Ancient Celestial God Worship Rituals(舞天)
Celestial god worship rituals in ancient times were farming or hunting rites aimed at offering prayers or thanks for a good harvest.
In ancient kingdoms of the Korean peninsula, including Buyeo, Goguryeo, Dongye, and Samhan, annual celestial god worship rituals were held to express gratitude for the year’s harvest.
Yeonggo, of Buyeo (18 B.C.E.-660), was a largescale state-organized event held over several days and participated in by people from around the country, with dancing and drinking, which, as in the case of Goguryeo, Dongye and Samhan, indicates that the event was a festive celebration. While most celestial worship rituals associated with the harvest and were held in the tenth lunar month, Yeonggo was staged in the twelfth month. Yeonggo served as a means to present the king to his followers and subjects as a being in communion with the Celestial God (Cheonsin). The ritual also aimed at making public and justifying the king’s sovereign power, given by the Celestial God, and promoting unity in the community.
In Goguryeo (37 B.C.E. -668), a ritual called Dongmaeng was held in the tenth lunar month each year. According to the chapter “Account of the Eastern Barbarians” in the volume History of the Wei Dynasty of the Chinese history book Sanguozhi (Records of the Three Kingdoms), Dongmaeng was a state-organized event participated in by all of Goguryeo’s ruling class, wearing embroidered silk costumes and gold and silver ornaments. Also held in the tenth month was the cave god worship ritual (susinje), when the sacred entity of the cave god, enshrined inside the Great Cave in East of the Capital (Gukdongdaehyeol), was brought out to the Amnok River to be worshipped. Dongmaeng was also called Dongmyeong, which indicates that the ritual was related to Goguryeo’s founder King Dongmyeong, and that the ritual sought to justify the royal authority by reenacting the kingdom’s founding myth to reaffirmin the sanctity of the dynasty.
In the small walled state Dongye, the celestial god worship ritual was called Mucheon and also held in the tenth lunar month, involving drinking, singing and dancing that continued through the night, evident in the name, which means, “to worship the heaven with dance.” Mucheon was a harvest festival that served to promote solidarity in the community.