Mountain God(山神)

Mountain God

Headword

산신 ( 山神 , Sansin )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Beliefs > Shamanism > Shamanic Deities

Writer SeoYoungdae(徐永大)

Sansin, or Mountain God, is a widely worshipped village guardian deity that resides in the mountain as its ruler and protector.

The worship of Sansin is based on animism, the religious belief that natural physical entities possess a spiritual essence. Sansin’s sacred entities are rendered in the form of the tiger or the Taoist immortal sinseon. There are records that say the national founder Dangun became Sansin, which supports the belief that humans could also become Sansin in afterlife.

Sansin comprises both male and female deities. The earliest existing record of Sansin is the Dangun myth, which notes that Dangun took the position of Sansin, evidence of the gender of the mountain god in Korea. In other ancient records that follow, however, Sansin are in most cases goddesses. Starting in Goryeo (918-1392), male mountain gods emerged as the majority, which is reflected in the shamanic paintings that remain today. Along with this change came the new custom of offering a virgin to the mountain god, observed in Gaeseong (Mt. Deongmul) and in Naju (Mt. Geumseong). The change in the gender of the deity is closely connected to the shift in history to a male-centric society.

Sansin resides on the summit, the hillside, or at the foot of a mountain. The summit is considered an ideal place for the ruler of the mountain, due to its proximity to the sky and the vista of all that lies below. The hillside is sunny, sheltered from cold winds, also providing a good home for the mountain god. For a deity that resides at the foot of a mountain, an altar or a shrine is set up in a bright spot or by the hiking path at the entrance of a village, serving as a communal shrine for the private prayers of villagers for a good harvest, healing or a son.

Shrines for mountain gods come in the form of altars, made of clay or stones, large trees or a house. Clay altars are round or rectangular, and are the oldest types of mountain god shrines, generally located on mountain summits. Stone altars are stone stacks, made of either natural or artificially cut stones. Tree shrines are mostly located at the entrance of a village, with an altar next to the tree, but some take the form of a divine tree (sinmok) deep in the mountains. Found inside house-type shrines are a figurine of Sansin and a spirit tablet.

Sansin has great influence over the lives of individuals but first of all serves as a village guardian deity. Sansinje, or mountain god rituals, therefore, are held not as private but communal affairs. The rituals are generally observed in the first lunar month, around dusk or dawn. Ritual procedures follow the Confucian tradition and participants pray for peace and safety in the village and a good harvest.

Mountain God

Mountain God
Headword

산신 ( 山神 , Sansin )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Beliefs > Shamanism > Shamanic Deities

Writer SeoYoungdae(徐永大)

Sansin, or Mountain God, is a widely worshipped village guardian deity that resides in the mountain as its ruler and protector.

The worship of Sansin is based on animism, the religious belief that natural physical entities possess a spiritual essence. Sansin’s sacred entities are rendered in the form of the tiger or the Taoist immortal sinseon. There are records that say the national founder Dangun became Sansin, which supports the belief that humans could also become Sansin in afterlife.

Sansin comprises both male and female deities. The earliest existing record of Sansin is the Dangun myth, which notes that Dangun took the position of Sansin, evidence of the gender of the mountain god in Korea. In other ancient records that follow, however, Sansin are in most cases goddesses. Starting in Goryeo (918-1392), male mountain gods emerged as the majority, which is reflected in the shamanic paintings that remain today. Along with this change came the new custom of offering a virgin to the mountain god, observed in Gaeseong (Mt. Deongmul) and in Naju (Mt. Geumseong). The change in the gender of the deity is closely connected to the shift in history to a male-centric society.

Sansin resides on the summit, the hillside, or at the foot of a mountain. The summit is considered an ideal place for the ruler of the mountain, due to its proximity to the sky and the vista of all that lies below. The hillside is sunny, sheltered from cold winds, also providing a good home for the mountain god. For a deity that resides at the foot of a mountain, an altar or a shrine is set up in a bright spot or by the hiking path at the entrance of a village, serving as a communal shrine for the private prayers of villagers for a good harvest, healing or a son.

Shrines for mountain gods come in the form of altars, made of clay or stones, large trees or a house. Clay altars are round or rectangular, and are the oldest types of mountain god shrines, generally located on mountain summits. Stone altars are stone stacks, made of either natural or artificially cut stones. Tree shrines are mostly located at the entrance of a village, with an altar next to the tree, but some take the form of a divine tree (sinmok) deep in the mountains. Found inside house-type shrines are a figurine of Sansin and a spirit tablet.

Sansin has great influence over the lives of individuals but first of all serves as a village guardian deity. Sansinje, or mountain god rituals, therefore, are held not as private but communal affairs. The rituals are generally observed in the first lunar month, around dusk or dawn. Ritual procedures follow the Confucian tradition and participants pray for peace and safety in the village and a good harvest.