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Mudang spiritual experiences – Dancing barefoot on well-honed straw-chopper blades

Identifier

027111

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

National Geographic video - Knife Dancing

A ritual of passage for a South Korean girl requires dancing barefoot on top of sharp knives

 

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

The events that typify kut activity in the popular imagination are spectacular oracular signs, such as the Seoul-area rite in which an initiatory mudang, dressed as the Spirit General and in some degree of trance, is believed to take on the power of the god to do dance-like gestures, barefoot, on well-honed straw-chopper blades.

But mudang do not always perform extraordinary signs or speak in a trance; nor does an extraordinary action or mental state necessarily testify to the presence of divine power. A mudang's feats may arouse awe in anyone; but they constitute a sacred sign of the gods' transforming presence only for the community of believers who expect such a sign.

The kut community expects extraordinary signs, moreover, because they stand in awe of the greater wonder of the mudang's life, marked as it is by the destiny of a god's call and by service to others in response to this call........

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…….More important than imitative gestures for reinforcing belief in the presence of the god are the various spectacular feats which the mudang displays to bedazzle those present with proof of the god's power.

Those Seoul mudang who are originally from the northern province of Hwanghaedo are particularly adept at such displays. A mudang may precariously balance large pots of rice cake on top of a liquor bottle, or she may balance on the edge of a table a trident on which is stuck a huge pig's head. She may do a dance with a bottle of rice wine balanced on the top of her head or a fast dance with knives.

The feat most awaited is that in which a mudang "rides the blades," doing dance movements bare-foot, perched high on two fierce-looking straw-chopper blades. Such a feat constitutes for the worshiping community a concrete sign of the god's presence in their midst; but the simple offering and sharing of ritual food likewise constitutes a sign of union with the gods, with no fanfare at all.

The source of the experience

Korean mystic shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Possession

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

References