Jeonghwa refers to all activity carried out to cleanse impurities from a place or a living being.
Water, fire, soil and blood are the most basic means of carrying out the process of purification in a sacred venue.
Offering a bowl of clear water fetched at dawn is one of the most basic forms of worship in Korean folk religion, an example that demonstrates the fundamental concept of jeonghwa. The concept of ssitgim in shamanism, also meaning, “cleansing, ” reflects the purification effects of water.
Fire purifies through its capacity to burn. In “Cheonjiwangbonpuri (Origin of the Heavenly King), ” a shamanic myth from Jeju Island, unethical people are purified with fire as a punishment. The shamanic practice of hwajeonchigi is a healing ritual using fire to purify the afflicted soul of the patient.
The primary function of red clay (hwangto) is expulsion, but its also contributes to cleansing.
Blood is used to cleanse an afflicted patient or sprinkled along the borders of a village for purification. It is also sprinkled as part of the healing ritual daesudaemyeong, or substitution of one’s lifespan, which involves the killing of a proxy, usually a sacrificial animal like chicken.
Jeonghwa, in other words, is a symbolic act of transforming a secular space into a sacred one, of cleansing a tainted object.