A Guide to Shamanism on Jeju Island, Part Two: Post Three: The Myth of Baekjjudo and Seocheonguk

One of the most important myths on Jeju Island is the myth of Baekjjudo and Seocheonguk, the parents of the eighteen prominent mountain/ hunter gods—the gods we’ve been discussing so far. The myth, told in its entirety, tells not only of the fateful first encounter of the progenitorial couple, but of the generation prior to these two deities, and an account of their arrival to Jeju Island. The myth is often broken down into smaller pieces, when sung by shamans as part of other myths, or abreviated for use in ceremonies. I will give a basic outline of the part of the myth that all Jeju residents commonly know—the meeting of Baekjuddo and Seocheonguk, and their subsequent separation.

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The Myth

One day, Seocheonguk, the great hunter, who has been beating the bush for all sorts of game, decides to come down off the mountain. He descends Halla Mountain and visits the town of Ongpyoung, where he soon discovers a mysterious iron box that has washed ashore. From inside he hears a voice. In a humorous passage in the myth, emphasizing the goddess’s sharp wit, he asks if there is ghost inside. A sarcastic voice replies, ‘What kind of ghost sounds like this?’ (In the original language this line is funny) Upon opening the box, out emerges Baekjuddo and seven children. The ironical goddess is gorgeous and Seocheonguk is smitten. Baekjuddo has been exiled by her parents, not unlike other Jeju Island deities, unfit was she as a daughter. Seocheonguk suggests that the goddess come and live with him. She obliges, and they make their way to Songdang village to raise a family.

Soon, the couple has eighteen daughters (eventually they will produce twenty-eight). At this point, Baekjuddo, makes her famous admonition and request—hunting will not be enough to raise a family. The only way to keep so many mouths full is by farming. Thus, Baekjuddo teaches Seocheonguk the ways of agriculture. The great grandfather god does his best to oblige her, but it is just not in his nature to live the agricultural life. One day, hungry in the fields, Seocheonguk slaughters and eats up the last black cow used for tilling the soil. Fatigued, he heads off for a nap. Grandmother Baekjuddo, after searching all around, spots two heads poking out of a clump of silver grass, Seocheonguk’s and the slaughtered cow’s. There are even two strips of fine leather laid out on the ground. A fight ensues. Poor, Seocheongguk, who has squandered the family’s means to a living, now finds himself once again on his own. He goes to live in Lower Songdang Village and Baekjuddo settles down in Upper Songdang Village.

From those times on, the two gods served their respective communities, at nearby, but separate shrines. Today, ceremonies are still held in their honor. The ceremony dedicated to Baekjuddo Grandmother is a particularly important annual event on Jeju Island.

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