Rite for Tutelary Spirit of Eunsan(恩山別神祭)
Eunsan Byeolsinje is a traditional communal rite observed in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province, designated as Important Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 9.
Some trace the origins of this village ritual to the rise of the town of Eunsan as a center of transport and commerce during the Joseon dynasty, or to a series of wars that led to the sacrifice of myriad soldiers whose soul needed appeasing.
It appears that the ritual’s procedure began from dongje (village tutelary ritual), comprising a ritual for Sansin (Mountain God) in the high shrine (sangdang) and that for the village guardian posts (jangseung) and the divine pole (jindae) in the low shrine (hadang), then was expanded as a larger scale byeolsinje with the town’s growth as a transport and commerce center. The procedure later came to include a Confucian memorial service for Janggunsin (General God) and shamanic rituals at the high and low shrines.
Like other byeolsinje, this festival was observed every three years, but now it is an annual event, with the grand ceremony (daeje) held every three years, which includes not only the annual main ceremony, the mountain god ritual doksanje and the ritual for village guardian posts (jangseungje) but the high and low shrine rituals and the cutting of the divine pole (jindaebegi) and the receiving of flowers (kkotbatgi).
The most important participants of Eunsan Byeolsinje are the head official hwaju, selected among ritual officials for being “clean” without impurities, and the shaman officiating the high and low shrine rituals. The former offers a Confucian rite for Sansin and other deities, while the latter entertains and appeases the divine spirits with song and dance.
In contemporary times the festival has been reestablished as a six-day program held between the last week of the third lunar month and the first week of the fourth month. On the first day, taboo ropes (geumjul) are hung around Eunsan Stream, followed by the brewing of ritual wine for Sansin (jorasul) which takes place at the head official’s home, and a round of house rituals in the homes of ritual officials. On the second day, the villagers cut a tree in the nearby mountains to be used as the divine pole, followed by house rituals in the evening. The third day is reserved for receiving flowers, the ritual officials travelling from Eunsan to Samchungsa Temple on Mt. Buso in Buyeo, with house rituals again held in the evening. The fourth day marks the main ceremony, along with the high shrine ritual at byeolsindang, the shrine for the village tutelary deity. On the morning of the fifth day, the high shrine ritual is held at byeolsindang, followed by the lower shrine ritual. On the last day, the closing ceremony (doksanje) is held outside byeolsindang, with rituals taking place all around Eunsan for its village guardian posts (jangseung).