Musoksinhwa, or shamanic mythology, refer to myths recited by shamans as part of shamanic rituals. The term bonpuri is also used to refer to this genre. In ancient Korea, celestial god worship rites and state ancestral worship rites were all observed as shamanic rituals. The former includes Yeonggo of Buyeo, Dongmaeng of Goguryeo, and Mucheon of Ye; the latter includes Dangun, Dongmyeong, and Hyeokgeose rituals.
Korean shamanic mythology comprises narratives about gods worshipped in shamanism, which can be classified as epic songs or as oral epics. Since their origins are related to rituals, these myths can function as spells or incantations, but outside the shamanic realm, they also exist simply as interesting stories.
The archetype of the Korean shamanic ritual was keungut, meaning grand ritual, comprising twelve segments. Shamanism is based on the belief that myriad deities oversee creation and all human affairs, and shamanic rituals were staged to pray for safety in the village and home, productive cattle and good harvest, safe births and growth of children, individual longevity, return to life from the underworld and eternal life. In each segment of a ritual, myths about individual gods were recited, which were called bonpuri, or song of origin. These shamanic myths are categorized as general myths; village guardian god myths; and ancestral myths. The general myths recited as part of the big ritual on Jeju Island make up the most ancient and archetypal mythology in the Korean oral tradition.
Shamanic myths that have been collected and recorded around the Korean peninsula add up to hundreds of narratives, which can be categorized thematically according to the structure of the twelve-segment ritual as follows:
1) Universal creation type: Baepodoeopchim (Shamanic Song of Landscapes and Capitals), including Cheonjiwangbonpuri (Origin of the Celestial King), Irwolnoripunyeom (Song of Sun and Moon), Senggut (Ritual for Saints), Changsega (Song of the Creation of the Universe), Sirumal (Earthenware Steamer Narrative), and others.
2) Infant birth/disease god type: Halmangbonpuri (Origin of Childbirth Goddess), manurabonpuri (Origin of Smallpox Goddess Manura), Songgut (Smallpox Prevention Ritual), Sonnimgut (Song of Smallpox Prevention Ritual), and others.
3) Acquisition of shamanic powers/shaman ancestral goddess type: Chogongbonpuri (Origin of Shaman Ancestor Goddess Chogong) and all other Jeseok-related myths from around the country, including Sijungut (Ritual for Ancestral Household Deity), Samtaejapuri (Song of the Triplets), Jeseokbonpuri (Song of Goddess of Childbirth Jeseok), Gongsipuri (Song of Shamanic Ancestors) and others.
4) Flower Supervisor of Seocheon type: Igongbonpuri (Origin of Igong), Sinseonsetyeonnimcheongbae.
6) Underworld or death type: Banggwangchim (Appeasing the Dead at Sea), Chasabonpuri (Origin of Underworld Messenger Chasa), Jijangbonpuri (Origin of Jijang), Hwangcheonhonsi (Spirit in the Underworld), Barigongju (Abandoned Princess Bari) and others.
7) Calamity prevention deity type: Maenggambonpuri (Song of the Messenger of Death), Jangjapuri (Song of Jangja), and others.
8) Agricultural origins/cattle god type: Segyeongbonpuri (Origin of Farming), Song of Yang San-bok from Hamgyeong Province.
9) Good harvest/prosperity god type: Chilseongbonpuri (Origin of the Seven Stars), Donjeonpuri (Origin of Money).
11) Village guardian god type: Myths recited in village rituals of Seoul and village god myths (dangsinhwa) from around the country, including Bonhyangdangbonpuri (Origin of Village Guardian Deity) from Jeju Island.
12) Ancestral god type: Founding myths, Samseongsinhwa (Myth of Three Surnames) of Jeju Island, Gunungbonpuri (Origin of Martial Hero Deity), myths of the emergence of the three clans and ancestral myths from Jeju, and others.
13) Others: Simcheong ritual, Song of Groom Dorang and Bride Cheongjeong, Myth of Scholar Sukyeong and Maiden Aengyeon, Chungyeolgut (Patriot Ritual) and others.
In Korean universe creation myths, major mythemes include the union of sky father and earth mother; rearrangement of suns and moons; and flowering contests. In shamanic myths about human births, deaths and rebirths, a central element is Seocheonkkotbat (Flower Garden of the West), a special mythical space that answers questions about the mysteries of human life, and the life flowers abloom at Seocheon, including life flowers (saengbulkkot) and resurrection flowers (hwansaengkkot). Korean shamanic myths about male deities are structured as father-seeking narratives, in which the son who has grown up fatherless leaves home at the age of fifteen in search of his father, while those about female deities take the narrative structure of heroic biographies that start with a noble birth/birth through prayer and proceed with abandonment, trials, achievements and deification.
Among the regions, Jeju Island is a trove of shamanic mythology in which the largest number of myths has been transmitted, followed by South Hamgyeong Province. The God of Childbirth type myths from the mainland of the peninsula, including“Sijungut (Ritual for Ancestral Household Deity), ”"Samtaejapuri (Song of the Triplets), ”“Jeseokbonpuri (Song of the Origin of Jeseok)” all belong in the same category as “Chogongbonpuri (Song of the Origin of Shaman Ancestor Goddess)” of Jeju, sharing the common motif of triplet sons born of a father who is a monk“. Jangjapuri (Song of Jangja) ” from South Jeolla Province shares elements with “ Maenggambonpuri (Song of the Messenger of Death) ” of Jeju, and Chilseongpuri (Song of Seven Stars) with Munjeonbonpuri (Origin of the Gate God) ” of Jeju.
The shamanic myths recited as part of ancient rituals went on to serve as inspirational motifs for many Korean literary genres, from legends and folk tales to classical novels and folk songs. The traditional solo narrative song pansori, for example, was a genre closely associated with shamanic myths; both recited songs that share the same narrative structure, their performers—shamans and entertainers—also belonging to the same social class. Shamanic mythology, in other words, gave birth to a wide range of Korean cultural traditions.