival.

The mood was rhythmically tribal from the outset with a traditional Korean pungmul percussion group leading the revellers up to the main altar-cum-stage as early as 9am.

▲ Seolmundae Halmang Festival 2016 Photo by Douglas Macdonald

As the drummers took a rest, a more somber lecture was delivered on the value and symbolism of the Seolmundae Halmang myth.

Rooting such symbols of womanhood in the 21st century, the talk was followed by the crowning of nine ceremonial priestesses, women who have honored Her divinity through their love for Jeju Island.

Among the priestesses was photographer and writer Brenda Paik Sunoo whose work tackles critical social and environmental issues in Jeju. She said she was moved by the occasion as she planted saplings and presented the goddess with a gift of flowers.

“She created this beautiful island with nature and it is a reminder ... that we have to revere, honor and preserve mother nature.”

Entrance to Jeju Stone Park is free throughout May which is designated as Seolmundae Halmang month.

Photographs by Douglas Macdonald

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dmacs_photos/

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