The Info List - Korean Mythology

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Korean mythology
Korean mythology
refers to stories passed down by word of mouth over thousands of years on the Korean Peninsula.[1] These stories serve as creation myths about the world and origin myths about nature or the social world. Korean myths are often localized and concern specific villages or clans.[2] The earliest Korean myths predate Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist beliefs and are instead rooted in Korean shamanism.[3] Rituals that glorify shamanistic gods are central to the retelling of Korean shamanistic myths.[2] Many ancient Korean shamanistic myths were lost following the rise of Confucianism, which stressed pragmatism and rationalism. Only a fraction of Korean myths believed to have existed in ancient times were ultimately documented by Confucian and Buddhist scholars, many of whom modified the stories to fit within their own belief systems.[1]


1 Influence of Korean shamanism 2 Creation myths

2.1 Changsega 2.2 Cheonjiwang Bonpuri 2.3 Magohalmi 2.4 Sirumal

3 Founding myths

3.1 Dangun

4 Flood myths

4.1 Namu Doryeong

5 Afterworld myths

5.1 Chasa Bonpuri 5.2 Barigongju myth

6 Birth and childhood disease myths

6.1 Samsin
Halmoni 6.2 Sonnimgut

7 Agriculture

7.1 Segyeong Bonpuri

8 Gasin myths

8.1 Munjeon Bopuri 8.2 Seongju Puli 8.3 Seongjo Puri

9 Other myths

9.1 Gunung Bonpuri 9.2 Igong Bonpuri

10 Deities[22] 11 Other mythical beings 12 See also 13 References

Influence of Korean shamanism[edit] Main article: Korean shamanism

A Korean shaman performing a ritual.

Korean shamanism
Korean shamanism
played a major role in the creation of ancient Korean myths.[4] Shamanistic myths are referred to as musoksinhwa (Hangul: 무속신화) and are recited as a part of rituals meant to protect humans and nature. A keungut (Hangul: 큰굿), meaning "grand ritual" is the archetypal Korean shamanistic ritual, and each of its twelve parts includes a bonpuri (Hangul: 본풀이), meaning a myth about a god.[5] Ancient Koreans
believed that every object had a soul and, as such, shamanistic rituals included worshiping the spirits and demons that inhabit objects such as mountains and rivers.[4] A shaman is believed to be able to communicate with the spirit world. In Korean mythology, early leaders of Korea are said to have shamanistic qualities or to be descended from shamans. Dangun, the mythological founder of Korea was said to possess shamanistic traits and is sometimes portrayed as a mountain god, otherwise known as a sanshin.[6] The largest number of shamanistic myths come from Jeju Island
Jeju Island
and South Hamgyeong Province.[5] Creation myths[edit] Creation myths explain how the world began and where people came from. They typically include a first man or first woman who is responsible for creating the world.[7] Changsega[edit] Changsega (Hangul: 창세가) is a shamanistic creation myth from Hamhung, Hamgyong Province
Hamgyong Province
in present-day North Korea. The story explains how the sky and the earth were separated by a giant god named Mireuk, who placed a copper column in each corner of the earth to hold up the sky. He created men from five golden insects, and women from five silver insects. Humankind was peaceful under Mireuk's rule, until another giant named Seokga appeared, and the two competed to rule the human world. Seokga won, but his victory was unjust and is considered, in this myth, the source of evil and sin in humankind.[8] Cheonjiwang Bonpuri[edit] Main article: Cheonjiwang Bonpuri Cheonjiwang Bonpuri (Hangul: 천지왕본풀이) is a shamanistic creation myth from Jeju Island
Jeju Island
in present-day South Korea. It tells the story of Cheonjiwang (the Celestial King), who comes down from the heavens to battle a rude man named Sumyeongmangja, but fails in his mission. While on earth, Cheonjiwang marries Bakiwang, who gives birth to two sons, Daebyeolwang (the Big Star King) and Sobyeolwang (the Small Star King). Eventually, Cheonjiwang has his sons compete to become ruler of the human world. Sobyeolwang wins and punishes Sumyeongjangja by turning him into an insect.[9] In some versions of the story, Daebyeolwang becomes the ruler of the underworld as well.[9] Magohalmi[edit] Magohalmi (Hangul: 마고할미) is a creation myth from the Kwanbuk region of North Hamgyeong Province in present-day North Korea
North Korea
about a giant goddess named Grandmother Mago. Mago creates all the geological formations on earth using mud, rocks, and her own urine and excrement. Unlike creation myths about male deities, this myth was only passed down orally and was not included in formal records or rituals.[10] Sirumal[edit] Sirumal (Hangul: 시루말) is a shamanistic creation myth from Osan, Gyeonggi Province
Gyeonggi Province
in present-day South Korea.[11] The story is performed in front of a ritual earthenware steamer called a siru.[12] In the story, Dangchilseong spends the night with Lady Maehwa, who gives birth to two sons, Seonmun and Human, after Dangchilseong leaves. The boys are teased at school for being fatherless, but learn about their father and ascend into the sky to meet him. He then gives Seomun the kingdom of Daehanguk, and Human the kingdom of Sohanguk.[11] Founding myths[edit]

