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Coming-of-age ceremony for boys

The coming-of-age ceremony for male members of the Korean society in the past to celebrate their reaching the age of twenty, that is, adulthood. Gwallye was performed for boys who were soon to marry or who had reached the age of twenty. This coming-of-age ceremony for boys took place according to the following procedures. ① Taegil (setting the date): The ceremony had totake place on an auspicious day or, if the families concerned found it difficult to set such a date, a day in the first month of

Korean Rites of Passage


Ritual for Big Catch

Pungeoje is the term for rituals held in the coastal regions to pray for peace in the village, safety for the fishermen at sea, and a big catch. Byeolsingut and haesinje are other terms used to refer to this big catch ritual. Prayers for safety and a big catch are offered to the sea deity Yongwang (Dragon King), the procedures generally officiated by a shaman. Byeolsingut of the eastern and southern coasts; pungeoje from the island of Hwangdo off Anmyeondo on the western coast; and haesinje of U

Korean Folk Beliefs


Serpent Cave of Gimnyeong

The legend “Gimnyeongsagul, ” about the cave Sagul in the village of East Gimnyeong in Gujwa, Jeju Island, narrates the story of Seo Ryeon, a judge during the reign of King Jungjong of Joseon, who slayed a giant serpent that lived in the cave. To the east of Gimnyeong Village on Jeju Island was a huge cave in which lived a giant snake and the cave was called Baemgul, or Sagul, meaning Serpent Cave. Each year, the villagers held a grand ritual (keungut), offering a maiden to the snake as a sacrif

Korean Folk Literature


Erecting the Grain Pole

Byeotgaritdae (Kor. 볏가릿대, lit. grain pole) is a long pole with bags containing various grains such as rice, barley, millet and beans attached to its top. It is erected at a well, courtyard, or a cow shed during the Great Full Moon Festival (Jeongwol Daeboreum, Kor. 정월대보름) as a form of prayer for a good harvest. Widely interpreted as a symbol of Ujumok (Kor. 우주목, Chin. 宇宙木, lit. Tree of the Universe), the pole can also be referred to with words of Chinese origin, such as hwagan (Kor, 화간, Chin. 禾竿

Korean Seasonal Customs



Dokdo legends narrate the stories surrounding the eighty-nine islands in Dokdo-ri, part of the village of Ulleung, in Ulleung County, North Geyongsang Province. One of the legends related to Dokdo is“ Gum- eongbawi (Hole Rock), ”about a rock located off the shore of Cheonbu Village, which was originally on the waters off Hyeonpo Village. An elderly villager with mighty powers tied up the rock to a boat and tried to take it to faraway waters. But the rock would not be pulled away, and the old man

Korean Folk Literature


Smallpox Prevention Ritual

Sonnimgut, literally meaning, “guest ritual, ” is a shamanic ritual segment for worshipping the god responsible for smallpox and measles. The ritual is also called songut and is practiced around the country in various formats. Sonnimgut is a prevention ritual closely related to the smallpox send-off ritual mamabaesonggut, the two procedures distinguished by function. This send-off ritual focuses on appeasing the smallpox deity Mama so that it will go away. It is believed that a generous amount o

Korean Folk Beliefs


General Gang Gam-chan

This legend, in different variations, depicts Gang Gam-chan (948-1031), the renowned military com- mander of Goryeo known as one of the three greatest generals in Korean history, as a supernatural hero. Gang’s mythical accomplishments are recorded in documents and publications including Bohan ji p (Collection of Writings to Relieve Idleness) of Goryeo; Yong jaechonghwa (Assorted Writings o f Yong jae) of early Joseon; and Haedongi jeok (Extraordinary Lives f rom East of the Sea) of Joseon. Haedo

Korean Folk Literature