Treading the Earth God(地神-)
Jisin-bapgi (Kor. 지신밟기, lit. treading the earth god) is a custom of offering sacrifices (gosa, Kor. 고사, Chin. 告祀) to the earth god Jisin (Kor. 지신, Chin. 地神) and praying for good fortune. It is observed during the Great Full Moon Festival (the fifteenth of the first lunar month). Jisin is a guardian deity who oversees the peace and safety of the family and the house in general. Each individual section of the household - the gate; the courtyard; the platform for jars of fermented foods; the outhouse; the kitchen; the hall; and the bedroom - is believed to have its own jisin. Consequently, jisin-bapgi can be referred to by different names depending on the part of the house in which the ritual is mainly held. Some of these names include geollip (Kor. 걸립, Chin. 乞粒, lit. grain begging), geolgung (Kor. 걸궁, Chin. 乞窮, lit. begging for alms), gosaban (Kor. 고사반, Chin. 告祀盤, alms table), gosapuri (Kor. 고사풀이, Chin. 告祀-, shamanic ritual songs), madangbapgi (Kor. 마당밟기, lit. treading on the courtyard), and maegu (Kor. 매구, Chin. 埋鬼, lit. underground ghost). The offering of sacrifices is generally followed by a ceremony in which the participants both stomp on the ground to chase away evil spirits and sing out their wishes to usher in fortune. Towards the end of the ritual the participants play games, sing and dance together for the purpose of entertaining the guardian spirits.
In most parts of Korea, jisin-bapgi is held in the middle of the first lunar month. At this time of year there was typically not much work to do on the farms and people were still in a holiday mood. It was also the time of the Great Full Moon Festival (Jeongwol Daeboreum), during which farmers expressed their hopes for a good harvest and a successful year.
Although there are regional differences in process and content, jisin-bapgi rituals throughout Korea share common characteristics including the order of the ritual procedures. Jisin-bapgi generally begins with a ceremony for the well-being of the entire village. People gather in the village’s jusan (Kor. 주산, Chin. 主山, lit. main mountain) or dangsan (Kor. 당산, Chin. 堂山, the mountain or hill where the village’s guardian god is believed to reside) and offer the earth god sacrifices of liquor and side dishes. A round of stomping ground is performed for the benefit of the entire community. Next, a group of villagers pay a visit to each household to perform jisin-bapgi. This stage of the ritual can be divided into two parts. During the first half, farmer musicians take the lead by performing ritual songs and blessing different parts of the house (i.e. the platform for jars, the storeroom, the stable, the kitchen, the hall and the bedroom). The second part of the ritual is more entertaining for the participants. Music and dance are performed in the yard with jesters providing comedic relief as the villagers look on. Depending on the region and scale of the ceremony, the second half can be omitted.
In Iksan, North Jeolla Province, the musicians go straight to the courtyard after entering the house gate, pass through the kitchen, and on to the jar platform, blessing each of these places with their magical songs. They return to the courtyard, form a circle, and perform a group dance accompanied by music. The session ends with individual performances of seoljanggo (Kor. 설장고, Chin. -杖鼓, solo hourglass drum dance) and beopgochum (Kor. 법고춤, Chin. 法鼓, dharma drum dance). After exchanging farewell greetings with the head of the household, the troupe leaves for the next house.
A jisin-bapgi troupe sometimes journeys to homes beyond the village boundaries and travel to neighboring villages or nearby cities. When this activity is carried out in a neighboring village during the farming off-season, it is considered a service (pumasi, Kor. 품앗이, mutual help through service/labor), and a return of the favor is expected. Accordingly, if a village’s jisin-bapgi troupe visits a neighboring village and performs the ritual, the host village sends their own troupe to the first village later. When a village troupe travels for an extended period of time to distant villages or to the cities, the troupe often becomes a formal one that makes its living through performance.
Jisin-bapgi troupes, whether an amateur crew of villagers or a more organized and professional group, annually repeat a ritual that has been transmitted through many generations and thus contribute to upholding the entertainment traditions of the community. Touring each home of the village and collectively celebrating through song and dance reaffirms communal identity and strengthens ties among villagers.