Banners of the Guardian Gods of the Five Directions
Obangsinjanggi, or the banners of the guardian gods of the five directions, is a set of banners in five colors, used for divination in shamanic rituals.
These flags are made with bamboo staffs around 70 centimeters long, some as long as 100 centimeters, the banner with silk or other fabric, sometimes dyed mulberry paper. They are around 70 centimeters in width and 50 centimeters in length.
The colors of the banners are associated with the five directions according to traditional cosmology: blue is for the east, and symbolizes misfortune and distress; white is for the west, symbolizing Cheonsin (Celestial God) or blessing for the dead; red for the south, symbolizing good fortune; black for the north, symbolizing death; and yellow for the center, which stands for one’s ancestors.
In the five-direction guardian gods segment (sinjanggeori) of a shamanic ritual, the shaman rolls up the five banners together, and the followers pick one of the staffs to have one’s fortunes told. The red banner brings good fortune and material gain, which make it the most favored pick in the good-fortune ritual jaesugut. White and yellow banners are also considered auspicious; black and blue banners ominous.
Obangsinjanggi functions not only as a divination tool but for chasing away evil spirits and ghosts: In the possession ritual naerimgut, the shaman brushes the body of her spiritual daughter, the possessed shaman, with these banners; and in the healing ritual byeonggut, the shaman uses the banners to pound on the patient’s body.