A Guide to Shamanism on Jeju Island, Post One: The House Gods

Let’s start with the home. Most lectures (as given by the handful of experts on the shamanism of Jeju Island) on the deities that reside within the Jeju Island home, start out with an illustration that looks something like this: It’s a typical Jeju floor plan (in the spirit of not being too formal—I’m going…

Jeju Island’s Most Beloved Shamanic Shrine Tree has Perished due to Typhoon Winds and Careless Behavior from ‘tourists’. The Island is Mourning the Loss of the 400-Year-Old Tree.

This past Saturday, October 6th, perhaps what is Jeju Island’s best known and beloved shamanic shrine tree fell due to high winds. I found myself tearing up throughout the day Sunday when I first heard of the incident, as I have been visiting the shrine for almost a decade now. I wasn’t the only one…

Jeju Island’s Haenyo: A User’s Manual, the diver who tried to die at sea

The traditional free diver, Ok-sun Lee, was born in the very waters in which she planned to carry out her own drowning some 85 years later. Her life-long friend and fellow diver, Man-bok Kim, seeing the practicality of her choice, aided her in the attempt. The two women survived much together—over seventy years of work at sea, the…

The Traditional Village Shamans of Jeju Island, South Korea: PHOTO ESSAY

I’m putting together some of my photographic and video work from documenting  shamanic tradition over the last six years. This is the first series, focusing on the shamans of Jeju Island, South Korea in the context of shrine ceremonies. SKIP TO FULL PHOTO ESSAY The shamans of Jeju Island, South Korea, like other shamans across…

Indigenous Islanders Continue Fight Against 2nd Airport on Jeju Island, South Korea–Hunger Strike Passes its 40th Day

Youth and other activists from some twenty civic groups have joined five villages in their struggle against a planned ‘aerotropolis’ on Jeju Island, South Korea. Still waiting for a statement from the national government’s Ministry of Land and Transportation, residents of South Korea’s largest island continue their fight against the proposed second airport project. The…

The Shamanic Spiritual Life of Jeju Island, South Korea’s Traditional Women Free Divers. Short Documentary: The Youngdeung Gods Visit Jeju Island

Every year the Youngdeung Gods visit Jeju Island, South Korea bringing with them strong spring winds. These deities replenish the sea life as they travel their coarse from village to village along the coast. In Hamdeok Village, the shaman Young Cheol Kim presides over the ceremony, a ritualized banquet at which Jeju Island’s famed women divers…

Jeju’s Shrines Under Attack #1/ Tears in Seongsan Village

In the winter of 2013, Sulsaemit Shrine, a traditional place of worship for followers of Jeju Island’s native shamanic religion, was deliberately desecrated at the hands of unknown culprits. I have written about our group’s (the Senjari Rangers) efforts to restore this natural sanctuary where people in the area have worshipped for some hundreds of…

A Guide to Shamanism on Jeju Island, Post Five: The House Gods Redux

The Gods of the Munjeon Epic Redux: Yeosan Buin—The Hearth Goddess, protects Jeju women in their daily lives, gives them strength to manage their work and their families, her epic serves to reinforce the independent spirit needed to overcome hardship and survive as an island woman Namseonbi—the compost shed god, the father of the Munjeon…

A Guide to Shamanism on Jeju Island, Post Three: The Door God’s Epic

The Munjeon Epic—The Door God’s Myth (simplified plot) The following is the plot of Munjeon Bonpuri, the Door God’s epic, which relates to us the foundation myths of the household deities introduced in Post One. Keep in mind that the the following is the plot of the epic, not a direct translation of the epic itself. While some…

A Guide to Shamanism on Jeju Island, Post Two: Sacred Island

The house is sacred. The yard is sacred. The lanes are sacred. The village is sacred. The fields and wooded regions surrounding the village are sacred. The mountain is sacred. The sky and earth below are sacred. The sea is sacred. This world is sacred—populated with divine beings—gods and ancestor spirits. Halla Mountain, and the…