Gut Ritual - The Spirits , The People and The Shaman

One of the most important rituals of the colorful Korean shamanic tradition is the so called Gut ritual .


gut ritual


In the Korean Gut ritual the shaman makes a sacrifice in the spirits favor . The music and the dances are vital part of the ritual in which the shaman prays on the spirits for their aid for solving a particular problem . During the Gut ritual the shaman is dressed in a racy costume , which often is colorful , decorated with various metal objects . They produce jangling sounds which is very important for the successful communication between the shaman and the spirits . In the course of the Gut ritual the shaman changes his outfit several times .


During the Gut ritual , the shaman often speaks strange and unintelligible .


This altered state of consciousness in which he falls in , is  part of the ritual . In that state the shaman is able to establish a strong connection with the spirits and to communicate with them .


The Gut ritual is a sort of symbiosis between the three sides involved . The spirits , the people and the shaman - the mediator between the spiritual realm and the humans .


The Gut ritual is conducted differently depending on the region and the goals . The individual character and skills of the shaman also define the way the ritual will be carried .


The Korean Gut ritual is divided in three general types . Naerim-gut , Dodang-gut and Ssitgim-gut 


The Naerim-Gut  (내림굿) the initiation ritual . In this ritual the suited for a shaman is initiated in the sacred traditions . This ritual is related to the so called shamanic illness (shinbyeong) .


Dodang-gut (도당굿) can be defined as a communal ritual . Often conducted in the countryside and the central and southern Korea . This type of Gut ritual is performed to ask the spirits to provide wealth and prosperity for the village or the region . The ritual takes place annual or even more frequently if needed . Most often the Dodang-gut is held in the days around New Year , during the spring or the fall . In this Gut ritual major role is played by the female shamans .


gut ritual


Ssitgim-gut (씻김굿)  is a shamanic ritual which is conducted for cleansing the spirit of a deceased person . Since time immemorial the Koreans believe , that when somebody dies , he cannot pass to the realm of the spirits , as his soul isn’t pure . This is why the Ssitgim-gut ritual is really important . The ritual cleanse everything negative of the deceased person's soul , so that he’d be able to enter the spiritual realm calmly . This Gut ritual is most often performed in the South-West provinces of Korea .


A major part of the Korean shamanic tradition is the banishment of the evil spirits .


The Salp’uri dance is part of these rituals , which translated means to cleans the evil spirits . The Salp’uri is the beautiful conclusion on the shamanic rituals . This sacred dance is common for the region of Honam and is called Ssitkimgut(a ritual for cleansing the deceased soul) . This ritual is considered to be in the foundation of the modern Salp’uri . Surviving during the ages , the ancient dance , now has more than a ritual meaning . The dance puts an aesthetic and artistic accent on the Gut rituals . The main figure in the dance is a female .



The dance is performed under the sounds of the traditional Korean Shinawi (시나위) . During the dance , the female shaman falls in to state of trance . The Salp’uri dance starts slowly and builds up . An important part of the dance is the apparel of the dancer , which in most of the cases is white . During the performance the dancer uses a scarf . She swing the scarf in a wave-like movements , leaded by the rhythm .


No matter where do we live and how advanced we think our society is there always is a place for spirituality . The ancient shamanic and spiritual teaching are deeply rooted in our consciousness . Shamanic rituals like the Gut ritual are a portal to ancient times . They are a window to our past and a way to communicate with our ancestors . To learn from them and to share their and our experience .


Related Literature

Gut, Korean Shamanic Ritual : Songs Calling Spirits

by Kim Soo-nam


Korean Shamanist Ritual: Symbols and Dramas of Transformation

by Daniel A. Kister


Shamanism: The Spirit World of Korea

by Richard W. I. Guisso

Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion

by Laurel Kendall


Korean Shamanism: Revivals, Survivals, and Change

by Keith Howard


Korean Shamanistic Rituals (Religion & Society)

by Jung Young Lee