Umulje, or well ritual, is a rite for the spirit in the well, in recognition of the sanctity of a natural spring, the village well, or a private well at home.
Also called saemje (spring ritual) or yong je (dragon ritual), well rituals worship Yongsin (Dragon God) who resides in the well. These rituals are generally observed as household rituals to pray for an ample supply of water, offering sacrificial foods by the well in the backyard of a home; but in some cases held as communal rites.
In agricultural communities, the role of Yongsin was expanded to that of a deity that oversees the harvest and a wide range of other responsibilities, from fortune, health, and longevity, to proliferation of sons, prosperity, peace, safety and success.
Umulje as household ritual was held on the fourteenth day of the first lunar month, when the well was emptied and the woman of the house performed ablutions at nightfall, before a ritual table was set up and bows were offered to pray for good fortune for the family. Sacrificial foods included steamed rice, sea mustard soup, and a bowl of fresh water from the well (jeonghwasu), arranged on a low table on a straw mat by the well, the table lit with a candle. When the family did not have a private well in the house, the ritual was held with water fetched from a communal well, or was held at the village well or by a stream.
Umulje as village ritual was carried out as a worship rite mixed with farmers’ music, or simply as a farmers’ music ritual. The villagers gathered for a village gods ritual (dangsangut), which was followed by a spring ritual (saemgut) by a troupe of farmers’ music performers, who sometimes ended the ritual by visiting individual homes for jisinbabgi (earth god treading ).