Click on picture to enlarge.

Trident 대삼지창 (Korean Shaman Instrument)

A Ritual Instrument of Korean Shamanism

Shamanism is Korea's oldest belief system, its origins presumably come from Central Asia.

Korean shamanism involves worshiping representative natural resources as mountains, monumental trees, wind or water. These representative natural objects are under the influence of a supreme power.

According to shamanistic belief invisible spirits populate our world that play an important role in the life of the individual, the family and the whole community. The shaman - in Korea usually a woman - has access to this spirit world and acts as a mediator between deities, spirits and man.

The shaman (mudang) is either born into a shaman family or is "called" by a mystical experience or a inexplicable illness. She will contact another shaman who mentors and introduces her to the oral traditions and confirms her competence with an initiation ceremony.

A main task of the shaman is to perform certain rituals (gut) aiming at healing of diseases, rich harvest, happiness and prosperity of the family, support in exams or accompanying the souls of the dead. Shamanism has no special places of worship since all sacred shrines were destroyed in the 19th and 20th century; the shaman practices her rituals at home, in her private shrine, outdoors or in public places like village squares.

Every shaman has her own rituals but dance, chants and music always accompany them. During the ceremony the mudang clothed in colorful costumes calls to the gods and spirits with offerings of fruit, fish, rice wine etc.

She acts out the character of the spirits and deities through dance and chanting using typical shaman instruments like swords, cymbals, jingle-bells, cloth banners and the trident.

The trident is used in the ritual to kill symbolically an (already dead) pig. The sacrificial animal carries the message from earth to the spirit in heaven called by the shaman.

The role of shamans in present-day Korea is ambivalent. Especially in the countryside they will be called in need but they have no high standing in society and most of them lead a withdrawn life. On the other hand, since 1984 shaman Kim Keum Hwa was designated Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Korean Government and has international performances.