Dr Chongho Kim - Korean Shamanism – The Cultural Paradox
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Korean Shamanism – The Cultural Paradox – Dr Chongho Kim
Instead of trying to rationalize away the irrational character of shamanism, we need to see that it is precisely its irrationality which gives it its value and its healing power. Irrationality is important in the field of misfortune, since the experience of misfortune does not really make sense to the sufferer in rational terms.
This is very much the role of witchcraft as an explanatory system in Evans-Pritchard's famous study of the Zande:
'Now why should these particular people have been sitting under this particular granary at the particular moment when it collapsed?' (Evans-Pritchard, 1972:69).
This is particularly so when there are successive misfortunes, and people want to understand why these misfortunes continue to afflict them. The dominant culture is rarely in a position to provide a satisfactory explanation within its own framework, least of all when it is itself one of the sources of the misfortune (as with Chisun’s Grandmother, whose misfortune was in large part generated by the expectations of Korean public culture about her behaviour towards her mother-in- law and other family members, and about the proper conduct for a 60-year-old widow).
Shamans are, in a sense, experts in dealing with cultural nonsense - the cultural problems which cannot be solved within the framework of Korean public culture. Shamanic healing is a kind of paradoxical healing because irrationality is treated with irrationality.