Dangun, the mythical founder of the first Korean kingdom.

Geonguksinhwa (Hangul: 건국신화) are myths that explain the founding of a nation. Korea's ancient founding myths often include a story about the union of a sky father and earth mother. Korea's medieval founding myths instead established that Korean rulers had divine lineage but were not deities themselves.[13] Dangun[edit] Main article: Dangun Dangun
Wanggeom (Hangul: 단군왕검) is the founder of Gojoseon, the first kingdom of Korea. It is believed he founded Gojoseon
in 2333 BC. Dangun's story was recorded in two documents from the 13th century A.D., the Samgungnyusa
and the Jewang Ungi.[14] Dangun's grandfather, Hwan-in, was the "Lord of Heaven," while his father, Hwan-ung, descended to earth and founded a society on the Korean peninsula. In some versions of the myth, his society is located on Mount Taebaeksan, and in other versions it is located on Mount Paektu. When a bear and a tiger came to Hwan-ung asking to be made human, he gave them each a bundle of sacred food to eat and told them to stay in a cave for 100 days, after which time they would become human. While the tiger gave up, the bear followed Hwang-ung's directions and was turned into a human woman named Ungnyeo. Ungnyeo mated with Hwang-ung and gave birth to Dangun. Dangun
ruled Gojoseon for 1,500 years before becoming a mountain god called a sansin.[14] Flood myths[edit] Namu Doryeong[edit] Namu Doryeong (Hangul: 나무도령) is a myth about the son of a guardian tree spirit. The son, Namu Doryeong, survived a flood by floating on the tree. He first saved a colony of ants from the flood, then a swarm of mosquitoes, until he had saved all the animals of the world. Namu Doryeong finally saved a young human boy, despite the tree's advice against it. After the flood, Namu Doryeong met an older woman and her two daughters on Mt. Baekdu, where they had been safe from the flood. The woman told Namu Doryeong if he won a contest, he could have her daughter's hand in marriage. Namu Doryeong won the contest with the aid of a swarm of ants, who turned out to be the very ants that Namu Doryeong had saved during the flood. Namu Doryeong and the human boy married the −two daughters, and they formed the next race of humans.[15] Afterworld myths[edit] Chasa Bonpuri[edit] Main article: Chasa Bonpuri Chasa Bonpuri (Hangul: 차사본풀이) is an underworld myth from Jeju Island. The hero Gangrim Doryeong is ordered to capture Yeomra, King of the Underworld, by his king (Kimchiwonnim) in order to discover the reason for the mysterious deaths of the three sons of Gwayanggaxi. With help from Munsin, the door god, and Jowangsin, the kitchen god, Gangrim Doryeong captures Yeomra. After testing Gangrim Doryeong's wisdom, Yeomra tells Kimchiwonnim that the mysterious deaths are because the three sons are actually the three princes of Beomul, who were murdered by Gwayanggaxi. They chose to be reborn as Gwayanggaxi's sons to take revenge on their killers. Gangrim Doryeong became the death god, who reaps dead souls and brings them to the underworld.[citation needed] Barigongju myth[edit] Barigongju or Baridegi(Hangul: 바리공주) is a shamanistic myth about the Abandoned Princess. In the story, the princess' parents abandon her because they are unable to have a son, and she is their seventh daughter. Years later, the princess' parents became ill, and she travels to the underworld to find the elixir of life. With it, she revives her parents and becomes a goddess who guides the souls of the dead from earth to heaven.[16][17] Birth and childhood disease myths[edit] Samsin
