Education About Asia: Online Archives

Old Gods, New TImes: A Shaman Ritual in South Korea

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Shamans are religious specialists who are perceived as having the capacity to deal directly with spirits on behalf of the community, either by sending their own soul on a journey to other realms or by calling them into the here and now and manifesting them in their own bodies. Shamans bear witness to their encounters with spirits through their own bodies, either ina journey undertaken in a trance state or by manifesting the spirits’ presence through their ownvoice, gestures, dances, and mimes. Because shamans were first described in Siberia among hunters and herders, their work is sometimes described as an “ancient” or “primitive” religion, but shamans have had long and expansive histories in the sophisticated kingdoms and then nation states of East and Southeast Asia. As the following account illustrates, a living shamanic practice must effectively engage the contemporary world around it.

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