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See These Stunning Portraits of Possessed Korean Shamans

Dirk Schlottmann

I think in the West, we’ve really cheapened the idea of connecting to the spirit world. Whether it’s the psychics with the impossibly premium locations in Venice Beach or Hollywood, or the primetime TV psychics who do it for an audience, Western cultures seem to treat the spirit world with disdain, as another market to corner and turn a mighty profit in. But it’s not because we’ve “advanced” ourselves technologically past a need for spiritual connection. One of the most technologically advanced cities in the world, Seoul, is home to many shamans whose ability to connect with the other side has been cultivated over millennia. Spirit possession is a vital part of being a Mudang(무당), or Korean shaman, and they are either chosen by spirits or born into the calling. They are represented by the Korea Worshippers Association, who claim that 1 in every 160 Koreans is a Mudang(무당).

Dr. Dirk Schlottmann is a German social anthropologist, visual anthropologist and photographer who traveled to South Korea to capture some of their rituals for his research on Korean shamanism and spiritual possession — you can read his journal article here. Check out his amazing pictures below.

Korean Shamanism, Mugyo(무교), is a traditional form of animistic religion, based on the belief that a multitude of gods watch over creation and human affairs. As the only native form of religion of the Korean peninsula, it precedes imported beliefs such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity.

There are two kinds of shamans: Gangshinmu(강신무), possessed shamans, are chosen by the spirits, and must go through a possession ritual to accept their calling, followed by a period of training under someone more experienced acting as a spiritual mother or father. The other, Seseummu(세습무), inherits the calling as a family trait.


All photos © Dirk Schlottmann

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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