Halmoni[edit] Main article: Samsin
Halmoni Samsin Halmoni (Hangul: 삼신 할머니) is a shamanistic myth about the triple goddess of birth. After being seduced by a monk, her brothers threatened to kill her for bringing dishonor to their family. She hid in a cave, where she gave birth and was later freed by her mother, a shaman from heaven.[18] Sonnimgut[edit] Sonnimgut is a myth about the 53 smallpox gods, called the Sonnimne, who lived in China. However, the Sonnimne wanted to live in Korea, so the beautiful goddess Gaxi Sonnim, lead three of the Sonnimne there. However, they could not cross the Yalu River. One day, a ferryman said that the three gods could cross the Yalu on his boat if Gaxi Sonnim made love to him. Gaxi Sonnim severed the ferryman's head with a dagger and then gave smallpox to the ferryman's seven sons, killing the eldest six. The seventh son survived, though he was disabled. Then, they crossed the Yalu on the ferryman's boat. When the gods reached Seoul, they attempted to sleep in the house of the rich Kim Jangja, but were refused. Instead, they slept in the shack of the kind crone, Nogo Halmi. After blessing Nogo Halmi's granddaughter with longevity and good luck, the trio headed towards Kim Jangja's mansion. Kim Jangja hid his son Cheolhyeon in a high mountain, and burned peppers on every street because pepper was said to drive away the Sonnimne. The Sonnimne attacked Cheolhyeon, first luring him out of the mountain then whipping him. The Sonnimne pierced silver needles in Cheolhyeon's joints, and finally, Kim Jangja promised to have a sacrifice made for the Sonnimne. However, the promise was false, and the angered Sonnimne killed Cheolhyon, and took him as the fifty-fourth Sonnimne. When the Sonnimne were returning to China, they found that Nogo Halmi lived in Kim Jangja's mansion with her granddaughter and son-in-law, while Kim Jangja lived as a sick beggar in Nogo Halmi's shack. When Cheolhyeon cried out at this situation, the Sonnimne gave Kim Jangja some money and cured his sickness. Cheolhyeon then joined the Sonnimne.[19][full citation needed] Agriculture
myths[edit] Segyeong Bonpuri[edit] Segyeong Bonpuri (Hangul: 세경본풀이) is a myth about Jacheongbi, the goddess of farming. In the story, Jacheongbi disguises herself as a man, goes to school in heaven, falls in love with a fellow student named Bachelor Mun, and the two eventually make love. When she returns home, Jacheongbi's parents give her all of the family property because they do not have a male heir. Jacheongbi waits for Mun, and then sets out to find him with her servant Jeongsunam. She kills Jeongsunam when he tries to rape her, and her parents denounce her as a murderer and kick her out of their home. Eventually, Jacheongbi disguises herself as a man again and goes to live with Mun in heaven, and, after completing a series of tests, receives permission from Mun's father to marry Mun. One of the tests was to cross a bridge lined with knife blades, which caused Jacheongbi to bleed, thus establishing menstruation. Ultimately, Jacheongbi becomes Jungsegyeong, the Earthly Farming Goddess; Mun becomes Sangsegyeong, the Celestial Farming God; and the servant Jeongsunam becomes Hasegyeog, the Cattle God.[20] Gasin myths[edit]

