The Chilseong myth, one of Jeju Island’s twelve standard epic myths, explains the origin of the serpent deities that reside in the home. We will get into the Ilban Bonpuri, or standard epics, in more detail in later posts. These are the myths central to the island’s mythic canon, which shamans recite at length in rituals. The Chilseong Bonpuri is one of these standard myths, which explains the origin of the Chilseong gods. I won’t describe the entire plot of the myth at this time. There is lots of interesting literature on it, as well as ideas about its origins—this we will cover later along with the other standard epics. For now, this short synopsis can suffice:
In the Chilseong Bonpuri, a group of women divers (haenyo) are walking the coastline in their village when they discover a large box has washed ashore. (Such boxes, filled with wonders or stow-away, exiled gods, in this case serpents—are common in Jeju Island myth) The haenyo open the box, after agreeing to split whatever treasure lies therein. To their surprise, there is no treasure inside, but seven serpents. The divers carry these serpents away, and start worshipping them. The local shamans in their village designate the seven snakes as deities—that are still worshipped today in homes and gardens throughout Jeju Island.
Joey Rositano is a writer and visual artist currently based in South Korea. He has produced a documentary on the shamanism of Jeju Island which is available now, below for more details.
Help support the project!
Spirits the documentary is now available on gumroad for download for $5. Follow the link below and you will arrive.
Limited amount of Spirits: The Story of Jeju Island’s Shamanic Shrines photo books left! Also available on gumroad.