A ritual significant to Jeju shamanism called “Mabulimjae (마불림제)” was performed on Sept. 3, at Sondang village. The is a village where the shamanic shrines are well preserved.
Jeju's head shaman Kim Yoon Su Photo by Oh Joongseok
‘Ma’ and ‘Bulim’ in the name mabulimjael refers to ‘mold’ and ‘dry out by blowing.’ As such, the ritual normally takes place at the end of monsoon season. This is July 13 on the lunar calendar which coincides with Sept. 3 this year.
The mabulimjae ritual originated from the belief that while cleaning the shrines, Jeju islanders dry out the clothes of Jeju’s goddesses through winds while praying for an abundant harvest for summer crops.
This year, this ritual was led by Kim Yoon-su, a 'keun-simbang' or Great Shaman. During a Gut performance, the shaman serves as a medium, allowing the spirits of the ancestors and the deceased to communicate through them to the living.
In each village’s belief system, the shaman plays a central role in performing the ceremonies, remembering the myths of each village, and passing them on to future shamans.
Currently, there are about 500 shrines and temples across the island, and some shrines are at risk of disappearance, requiring immediate action to be preserved. Also, the number of shaman on Jeju is dwindling in recent years.
Here are some quotes regarding Jeju’s shamanistic traditions from the articles of the Jeju Weekly
Devotees of shamanism seek shamans for healing, divination, and spiritual counsel. Shamans serve as religious leaders, healers, fortune tellers, teachers, counselors, and keepers of tradition. They maintain the oral history and mythology of Jeju culture, expressed in storytelling and song. Jeju's earliest spiritual tradition includes an enormous pantheon and maintains a profound connection to both the spirit world and nature. As such it is considered a form of deep ecology as well as indigenous medicine and psychology.
- Anne Hilty ‘Behind the shaman's mask’
“Each shaman is like a village priest. He is responsible for performing village rights and for attending to sick people and helping people with psychological distress and other personal choices about their life.”
- Joey Rositano ‘Filmmaker’s mission to help record the myths of Jeju shamanism’
“Actually, if we say there are 500 shrines and temples, then the nation should preserve even damaged shrines, like Japan. Thousands of jinja (Shinto shrines) were designated as far back as 100 or 200 years age. We could set up a holy Mecca for the gods, and restore the remaining sacred places as they were in ancient times, such as in the form of a sacred tree. In this way we can preserve Jeju’s sacred culture,”
- Moon Mubyeong, a founder member of the Jeju Traditional Culture Institute scholar of Jeju shamanism
All photos and film above and below by Oh Joongseok
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