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Heo Mok

This legend narrates the story of Heo Mok (pen name Misu), a scholar and politican from mid-Joseon. One of the most wide-spread tales about Heo Mok’s characteristics as an eccentric prophet and devoted public official is the narrative “Extermination of the Snake, ” comprising three separate anecdotes. The first takes place during Heo’s service as magistrate of a county in Gyeongsang Province, when, upon learning about the practice of offering a nineteen-year-old maiden each year as sacrifice to

Korean Folk Literature

Memorial rite on the ancestor’s birthday

Ancestral rite held to commemorate the birthdays of ancestors subject to gijesa (Kor. 기제사, Chin. 忌祭祀, memorial rite for ancestors on their death anniversary). Saengsinje refers to two kinds of rites: one is the rite held every year on the ancestor’s birthday, and the other is the rite held on the ancestor’s sixty first birthday. In the former, a simple ritual table is offered in the morning of the birthday. Depending on region, it is conducted for one year, three years, or every year. In the lat

Korean Rites of Passage

Offering food to miscellaneous ghosts

Ritual offering of food for japgwi (Kor. 잡귀, Chin. 雜鬼, lit. miscellaneous ghosts), either by preparing a separate table with food before the ancestral memorial rite or serving small portions of the food offerings after the rite. The “feeding of hungry ghosts” in India’s ancestral worship tradition was transmitted to Korea and developed into the ritual of offering food to japgwijapsin (Kor. 잡귀잡신, Chin. 雜鬼雜神, lit. miscellaneous ghosts and lesser gods), including agwi (Kor. 아귀, Chin. 餓鬼, lit. hungr

Korean Rites of Passage

Mountain-Feeding Ritual

Sanmegi, literally meaning “mountain-feeding, ” is a ritual held in the Yeongdong region of Gangwon Province on an auspicious spring day, by climbing up to a designated family mountain to worship the ancestral god Josang and to pray for the family’s well-being, healthy cattle, and a good harvest. Today mountainfeeding rituals are observed both communally and privately. Communal rituals generally take place in the third or fourth lunar month, on an auspicious date selected by the ritual host, who

Korean Folk Beliefs

Ritual for Celestial God

Cheonje is a ritual for Cheonsin, a celestial god that has been worshipped since ancient times. Cheonsin worship deifies the sky itself or believes in the existence of a heavenly transcendental divinity. Variations of the name Cheonsin include Haneullim, Haneunim and Hananim, all meaning sky god; Chinjiwang, which is used on Jeju Island; Okwangsangje, or Pure August Jade Emperor, the name of the highest Taoist deity and ruler of the heavens; and Jeseokcheon, which originated from Buddhism. Celes

Korean Folk Beliefs

Divination with Red Bean Porridge

Patjukjeom (Kor. 팥죽점, lit. red bean porridge divination) refers to the custom of fortune-telling on Dongji (Kor. 동지, Chin. 冬至, Winter Solstice) using a seasonal red bean soup called patjuk (Kor. 팥죽). The object of divination can vary from weather and the outcome of farming in the year ahead to the sex of a fetus. There are two forms of divination practices: one is based on the general porridge, and the other based on the rice dough balls that the porridge contains. In the first case, some porrid

Korean Seasonal Customs

Altar for Celestial God Worship Ritual

Cheonjedan is the altar for celestial god worship rituals (cheonje). It is generally located on the summit or at the foot of a mountain, and built without a roof structure, on the grounds bordered with a circle of rocks and the altar to one side. Mt. Taebaek Cheonjedan, on the mountain’s summit, is a large-scale ancient altar constructed of natural rocks. In Joseon (1391-1910) and under Japanese occupation in the first half of the 20th century, the altar was also called Taebaekcheonwangdang (Shr

Korean Folk Beliefs
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