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Main article: Gasin faith Gasin are deities who protect houses, rooms, and objects.[21] Munjeon Bopuri[edit] Main article: Munjeon Bonpuri Munjeon Bonpuri (Hangul: 문전본풀이) is a myth about the origin of Cheuksin, the toilet goddess. In the story Noiljadae (or her daughter, in some versions), kills Yeosan Buin and attempts to kill her seven children. However, Noiljadae commits suicide when her plan is foiled by the seventh son, Nokdisaengin, and Yeosan Buin is brought back to life with Hwansaengkkot flowers. Yeosan Buin becomes Jowangsin, the goddess of the kitchen, hearth, and fire. Seongju Puli[edit] Seongju Puli is a myth about the evil magician Sojinhang attempts to claim Teojushin, the earth goddess. However, Sojinhang is defeated, and he turns into a Jangseung, or totem pole. His daughters turn into deities called Seonangsin. Seongjo Puri[edit] Seongjo Puri is a myth about Ansimguk of Seongjo, who abandons his wife, Gyehwa Buin. As a result, he is abandoned on a deserted island, where he lives for three years as a furry beast. Other myths[edit]

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Gunung Bonpuri[edit] Main article: Gunung Bonpuri Gunung Bonpuri, the giant Wang Janggun kills the Dragon King of the West Sea with an arrow at the request of the Dragon King of the East Sea. The Dragon King of the East Sea
Dragon King of the East Sea
gives his daughter's hand in marriage, and the giant Wang Janggun and his three sons become the Gunungshin, or war gods. Igong Bonpuri[edit] Main article: Igong Bonpuri Deities[22][edit]

- Mountain gods Munsin - Door god Teojusin Cheuksin Jowangsin Eopsin - Goddess of storage and wealth Yeomna - God of death Sosamshin - Goddess of the birth of cattle Seonangsin - Goddess of villages, boundaries, and wars Yongwang Nulgupjisin Dosumunjang - Creator God Cheonjiwang - Sky King of the Gods Bagiwang - Queen of the Earth Daebyeol - King of the Afterworld Sobyeol - King of the Human World Hwadeok Jingun - Fire God Gangrim - Leader of the Chasas Jibuwang - Afterworld God who give orders to chasa. Danggeum - Samsin Samseung Halmang - Samsin
of Jejudo Jeoseung Halmang - Goddess who brings death to babies Sambuljeseok - Three fate gods, sons of Danggem Byeolsang - Pox Gods including Sonnimnes and Eojeontto Baridegi - see above Hallakgungi - see Igong Bonpuri Gameunjang - Goddess of 'Jeonsang' term that could be referred to 'Fate' or 'Former Life' Sekyeongshins - see above Oneuli - Goddess of Time Honsuseongin - Gods who protect children from diseases Chilseongshin - God of Septentrions Gungsang - Sun God Myeongwol - Moon Goddess Yeonggam - Dokkaebi
Gods Jijang - Goddess of misfortune Bonhyangdang - Village
Guardians, Gwenegitto, Baramun, and Baekjo Agi are named Bonhyangdangs Samani - God of Lifespan[23] Gunung - see Gunung Bonpuri Yeongdeung - Goddess of Wind[24] Bugeun - God of sexual relationships[25] Gamheung - Father of all Gods[26] Geollipsin - Begger Gods[27]

Other mythical beings[edit]

Korean dragon Gwishin Chollima
- winged horse Kumiho - nine-tailed fox Dokkaebi
- Mischievous sprits that appear at night. Imugi - lesser dragons Haetae
- lion with scales and a horn on its head Bulgasari - iron-eating monster Samjoko
- three legged bird that represents the sun Bulgae Samjokgu - three legged dog that leads people and distinguish kumihos [28] Samdugumi - Monstrous fox spirit of Jeju Island
Jeju Island
that has three heads and nine tails.[29]

See also[edit]

Culture of Korea Korean shamanism


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