DOI: 10.3390/rel15010060 ISSN: 2077-1444

A Study of the Aekmagi Ritual in Jeju Shamanic Religion: Focusing on the Sacred Status of Shamans and the Significance of Sacrifice

Yohan Yoo
  • Religious studies

In the Jeju shamanic religion, chickens have been sacrificed for aekmagi, a ritual to prevent aek, a looming misfortune that may cause death. Whereas ordinary participants are thought to be at risk of harm when possessing or eating chickens or other offerings made to prevent aek, the simbang, Jeju shamans, are thought to be immune to it. Simbang are believed to be permanently on the threshold between the human and the divine realms. They help remove aek but are not harmed by it, because it only harms humans in the human realm, not the person on the boundary. While the other participants are temporarily placed in the liminal state during aekmagi and come back to the ordinary living human realm after the ritual, simbang remain in the perpetual liminal state. Chicken sacrifice has been omitted from aekmagi since around 2010 in most places in Jeju-do. Though ritual killing is no longer practiced, adherents still think that aek is prevented by aekmagi. The Jeju people believe that gods are the main agents of preventing aek and that they can persuade the gods to do the work without receiving chickens’ lives. In addition, due to the change in people’s view on killing animals, aekmagi without chicken sacrifice has become a more efficient ritual system for nourishing social sustenance by following the new social prescription.