Retellings of Baridegi

Spirit_of_a_Noble_Woman_(Probably_Princess_Pari)_and_Attendant_LACMA_M.2000.15.11By: Max Hartley

Max Hartley is a senior studying Anthropology and Asian Studies, with a focus on East Asia. She is particularly fascinated by mythology, religion, and the influence of folk religions in the modern age, as well as shamanism in its many forms, particularly as it is practiced in Korea

The Korean myth of Bari-degi or The Abandoned Princess Bari tells the story of the first mudang, or shaman. The myth details how the young princess, abandoned at birth by her father, came to know of his sickness and used cunning and bravery to cross between the world of living and dead in order to save him. This act of traversing between worlds is what makes her the first shaman, establishing the uniquely female dominated tradition within Korea. It also touches on a common theme in Korean culture — the concept of filial piety, drawn heavily from Confucian tradition. Shamans give a voice to the marginalized, in some cases those experiencing stress or mental anguish, those who have been victimized in others, and in the case of Korea often women who were traditionally silenced under the rigid Confucian structure. Continue reading