Boat Guardian Deity
Baeseonang is a boat guardian deity that oversees the safety of fishermen and is responsible for big catches on the boat.
Other names for this deity include Seonwang (Jeju Island), Baeseonyeong (South Jeolla Province) and Baeseongju (Gwangwon Province), all rooted in words that are related to “god, ” “king, ” or “shrine.” Baeseonang is worshipped both as a female (Yeoseonang) or male deity (Namseonang), the latter of which is more often the case. Its gender is determined by the dream that the boat owner or his family has in the process of purchasing the boat, or sometimes by a shaman or fortuneteller. The female deity is enshrined in the form of a box that contains women’s items like a hairpin, skirt and blouse, flower-embroidered shoes, sewing kit, make-up, mirror and comb; the male deity in the form of a box containing men’s shoes and clothing, or sometimes is not worshipped in the form of a sacred entity. The sacred entities are placed in a clean spot on the boat, out of the way from activity, usually in a corner of the captain’s cabin or the engine room, and the bigger the boat, the more significance is placed on Baeseonang, since bigger boats sail further and are at sea longer. It is believed that Baeseonang sometimes alerts the sailors of imminent dangers, or good signs, including accidents, damages to the boat, a poor or big catch, or troubles at home back on shore, and if villagers hear the cry of Baeseonang, the launch of the boat is delayed. Good fortune can be acquired by proper worship, so sailors offer food to this deity prior to eating, and worship rituals called baegosa are held on seasonal holidays.