Concept - Korean mystic shamanism – Shin and gods
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Despite being dismissed as animism by academics, the Korean system incorporates similar beliefs to the Japanese system with their ‘kami’ and is highly sophisticated. In effect, the world we perceive or see is an illusion, it is in reality analogously like a computer screen in which we see images flashing before us but behind the scenes, invisible to us, are programs that do all the processing and provide the images for us.
The mudang have great difficulty explaining this concept to any western academic, [especially the materialistic ones], that the functions are more important than the screen. There is thus a smallpox ‘god’ = program or function. And there are gods as a consequence for everything, even mountains and rocks, simply because, everything has to be ‘animated’ to exist. Or to put it another way, unless the programs are working, the screen would be a blank – if the mountain functions were not executing, there would be no mountain.
There are thus an almost endless number of gods, and everything is sacred, although superficially there appears to be perhaps more emphasis on some ‘gods’ rather than others simply because shamans in particular have a tendency to deal with sickness, death and the weather more often.
Shamanism, music and the soul – Keith Howard
Many Koreans believe matrilineal spirits ensure peace in the world beyond, and call on direct ancestors for support and assistance. The large pantheistic canon, which in detail differs from area to area, attributes various identities and roles to spirits, from goblins through ancestors to legendary figures and mighty gods of nature and disease.
Korean Shamanist Ritual - Symbols and Dramas of Transformation - Daniel Kister
It should be noted that the single, Chinese-derivative Korean word shin stands indiscriminately for what English distinguishes as "god," "spirit" (in the sense of spiritual being), or in some usages "soul" or spiritual faculty. Like most Korean nouns, moreover, the single form "shin" can have both a singular and plural sense.
What I refer to as "the gods and spirits" are in Korean simply shin.
I use the term "gods" for shin that tend toward the divine and the term "spirits', for ancestral beings, troublesome ghosts, or lesser preternatural entities like poltergeists. For the proper names of gods, I refer to the most universally revered Korean deity, Hanunim as the God of Heaven; but for other gods, I normally use the word "Spirit," for example the Dragon Spirit or Spirit of Fertility.
In the Korean Shamanist world, nature is a storehouse of sacred signs.
Of the numerous Korean Shamanist gods and spirits listed by Kim Tae-gon, more than sixty per cent are said to be associated with nature (1981:285). It may well be, as Kim In-hoe insists, that when Koreans in ancient times worshiped such gods, they did so, not because the phenomena "themselves had divine power, but because they functioned as places where a god appeared" (1987:75).
Today's worshipers, too, do not worship actual phenomena of nature. Still, when they pray by a mountain rock, spring, or the sea, they seem to revere the gods as not just appearing at that particular natural site, but as somehow manifesting their power in the natural phenomena.