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National Pantheon, Regional Deities, Personal Spirits? Mushindo, Sŏngsu, and the Nature of Korean Shamanism

Boudewijn Walraven
Asian Ethnology
Vol. 68, No. 1 (2009), pp. 55-80
Published by: Nanzan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25614521
Page Count: 26
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
National Pantheon, Regional Deities, Personal Spirits? Mushindo, Sŏngsu, and the Nature of Korean Shamanism
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Abstract

Korean shamans (manshin or mudang) practicing in the tradition of Hwanghae province possess numerous paintings of spirits of deceased shamans (sŏngsu) who assist them in their activities. Attention has been paid to such paintings (hwan) mainly in the context of shamanism as a part of Korean national heritage, and the role they play in the lives of individual shamans has been neglected. If one looks beyond the surface of these hwan, which often seem to be almost identical, it turns out that shamans have very personal relationships with the figures depicted, who may have been professional as well as genealogical ancestors. In some cases, the paintings also represent the spiritual essence of a living person (including the shaman her- /himself). A detailed investigation of the very personal meaning that hwan have for individual shamans helps to understand the dynamics of rituals. Taking into account the very personal nature of the shamanic experience involved also strengthens the claim of the Korean manshin to be called shamans according to a general definition of shamanism formulated by Roberte Hamayon.

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