Thursday, January 26, 2006

Shamans and pig heads on Mt. Inwangsan

Last Saturday I hiked Mt. Inwangsan (from Dongnimun Station) past the construction zone and up to Guksadang, a shamanic shrine where shamans continue to perform rituals to this day. Seoul is home to millions of people, neon signs, noise and pollution, but it's nice to know that a short hike up a mountain can bring you to a different side of Seoul. One with a better view that is much less frequented by busy Seoulites. By the time I came to Guksadang the noise from the city had faded away and was replaced by a man inside the temple beginning to chant. It was quite a contrast to go so quickly from crowded subway to shaman chanting. From Guksadang I went up to Seonbawi (Zen rock) where mothers still come to pray for a son. From here I had a great view of the city from above including the Seoul fortress wall and the Seoul tower. When I walked further up the mountain I came to the natural springs and the ancient Buddha head rock carving and saw, hanging from a stick, what I first mistook for a bag of garbage. It actually was a pig's head stuck in a black garbage bag with only it's fake-looking ears hanging out the sides. I think it was a food offering for the spirits...shamanists believe that the dead still need food. After enjoying the view and the peace of quiet for awhile I walked back down the mountain alongside the Seoul fortress wall and back into the organized chaos of the city streets.

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Shaman chanting at Guksadang Shrine on Inwangsan Mountain, Seoul.