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Observations placeholder

Korean mystic shamanism – Methods – Swinging and swaying



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Korean Shamanist Ritual - Symbols and Dramas of Transformation - Daniel Kister

An East Coast village Pyolshin-kut situates prayer in the midst of playful tomfoolery, naive comic skits, and the chanting of entertaining folk tales that draw laughter and tears from die-hards in the audience, mainly elderly grandmothers, into the wee hours of the morning.

Kut segments commonly begin not, "Let us pray," but, "Let's play."

Not only communal village rites, but also private healing rites, initiation rites, rites for the health of young children, and even rites for the dead have their full share of play and humour. Quite the contrary to what we find in most Korean Buddhist rites, the pulsing rhythms of drum, pipe, and gong, high-pitched melodies, bright paper-craft decorations, and animated dance combine in a well performed kut to create a realm of communal harmony and prayer that resounds with a typically Korean joie de vivre and love of playful revelry.

Sometimes kut play serves also to make work a sacred sign.

In the "Boat Play" of a Pyolshin-kut, swaying rhythmic gestures marked by the beat of the drum have the power to inject a playful sense of prayer into the daily labour of fishermen. A cloth attached to the end of a large, multicolored paper boat is stretched out; and shamans and local fishermen pull the boat back and forth, swaying to the rhythm of the music as they imitate the rowing of a boat or the pulling in of nets while praying for a good catch.

Feelings associated with a rhythmic experience tend to remain embedded in a person's subconscious long after the event. If the sense of prayer embodied in the rhythmic swaying of the "Boat Play" revives in the subconscious of the fishermen when they repeat the same rhythms in the course of actual fishing, it can subconsciously transform the risky work of fishing into a sign of contact with the gods.

The source of the experience

Korean mystic shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps