Wind God Festival(灵登祭)
On the first day of the second lunar month rural communities in traditional Korea held a worship service to celebrate the descent of Grandma Yeongdeung to the human world. This day was referred to as Yeongdeungnal (Kor. 영등날, lit. Wind God’s Day), and the whole month as Yeongdeungdal (Kor. 영등달, lit. Yeongdeung Month). Since Grandma Yeongdeung was the deity in charge of the wind, the celebration could also be called “wind god festival”, or Pungsinje (Kor. 풍신제, Chin. 風神祭). Yet another name for the ritual was Yeongdeung Maji (Kor. 영등맞이, lit. welcoming Grandma Yeongdeung). The beliefs regarding the length of Grandma Yeongdeung’s sojourn on earth varied among the regions, ranging from three days to a fortnight to twenty days. In coastal areas of the Korean peninsula, the Yeongdeungje was often held as a ceremony for the village tutelary deity or a community festival.
As the first day of the second lunar month was also the start of a new farming season, rural households prepared a special meal, took manure out to their paddies and fields and prayed for abundant crops in the year ahead. Depending on the weather on that day, Koreans distinguished among windy Yeongdeung (Kor. 바람영등), sunny Yeongdeung (Kor. 불영등, lit. fire Yeongdeung), and rainy Yeongdeung (Kor. 물영등, lit. water Yeongdeung). Windy Yeongdeung predicted a windy year, while fire Yeongdeung predicted drought. Water Yeongdeung was the best news for the farming communities because it foresaw abundant precipitation, which indicated a rich harvest.
The Grandma Yeongdeung deity was particularly important for fishing communities as their livelihood depended on favorable winds which she was believed to control. Consequently, people diligently observed the customs related to welcoming and worshipping this deity. On the days of her descent to earth and back to the heavenly world, fishing households decorated their kitchen cupboards with bamboo branches and offered specially-prepared food to the deity. In the southeastern areas of Korea on the eve of the festival, households would scatter yellow soil (hwangto, Kor. 황토, loess soil) outside the gate. They also hung a straw garland (geumjul, Kor. 금줄) decorated with young bamboo leaves at the gate, in order to warn beggars or diseased persons to not approach or enter the house. When the first rooster crowed, the lady of the household would drag a bowl of fresh water from the well and place it in the outhouse or near the large jars that contained fermented foods in the yard. At sunrise, she brought a bowl of specially-prepared rice, seombap (Kor. 섬밥) to the grain pole (byeotgaritdae, Kor. 볏가릿대) and offered it to the spirits with prayers for abundant crops and a healthy family. Offering water was another important custom: a bowl with clean water was placed on an ornament made with three fresh bamboo tubes that were bound together at the mid-point and decorated with colored threads, pieces of fabric, and white rice paper. This sacred water was replaced three times – once on the tenth, fifteenth and twentieth of the second lunar month. The festival reached its peak on the day when Grandma Yeongdeung was believed to depart for her heavenly home. Rain on that day was an omen predicting an abundant harvest, but even slightly overcast weather was considered auspicious for the upcoming farming season.