Huisaengjemul is the term for animal sacrifices offered to the gods in rituals.
The origins of animal sacrifices in Korea date back far in history, with records of the practice in Buyeo (2nd century B.C.E.–494) of a ritual for the heavens held in times of war, which included the killing of a cow and making predictions about the outcome by reading its hoofs. The most primal form of sacrifice is known to be human sacrifice, which was replaced by animals over time, beginning with wild animals, which was again replaced by domestic animals. Over time, animal sacrifices came to serve the satisfaction of both the gods and the humans, and the practice of consuming the sacrifice (eumbok) was also established.
Animals offered as sacrifices in folk rituals include cows, pigs, chicken and dogs.
Cows are considered the biggest sacrifice offered to a village guardian deity. Because of the enormous costs involved in sacrificing a cow, faith and religious unity of the community are required. In a village ritual that involves a cow sacrifice, a majority of the ritual procedures are focused on the cow, especially the slaughtering, butchering, the arrangement of the ritual table according to meat parts, and the consumption of the meat.
Pigs also make up a major sacrifice in large-scale communal rituals including byeolsinje and fishing village rituals. It is believed that the mountain god Sansin demanded a loud squeal from the pig before coming down to consume the sacrificial foods so sometimes the slaughter takes place at the shrine in the mountain.
Chickens are offered as sacrifices for both the gods and one’s ancestors. In shamanic rituals, chickens are used as proxies that are put to death in the place of a human who is cursd with bad fortune or a short lifespan.
In some regions, dogs were also sacrificed. Dog sacrifices in village rituals were related to the prevention of attacks from tigers, offered to please tigers since they liked to eat dogs.