Ancestral tablet enshrinement rite
A memorial rite held when an ancestral tablet is placed in the family shrine.
Gilje is the last of the funeral rites. It is held when the spirit tablet of a recently deceased ancestor is placed in the family shrine. The addition of a new ancestral tablet to the existing tablets of the four latest generations of ancestors means that the oldest tablet is removed from the shrine. This procedure is hence the formal enshrinement of an ancestral tablet in the family shrine.
The procedures of gilje are as follows. The family head selects an auspicious date for the ceremony via divination on the day after damje (Kor. 담제, Chin. 禫祭, rite to announce that the chief mourner returns to daily life after completing the funeral rites), normally a “jeong day” or a “pig day” in the month following damje. The family head cleanses his body three days before the day of the ceremony. He informs the ancestor concerned that his or her spirit tablet will be moved to the family shrine. A place for the new ancestral tablet is prepared in the shrine. Participants arrange ritual furniture in the shrine, prepare offerings and sacrifices, and clean the ritual vessels. They dress in auspicious garments. They get up before dawn and arrange the offerings on the ritual table. As day breaks, the family head moves the ancestral tablet to the space prearranged in the shrine. Participants perform the rite in the order of chamsin (Kor. 참신, Chin. 參神, paying reverence to the descending spirit), gangsin (Kor. 강신, Chin. 降神, evoking the ancestral spirit), heonjak (Kor. 헌작, Chin. 獻爵, the offering of liquor), yusik (Kor. 유식, Chin. 侑食, waiting until the ancestral spirits have had plenty to eat), hammun (Kor. 합문, Chin. 閤門, closing the door of the ritual room so ancestral spirits can freely eat the offered food), gyemun (Kor. 계문, Chin. 啓聞, opening the door of the ritual room to report the end of the meal offered to the ancestral spirits), sasin (Kor. 사신, Chin. 辭神, bidding farewell to the departing spirit), withdrawal of the spirit tablet, and cheolsang (Kor. 철상, Chin. 撤床, removal of food offerings). Then all present partake in food removed from the ritual table. The entire ceremony ends when the participants bury the ancestral tablet removed from the shrine beside the grave of the ancestor concerned. On the day after gilje, the last of all funeral rites, the mourners can change into their ordinary everyday clothes.
Gilje is traditionally regarded as an event to connect the living with the dead, extending the effect of the ceremony in this world to the afterlife. It is the formal end to the funeral rites and signals that the deceased will be honored in memorial rites from then on. With the end of gilje, those left behind can recover from the grief over the loss of their loved one and prepare to resume their normal lives. The rite is therefore not only the final stage of all the funeral rites but a bidding farewell to the ancestor leaving the family shrine for good and, for those left behind, a rite by which they move from the period of bereavement to that of normal everyday life. In conclusion, gilje is a rite marking the end of the funeral and a new start for the family left behind.