Beyond Primitivism: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity

By Jacob K. Olupona | Go to book overview

Notes
1
The ethnographic “guts” of this chapter are the product of fieldwork in the Republic of Korea in the summer of 1994, supported by the American Museum of Natural History Belo-Tanenbaum Fund. Seong-ja Kim served as my research assistant with great skill and fortitude. Ann Wright-Parsons assisted in the preparation of this manuscript. Serenity Young gave an early draft a careful and very helpful reading.
2
In the 1970s, I heard both shamans and clients sometimes refer to what they did as misin(superstition), leaching the word of its prejudicial content for want of any better term (Kendall 1985:28). By the 1990s, the scholar’s term musok(shamanic practices) had gained wide acceptance within the shaman world.
3
The shamans I have worked with usually described the possessing spirits as having a particular force or power acquired in their past lives, often as shamans or destined shamans, but sometimes in personas identified with warriors or statesmen. Something close to Auntie Chun’s characterization appears when the initiate, Chini, speaks for her dead sister who has “received the teaching of the Heavenly King” (Kendall 1996a); she has been working on self-cultivation in the great beyond.
4
Her remarks carry an echo of Christian theologian David Kwang-sun Suh’s complaint: “The Shaman concept of Hananism (God) [sic] is ahistorical and amoral…There is almost a complete lack of a framework in Shamanism to understand Christology as such…There is no concept of divine incarnation, coming to this world for the salvation of the secular world” (Suh 1983:49).
5
The Korean designation kyo (Chinese jiao), applied to Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and even occasionally “shamanism” (mugyo), is perhaps best translated as “teaching. “Teaching” admits the possibility of syncretic belief, but has little to say about the practices through which beliefs are realized.
6
See Yi (1976) for the expressed complaints of officials. See Kendall (1985:30-4) for a discussion of conflicts between officials and shamans as a folkloric motif.
7
Missionaries also noted the frequency with which potential converts came to them to be exorcised of “devils” (Allen 1908:17; Gale 1898:246; Gifford 1898:112-17). Gifford writes of an 82-year-old shaman, “rescued after years of bondage, who accepted Christianity when prayers from the little church in her neighborhood rendered her stiff and mute as she attempted to invoke her spirits (Gifford 1905).
8
Christian exorcists, in competition with shamans, are a persistent theme in the Korean Christian experience and imagination. In his novellas, Portrait of a Shaman and Ulhwa, Kim Tongni describes the tragic struggle of a shaman mother and Christian son, each grimly determined to exorcise the other of alien spirits.
9
Keith Thomas describes how in England, by the seventeenth century, new intellectual developments had deepened the gulf between the educated urban classes and the “superstitious” lower strata of the rural population (Thomas 1971:666). A similar split has come to exist in China, where, from the end of the last century, the traditions of the rural population have been “derided as backward and actively suppressed by China’s modern political and intellectual elites, whose views on other matters range across the political spectrum from extremes of the Left and the Right” (Cohen 1991:113). Both Argyrou (1993:266), writing of Cyprus, and Kapferer (1983:18, 29), writing of Sri Lanka, describe the middle class’s identification with “science” or with more “rational” religious practices as a means of asserting and naturalizing class domination. In urban India, middle-class households adopt new “rationalized” devotional practices that disassociate them from rural “superstition” (Babb 1990). Writing of Nepal, Pigg (1996) notes how those villagers who identify with the “modern” sector, through jobs in teaching or with development projects, shun the “superstitious” practices of village shamans.
10
See also Linke (1990).
11
Ch’oe Namsôn was not the first to describe Tan’gun as the progenitor of contemporary shamans. Boudewijn Walraven notes that the Mudang naeryok (History of the Mudang), dated to 1885, had already made this link while disparaging then contemporary shaman practices (Walraven 1993:10).
12
In another context, I describe the gendered politics of this discussion, of men claiming to inscribe nationalistic meanings on the personalized stories that female shamans perform in their rituals (Kendall 1998).

-252-

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