Mudang spiritual experiences – A kut to cure headaches believed to be due to the baneful influence of a distressed ancestor
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Korean Shamanist Ritual - Symbols and Dramas of Transformation - Daniel Kister
Kim Seong-nae records an instance in which two days of laments formed a family saga that brought to life the evils of a social history spanning a hundred years (1989a:241- 271; 1989b:251-256). The kut sought in part a cure for headaches of the wife, which were believed to be due to the baneful influence of a distressed ancestor.
The rite sought also to divine whether an uncle, aunt, and younger brother who had disappeared in North Korea years before had died. If so, the family would commemorate them in ancestral rites, hoping thus to console their distress and also remove a cause of the wife's headaches. The rite evoked a poignant image of the soul of one of the relatives, who was divined indeed to have died. The shimbang (shaman), acting as a "helper" of the spirits, but not a medium, prayed for the deceased soul:
Please be reborn . . . into the body of a blue butterfly or red butterfly. You pitiful soul! Wherever you go in the other world, please take away the iron net around the head of the wife. (1989b:263)
The wife's pain was thus bound up with the woe of long lost relatives, which in turn formed part of a chain of suffering that included another vivid image, one of the tragic division between South and North Korea. At one point, the shimbang bemoaned the fact that
although this land is the same land, there is no way we can come and go [between North and South]. We hold guns in our hands aiming at each other, trying to kill. However, we cannot lay bare the painful facts to anyone. . Dark clouds have covered our hearts. (1989a:266)
The very fact of chanting the Yonggye-ullim no doubt provides a measure of cathartic healing for the family. But Kim stresses that these laments serve another purpose as well: They preserve the painful truth of the evils perpetrated on both sides on the occasion of a Communist uprising on Chejudo on April 3, 1948, a truth that has remained in the .people's hearts, but for four decades was forbidden by government censure from being laid bare (1989a:234-237).
The Yonggye-ullim thus provides not only private healing, but the seeds of social healing on a much broader scale by confessing and preserving public truth.