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Goblin Ritual

Dokkaebigut is a ritual for chasing away Dokkaebi, or goblins, believed to be the causes of fire or contagious diseases. Alternate versions of the term can be used depending on ritual procedure, including dokkaebije or dokkaebigosa. In traditional communities, dokkaebi are creatures with both negative and positive characteristics. They are often perceived as culprits of fire or as spirits that bring smallpox, who must be eradicated through shamanic rituals to keep the village safe. On the other

Korean Folk Beliefs

Geobuk Nori

A custom about visiting houses while wearing a turtle shell made of sorghum leaves. Geobuk Nori is known as a tradition performed within the inland local communities around the southern part of the Hangang River, including Pyeongtaek, Yongin, Icheon, and Yeoju of Gyeonggi-do Province, and Yesan, Cheonan, and Eumseong of Chungcheong-do Province. Recordings of the traditional game were left within the Joseonui Hyangtoorak (The Folk Games of Joseon, published in 1936), a sourcebook about social lif

Korean Folk Arts

Rock Worship Ritual

Bawichiseong, meaning, “rock prayer, ” is a ritual for worshipping a rock as a sacred entity, mainly to pray for an offspring. In Korean folk religion, rocks are considered not as mere objects in nature but as beings that possess productive energy and permanence, and are thus deified. The most widespread rock worship is associated with male sex organ-shaped rocks (namgeunseok), or with pairs of male and female organ shaped rocks, deified as village guardian gods. When a male organ shaped rock is

Korean Folk Beliefs

Dano Amulets

Dano Bujeok (Kor. 단오부적, Chin. 端午符籍) is a talisman made on the day of Dano (Kor. 단오, Chin. 端午, the fifth of the fifth lunar month). It can also be called Danobu (Kor. 단오부, Chin. 端午符, lit. Dano Talisman), Cheonjung Bujeok (Kor. 천중부적, Chin. 天中符籍, lit. Talisman of Zenith) and Chiu Bujeok (Kor. 치우부적, Chin. 蚩尤符籍, lit. Chiu’s Talisman). Dano was considered an occasion to prepare talismans because, in the traditional worldview, it was the day of the most profuse yang energy, which could help expel

Korean Seasonal Customs

Goblin Reservoir

“ Dokkaebibo ”legend tells the story of the construction of a reservoir by offering red bean porridge to dokkaebi, or goblins. There is also a legend related to Ma Cheon-mok, a military official during King Gongmin’s reign of Goryeo, for whom a goblin built a fishing weir on Seomjin River. A fishing weir blocks the flow of the river like a fence to help catch fish, which in effect can be perceived as similar to building a reservoir. In a“ Dokkaebibo ”legend, the protagonist encounters a group of

Korean Folk Literature


“Ppiakppiakkkokko, ” the title of which is made up of a set of onomatopoeia of sounds made by chicks and chicken, is a tale about a couple with many children all living together in one room, who made up a secret code as signal for sexual intercourse, but are found out by the children. A husband and wife lived in one room with five children. They slept with the children between them, which made it difficult to engage in sex. The husband, finding the situation unbearable, suggested that when he si

Korean Folk Literature

Riddle Contest Against Goblin

This tale narrates the story of a protagonist who wins a riddle contest against dokkaebi (goblin) and takes over the goblin’s land, or receives a favor from the goblin. A man encountered a goblin, who challenged him to a riddle contest, and the man accepted the goblin’s condition that the loser would have to grant the winner’s wish. The goblin gave the first riddle: “How much water does Duman (Tumen) River contain? (Or, how many gourd dippers of water does the pond contain?)” The man answered, “

Korean Folk Literature

Wrestle with a Goblin

“Dokkaebissireum” is a tale that narrates a man’s encounter with a goblin (dokkaebi) that turns into a wrestling match, and is observed across the country. A man was walking on a mountain pass, returning home from the market after a drink at the tavern, when a goblin appeared and challenged him to a wrestling match. The match went on all night and only at daybreak the man was able to defeat the goblin and head home after tying it to a tree with his belt. When he returned the following morning, t

Korean Folk Literature

God of Property

Eop is a deity that oversees the material possessions of a household. This household god resides in furtive corners of the house like the pantry or shed and brings material fortune. Alternate versions of its name include Eopsin, Eopwang, Eopwisin, and also jikimi (guardian) or jipjikimi (house guardian) in secular terms. Sacred entities that embody Eop include conical bundles of straw or pine needles (jujeori), while it is also identified as animals like serpents, weasels, toads, pigs, mice, eve

Korean Folk Beliefs

Old Man With a Lump on His Neck

“Hokburiyeonggam” is the tale of an old man who, with the help of goblins, loses the big lump on his neck, and another old man who, instead of losing his deformity, was given another lump by the goblins. An old man who had a lump on his neck went to the mountain to gather wood. He worked until after dark and on his way down, found an empty house where he decided to lodge for the night. Feeling alone and bored, he began singing a song, which attracted goblins (dokkaebi), who were moved by his sin

Korean Folk Literature

Goblin’s Magic Club

This tale narrates the story of a good-hearted woodsman who acquires a magical club that brings him riches, and a bad woodsman who is punished. The North Korean publication Joseonjeonsa (A Comprehensive History of Korea) defines this narrative as a folk tale from Silla, which was introduced to Tang China in the 9th century, and the scholar Lee Byong-gi wrote in his book Gungmunhakjeonsa (A Comprehensive History of Korean Literature, 1957) ” that the tale was an influence for the classical novel

Korean Folk Literature

Expelling the Nocturnal Ghosts

Yagwanggi jjotgi (Kor. 야광귀쫓기, Chin. 夜光鬼-쫓기, lit. expelling the glowing nocturnal ghosts) was a Korean custom performed on the New Year’s night when the yagwanggwi (glowing nocturnal ghosts) descended to the human world. In order to prevent these spirits from entering the house, Koreans hung a sieve on the wall, burned their hair, and sprinkled its ashes over the yard. These mischievous spirits are also referred to as yayugwang (Kor. 야유광, Chin. 夜遊狂, lit. mad night stroller), yagwangsin (Kor

Korean Seasonal Customs

Prevention of Three Calamities

Samjae (Kor. 삼재, Chin. 三災, lit. three calamities) refers to misfortunes such as swelling, anger-induced ailments, stroke and paralysis, believed to be caused by the three elements of water, fire, and wind. Samjae magi (Kor. 삼재막이, Chin. 三災-) means possessing the amulets or performing other ritualistic acts to prevent those misfortunes. These rituals usually take place at the beginning of the lunar year. Samjae is believed to occur over a three-year period, and follows calculations based on the tw

Korean Seasonal Customs

Fall of Frost

The eighteenth of the twenty-four solar terms, Sanggang (Kor. 상강, Chin. 霜降, lit. fall of frost) is the time when frost starts to form. It occurs between Hallo (Kor. 한로, Chin. 寒露, lit. Cold Dew) and Ipdong (Kor. 입동, Chin. 立冬, Onset of Winter) and is usually sometime in the ninth lunar month. On the Gregorian calendar, Sanggang falls around October twenty-third when the sun is at 210° on the ecliptic. This time of the year is characterized by nice weather and sharp drops in temperature at night. I

Korean Seasonal Customs
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