There are many differences between mainland Korea and Jeju Island, including differences in nature, culture, and dialect. On Jeju Island, the shamanistic beliefs "dang" and "kut" are preserved as part of the unique culture.
In every old town on Jeju Island there is a dang, which a temple that houses the patron god that protects the town's residents.
People believe that there are more than 18,000 gods, and there is even a superstitious custom called Shingugan where people move to a new house only during the time of Shingugan, which they think will bring good fortune.
A dang is a sanctuary for the gods who control a town, and it is also a place for prayer and sacrifice.
Appropriately as a home to thousands of gods, Jeju Island residents have a long history of practicing shamanism, and the most representative ritual is called a kut. A mudang, a shaman who performs the kut and supposedly communicates between the gods and humans, is called a "shinbang" on Jeju Island. The most famous kut on Jeju Island is Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut, which was designated the 71st Intangible Cultural Heritage. It’s a dang-kut done by the townspeople serving the town god Bon-hyang-dang-sin in Chilmeoridang, Geonip-dong, Jejudo-si, and the Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut is listed as Yeongdeungut, a worldwide UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, and is recognized globally.
The custom of Shingugan is a tradition exclusive to Jeju Island residents, and people believe that all the gods on earth go up to heaven during the time of Shingugan and report every human activity to Emperor Okhwang-Sangje (the emperor of heaven). Therefore, during the time when the gods are not present, which is during Shingugan, people moved, fixed housing, reconstructed bathrooms, and moved graves because they thought they could avoid angering the gods at that time. That superstition still exists, so many people only fix housing and move during the time of Shingugan. It is from the fourth day after the last term of the 24th solar term called the Daehan Period to the third, which is before the first term called the Ipchun Period. It spans 8 days and it is based on the solar rather than lunar calendar. So this season is from January 25 to February 1 every year.
Dang (Shrine), a House of God for the Village
In Jeju, there is a shrine in each village that serves as a house for the gods.
This is a holy place for letting in the gods to protect and oversee the villages and it is also the place of ancestral rites.
It consists of Bonhyangdang, the place to treasure the history of village story; Ilrwedang which is where the children’s health and development is attended; and Donjitdang where the fisherman and Haenyeo (female diver)’s affiliated ocean work takes place.
Every village has at least 1 shrine, with some villages possessing up to 7 or 8. Based on the latest research, there are an estimated total of 400 shrines. If you would like to take a look at the shrines, respectfully ask an elder in the village and quietly take a look around.
Gut, a Festival of 18,000 Gods and Humans
Musok, the folklore of all magico-religious beliefs that surround Mugyeok, is our ethnic group’s indigenous religion and also serves as a critical reference that illuminates the very root of our national culture.
Playing up to its reputation of being a home of 18,000 gods, there is plenty of Musok in Jeju.
One representative Musok is ‘Gut’. Mudang, the person who acts as the connector (intercessor) between humans and God is called the ‘Sinbang’ in Jeju.
The ritual carried out by the Sinbang can be categorized into Common Gut, Danggut, and Binyeom depending on the opportunity, size, and style.
The normal Gut is the prayer for house affairs asks for blessings from the Gods that oversee life and death, illness, trade, and seasons.
Danggut is a village ritual in which village residents gather together to pray to the Dang-God that protects the village.
The most famous Gut in Jeju is the Chilmeoridang Yeondeunggut, which is designated as the State Intangible Cultural Heritage 71.
Located in Chilmeoridang of Geonip-dong of Jeju, it takes place with the villagers praying to the Bonhyangdangsin, the guardian god for the village.
The Chilmeoridang Yeondeunggut, which is a Yeondeunggut, is registered as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, and is gaining international recognition for its true value.
This precious and valuable Gut takes place every February 1st and February 14th of the lunar calendar at the Chilmeoridang, which is positioned in the entrance of Sarabong Volcanic Cone, and it is definitely worth a visit.
Singugan, the Unique Custom of Jeju, Where Myths are Alive
Even Jejudo Island, the home of gods, has a period where the gods take a leave of absence.
That is the total of eight days from four days after Daehan, the last solar term of the 24 divisions of the year, to the first three days before the Ipchun (the first day of spring), which is the first solar term of the 24 divisions of the year.
Jeju calls this period ‘Singugan’, which means the time between the old season and the new season.
The 24 divisions of the year are rooted not in the lunar calendar but in solar calendar, so the time between January 25th and February 1st is that period.
In Jeju, people used to believe that all gods would convene together in heaven during this period to report all of the things that had happened in the human realm to the Great Jade Emperor.
So during the period when the gods would take their leave of absence, there is a folk belief that it is appropriate to move, fix houses, renovate toilets, and move graves of their ancestors without the fear of retribution.
As a result of this folk belief that continues to be carried out to this day, there are many households who fix their homes or move houses during this Singugan
Pojedan Altar, the Place of Village Ritual Praying for Peace Every Village in Jeju
A village ritual that is organized by the village males and carried out in the Confucian manner is called Poje and the place where this Poje takes place is the Pojedan Altar.
The Danggut, which is a shaman ritual organized by women, also coexist.
Danggut and Poje used to be one, but with the adoption of the Confucian ceremony during the Joseon era, it separated into two with the male-dominated Poje coming into birth.