Shamanism: Korea’s Earliest Form of Religion

Shamanism: Korea’s Earliest Form of Religion

Document details
Category: Religious Studies Essay
Subcategory: Religion and Society
Words: 871
Pages: 2

Shamanism in Korea Shamanism is the earliest form of religion associated with Korea. Evidence from ancient cultural relics estimate it to have existed in the Korean peninsula from before 1,000 B.C. Shamanism's spread is thought to be strongly correlated with the country's strong agricultural economy of the Iron Age (Trampas 1). Despite its fundamental role in Korean culture dating back to its early civilizations, shamanism has suffered a long and arduous history. Enduring persecution dating back to the Yi dynasty, advocates of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity have unsuccessfully attempted to eradicate its practice (Hur and Hur 34). Shamanism's presence in Korea has frequently been characterized as superstitious and primitive, both scorned by the elite intellectuals, and rejected by conflicting religions. Nevertheless, despite efforts throughout the nation's history to extinguish shamanism and its long-standing practices, it has remained a deeply rooted part of the Korean people. Shamanism's permeation of the Korean culture can be appreciated within the context of the "foundation myths." These myths served to explain the founding of Korea and its divine kings and founders. Passed down from generation to generation, "foundation myths" once served to explain the mysterious, but now remain as an essential part of Korea folklore. "Tangun, the mythological progenitor of the Korean people and the founder of Old Chosn, the first state of Korea," is held to have been birthed from the joining of a bear and the son of the "Heavenly King Hwanung" (Lee 1). Chumong, Koguryo's shaman king, was descended from the "son of the Emperor of Heaven" and his "consort" who was "impregnated by the sun shining on her" (Lee 8). Similarly, Pak Hykkse, "progenitor of the Pak clan of Kyngju" (Lee 14), Kim Suro, "founder of Kaya" (Lee 18) and Kim Alchi, the "thirteenth king of Silla" (Lee 27) all have extraordinary skills, unusual birthsconceptions or lead singular lives. The shamanistic aspect of these "foundation myths" is observed with the frequent appearance of nature interacting with...

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