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Granny Yeongdeung and the Yeongdeung-gutThe story of the Jeju wind god
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승인 2019.03.14  09:18:51
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Photo by Kim Hungku

The Yeongdeung-gut, a shaman ritual which has been handed down to tradition until this day, is usually performed by village. The ritual wishes for the abundant fruition of fisheries and farms with diving women and fishermen at the center. Names related to Yeongdeung are varied, including King Yeongdeung, Grandpa Yeongdeung, Granny Yeongdeung, but in recent years the name Granny Yeongdeung is the most commonly used one. The people of Jeju call the month during which Yeongdeung-gut is held ‘the Yeongdeung month.’ The cold winds of this time are also called the ‘Yeongdeung wind.’

Granny Yeongdeung takes on a different form every year, though invisible to the eye, and visits Jeju. It is believed that Granny Yeongdeung comes good-natured but shabbily dressed on a clear day, dressed in layers on a cold day, and in a raincoat on a rainy day. On some years, she brings along her daughter or daughter-in-law as well. When the weather was bad, she was thought to have brought her daughter-in-law and this was considered to be a bad sign for farming that year. On the other hand, the years when she brings her daughter were thought to have fair weather and a good harvest.

Photo by Kim Hungku

There is also a more interesting story. There is a way to indirectly confirm whether or not Granny Yeongdeung, normally in spirit form and invisible to the human eye, is in Jeju. One need only to look at the top shells scattered across the beach. Top shells are Granny Yeongdeung’s favorite food, and when Granny Yeongdeung stays in Jeju, she collects and eats all the top shells on the beach, leaving empty shells behind. So if there is a lot of empty top shells on the beach, she is in Jeju.

Photo by Kim Hungku

The Yeongdeung-gut, a shaman ritual which has been handed down to tradition until this day, is usually performed by village. The ritual wishes for the abundant fruition of fisheries and farms with diving women and fishermen at the center. Names related to Yeongdeung are varied, including King Yeongdeung, Grandpa Yeongdeung, Granny Yeongdeung, but in recent years the name Granny Yeongdeung is the most commonly used one. The people of Jeju call the month during which Yeongdeung-gut is held ‘the Yeongdeung month.’ The cold winds of this time are also called the ‘Yeongdeung wind.’

Yeongdeung-gut starts on the first day of February (lunar calendar) and ends on the full moon. On February 1st in the lunar calandar, ’the Yeongdeung Welcoming Festival’ is held at the Chilmeoridang on Sarabong Peak in Jeju City. Ceremonies for mountain gods are held during the first month of the lunar calendar in various regions of Korea and are held around this period in various villages of Jeju Island as well. Among these rituals, the ceremony serving mountain gods and the ceremony serving Yeongdeung is only found on Jeju in a combined form of shaman ritual called ‘Yeongdeunggut.’ ’The Yeongdeung Farewell Ceremony’, which also covers the ceremony for the ocean dragon king, one of the most revered shamanic rituals, is very grand in scale and hold a lot of importance.


Photo by Kim Hungku

Jeju people do not hold wedding ceremonies during the Yeongdeung period. If there is a ritual for ancestors or funeral, they believe that a separate dish should be prepared for the Yeongdeung god to prevent bad things from happening. The Yeongdeung Welcoming Ceremony begins with the Chogamje, which invites the spirit into the shrine and wishes good luck for all participants. The Pungeoje follows, wishing for good luck in fishery, and the ceremony ends with ‘the Seoksalimgut’, which is an auspicious feast intended to entertain ancestral gods.

The Yeongdeung Farewell Ceremony is a bit more complex. This starts off with Chogamje as well, but includes during this event ‘the Bonhyangdeurm’ ritual to invite the two married deities who are the village guardians into the shrine. In this ceremony, three village officials offer drinks to the wife-and-husband gods and the villagers make their wishes. After that, the villagers perform the ‘Chumul performance,’ offering drinks and rice cake to all attendant gods, ‘receive the Dragon King’ to wish for the safety and prosperity of fishermen, use sorghum seeds for divination and scatter the seeds of seaweed in a ceremony called 'Ssidurim', toss roosters to prevent bad luck from affecting the village ('Doaekmageum'), and send a boat made by village elders using straw ('Baebangsun') into the open sea. Finally, Yeongdeunggut ends with 'Dojin', which sends the gods back.

The Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut was recorded as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, becoming a precious cultural heritage not just for Jeju islanders but to people throughout the world. Yeongdeunggut is a time for prayer and also a festival of the wind. The piercing cold of the February wind may feel less harsh if imagined as the touch of the Granny Yeongdeung. And if you think that the spring is coming at the end of the wind, this winter may not feel so long. And so we imagine springtime as we enter winter.

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