Shamanistic rituals that revolve around the lives of fishermen are the subject of a special exhibition currently taking place at the National Folk Museum of Korea.
For the exhibition, “The Sea and Rites,” the museum’s curators gathered objects from more than 12,000 reference items that were donated by folklorist Ha Hyo-gil in 2012. Ha, who has studied and collected data about Korean shamanism since the 1970s, served as the director of the museum from 1982 to 1986.
A shaman in her costume performs a ritual to show respect to the king of the sea at a seaside village in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, in the 1980s. (The National Folk Museum of Korea)
The exhibition offers insight into life by the sea, featuring photographs, written records, and some historic objects used during Korean shamanistic rites (referred to as “gut” in Korean). A shamanic brass mirror, knife and shaman’s bell from the early 20th century are on display. The exhibition also includes photographs of the most representative regional gut “Pungeojae” and “Namhaean (East coast) Byeolsin-gut,” in which shamans gathered and performed a ritual to relieve the anxiety of the villagers.
Korean shamanism focuses on solving the daily problems of life through communication between humans and spirits. Since the seaside residents make their livelihood from the sea, they often felt helpless when their catch was small or natural disasters occurred. Thus vulnerable in their fear of the uncontrollable, people believed these rituals would assure an abundant catch and safe return of the fishermen.
More of Ha’s studies will be shown to the public after research and the organization of the materials. The exhibition is open through Nov. 18. For more information, call (02) 3704-3114.
By Suh Hye-rim (email@example.com