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Dokkaebishin: The Goblin God

Dokkaebi have a lot of mixed connotations and imagery (no thanks to the Japanese colonialism era). But the true sources throughout ancient Korea (and specialists who study academically as well as mudangs through verbal tellings) is that Dokkaebi is not always a mischievous spirit (like goblins or brownies).

Dokkaebi can be one or the other. For us, they are shamanic gods. For laypeople, they are spirits (like goblins and brownies). The difference? When we receive our Dokkaebi god in the sacred initiation ceremony, they are deities who are connected to the earth and the heavens (sometimes even the underworld). They can take almost any humanoid form, but Dokkaebishin can look ethereal and beautiful. Others will look like the older images of different colored skin, horns, and animal pelts.

Dokkaebi statue, Korea, HANI.

The miscellaneous dokkaebi of the house is a low tiered spirit who forms from old brooms, broken bowls, and eggs that are left out and are connected to the home. Against the common rumor, they cannot be formed from old menstrual blood left on such items. Doing something like that will form a lowly blood spirit instead, which will cause harm.

Men of the sea are well aware of goblin lights. If they saw floating, faint orbs of light over a body of water, they would go to that location and fish. Dokkaebi lights hover in places where there is a bounty of fish. In modernity, the god's realm impacts people's health, fortune, and luck.

In order to worship a Dokkaebishin, and not a low dokkaebi, you must find one that is present in a mudang's shrine.

To leave offerings for a house dokkaebi, you can give offerings of beer, liquor, and coins.

Epithets (for Dokkaebishin):

  • The Laughing Trickster

  • The Lonely One

  • S/he Who is Lonely

  • S/he Who Brings Fortune

  • S/he Who Brings Bounty

  • S/he Who Heals

  • S/he Who Grants Good Health

  • The Trickster Who Brings Luck

  • The Competitive Trickster

  • Goblin of Fishermen

  • S/he Who Saves Us


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