Gaeulgosa, meaning, “autumn rite, ” is a ritual for household gods held on an auspicious day in the tenth lunar month.
Another term for this ritual is sangdalgosa, or ritual in the best month of the year (sangdal), the tenth lunar month, the date selected by a shaman or as indicated in the almanac. A day of the pig or a day of the horse is usually preferred for this ritual, more often the latter. This autumn rite is often observed as a village ritual, and individual households hold their private rituals either before or after the communal rite. The date is postponed when there is an impurity in the village, including birth or death. Menstruation results in a week-long delay and funeral attendance in a month-long delay, so a death in the village means the autumn rite will be held in the eleventh month, the month of the winter solstice. The last lunar month is viewed as a month of decay, and rituals are avoided.
After the date for the ritual is set, a taboo rope is hung over the gate (geumjul) along with a layer of red clay sprinkled out front (hwangto), and rice grains are prohibited from leaving the house. On the day of the ritual, the woman of the house wakes early to perfor ablution before starting to prepare rice cake for the ritual table. In the past two different types of rice cake–sirutteok, made of thin layers of cake with red bean filling, and baekseolgi, steamed as a thick white block without layer –were prepared for each household god, but rice cake is no longer a main staple for Koreans and only one steamer of layered cake is made. The smell of boiling red beans on the day of the ritual was considered vital, since red beans chased away bad fortunes. Impurities must also be kept out of the preparation process. It is believed to be an ominous sign if the rice cake is not fully cooked, leaving traces of rice powder inside the steamer, so during the steaming process, the woman of the house continues to bow and rub her palms, praying for the rice cake to turn out well.
On the day of gaeulgosa, prior to the steaming of rice cake, the grains inside the earthenware jar of teojutgari or eopgari, sacred entities worshipped as the land tutelary god Teoju and the god of property Eop, are replaced with newly harvested rice or beans. The conical straw bundle cover is also replaced with new straw. Then the steaming takes place for the rice cake.
It was believed in the past that the home hosting a ritual must be filled with the aroma of red beans, so rice cake layered with red bean filling was prepared in steamers in the number of the household gods worshipped in the home.