Bammudeom, a term that literally means, “rice tomb, ” refers to the hole for burying the steamed rice (me) that had been offered as sacrifice, a practice observed as part of village tutelary festivals (dongje) in South Gyeongsang Province.
Rice tombs are generally located under the village guardian tree (dangsannamu) or a spot considered clean, or under the poles of the four directions in the village.
Rice tombs are built in a range of forms, which vary by region: Some in the form of stone stacks that resemble a three-story pagoda or an easy chair; some in the form of a terraced flower bed; or some in the shape of traditional burial mounds.
The steamed rice from the ritual table is wrapped in several layers of mulberry paper, placed inside the hole, then buried under soil and covered with a flat piece of rock. The lid keeps away mice, cats, or dogs that might dig up the rice, as digging up the rice is believed to bring bad fortune, turning invalid the offering that had been made to the gods.
On the islands off Namhae on the southern coast, where land for rice cultivation is scarce, rice has always been considered a precious life-sustaining crop, and rice tombs are offerings made not only to the village guardian gods but also to the earth goddess Jimosin (Mother Earth), to pray for her forces to seep into the ground and bring to humans the reward of prosperity.
In some regions, rice tombs were made at the four ends in each of the four cardinal directions from the village center, to appease the god of the directions and to use the power of rice, the origin of life, in keeping out evil spirits and impurities trying to enter the village.