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Observations placeholder

Mudang spiritual experiences – The kut for Oki’s mother and the ghost in the car



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Korean Shamanism – The Cultural Paradox – Dr Chongho Kim

Soh Bosal started the kut ritual with a drum, sitting together with Oki's Mother on the mat. It was a very cold and windy night even though it was spring. Everything seemed to be frozen in the spring cold. It was so cold that I came back to the car for a rest while Soh Bosal performed the first phase of the kut.

I was not keen to observe the first phase, because it just consisted of routine procedures. I took a cigarette out of my pocket and put it in my mouth. Suddenly I felt a strong haunted feeling in the air around me. It felt as if a ghost was going to jump in front of the windscreen. I was so scared that I felt goose bumps appearing on my skin, and a shiver ran down my spine. I turned on the car's interior light and looked into the rear vision mirror, because it felt as though a ghost was about to enter the car through the rear windscreen and squeeze my neck from the back seat.

I locked all of the doors. But still the spooky feeling did not go away. So I switched on the radio and turned up the sound.

There was a Tchaikovsky piano sonata on an FM music programme, which made me feel much better. At that moment, a question came to my mind. Looking at the night sky through the windscreen, I began to talk to myself:

Why do I feel better with Western music? Does it mean that I am much more oriented to Western culture than to Korean traditional culture? Is this the reason why I was possessed by a haunted feeling just now?

No, no. That doesn't make sense. There is so much counterevidence.

For example, what did Mirim's Mother say to you? She said, 'I do not like to see kut rituals, where there seem to be lots of ghosts around. I feel as if worms are going around my body.'

Yes! The haunted feeling means that I am a native anthropologist. If I were not a native anthropologist, it would be hard for me to feel that sort of feeling.


Let me draw a picture. Because of the dark side of social life, there is a cultural domain dealing with the experience of misfortune in Korean culture. In contrast to ordinary domains, the field of misfortune is full of darkness and dampness.

Look at this kut for Oki's Mother! Isn't it full of darkness?

Consequently, its fauna and flora are very different from those of ordinary Korean culture. Most of the creatures living in the field of misfortune have a protective mechanism in order to survive in a very dangerous environment. Some of them are very colourful, but poisonous, like a poisonous mushroom or a venomous snake.

It is my impression that shamanism looks like a poisonous creature.

Korean shamanism is very colourful: its dances and music are dynamic, and costumes are full of bright colour. However, most adult Koreans know its poisonousness.

This is why Yongik's Mother said, 'I'm not going to a kut ritual because I am afraid of being possessed by the spirits!' (kwisine ssiuiulggaba).

Is there any ordinary Korean who likes to be possessed? This is why they don't like to be involved in shamanic practices. This is why shamanism has been stigmatized in Korean history. This is also why my research has encountered such strong resistance in the field. The field which I have been investigating is the field of misfortune!

Why do people seek shamanic practices even though they don't like shamanism? How can this paradox be explained? Yes! Like cures like. The mode of shamanic healing is homeopathic. It is like using derivatives of poison when one is bitten by a venomous snake.

The source of the experience

Korean mystic shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps