Hi-ah Park – 02 Initiatory illness
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Did you have personal desire to be a shaman?
When I began studying shamanism in 1975, I had neither wish nor the intention to become a shaman. I initially considered the whole process solely as an artistic endeavor, yet everything I encountered along the shamanic path seemed to create a thirst in me for spiritual fulfillment. I became a manshin after I was called to the profession through sinbyong, or initiatory illness.
What is the symptom of shamanic illness?
I began to suffer from tedium and loneliness, without knowing any meaning to my life. My interest in mundane affairs and domestic chores waned completely. I suffered unbearable loneliness and longed for the mountains.
I spent many nights weeping endlessly or dreaming of impending death. In my dreams, I was imprisoned in the underworld and chased by wild animals. For about nine months, I endured sleepless and restless nights, until I had an incredible, lengthy dream of an ancient royal funeral procession. My insomnia stopped right after this mysterious dream. I was happy without any specific reason. I felt elevated into the air, as if somebody was lifting me. After this funeral dream, my dream scenes started to change into lighter, celestial ones.
In one of unforgettable dream journey, a white unicorn with wings took me through the Milky Way to an incredible, infinite space of deep, jet-dark indigo. In that place, I heard a deep and resonant voice ask me, “How are the people down there?
” I still remember clearly the conversation with that invisible voice and the ecstatic feeling I had. Then the voice told me I had to go back to teach the people love. I felt boundless joy and, at the same time, sadness that I had to go back. Without any sense of waking up from a dream, I found myself in my room. For a while, I was obsessed by this visionary dream and felt very connected with that other reality. Although I couldn’t understand it, the other space was so clear that I now felt as if my waking state was the dream.
Why do shamans have to go through shamanic illness?
I believe that it happens because a person’s spiritual body is starving from a lack of inspirational creativity. The initiatory sickness allows her to escape from the world and withdraw into the darkness, in order to experience her own rites of passage. In order to become a shaman, the person must go through years of introspection, personal torment, and progressive spiritual development. Without understanding the stillness, one will never understand the spirit world.