Mudang spiritual experiences – A Kut for the deceased mother of six children
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Korean Shamanist Ritual - Symbols and Dramas of Transformation - Daniel Kister
[This]Kut [was] for the deceased mother of six children, ranging in age from their mid-thirties to the mid-fifties. The mother had died less than a month before; and at the beginning of the kut, she embraced her children through the mudang and exchanged words of greetings.
In life, the relations between the mother and the first daughter-in-law had been strained; so the mother had ceased living in the first son's household, as is the traditional custom. In the course of the kut, the mother's spirit was thought to speak through the mediumship of the daughter-in-law as the latter held the noktae, a branch of oak standing in water as a symbol of the deceased. The branch began to shake, and the daughter-in-law shrieked out.
The daughter-in-law then went on for a quarter of an hour in a trance, speaking sometimes, in the mother's voice, sometimes in her own. At one point, referring to the first son's bad health, the mother cried out, again and again, "What's to be done?"
The words were believed to be those of the mother, but they seemed coloured by the daughter-in-law's own intense feelings of grief, anxiety, and han. At one point, the daughter-in-law confessed that she was sorry, and the mother promised to give assistance from the grave. The mother later said, "I want to go"; and one of her daughters said that they would bid her farewell. The mother drank a little liquor, but then suddenly cried, "I'll take my oldest son with me."
According to the mudang's interpretation, the mother thought that it would be better for the son to die than be in such poor health.
The others exclaimed in horror, "Don't say that!" but she said she would "take him and go."
Finally, the daughter-in-law came out of her trance. The healing psycho-drama was finished, and her sisters-in-law tried to calm her down in a corner of the room. The whole experience was traumatic for her and rather frightening for all present; but it gave her a unique opportunity to seek her mother-in-law's forgiveness and no doubt gave all members of the family a clearer sense of their self-identity as a family.
In the end, freeing reconciliation was achieved; and with it were nourished both greater family harmony and the kut community's vision of life as a dramatic encounter with the gods and spirits.