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Aspects of Korean Folk Magic

Updated: May 17, 2023

Korean folk magic (or sorcery/witchcraft) is called 'jusul'. A practitioner who uses these means and methods is a Jusulsa/Jusa. They do not actively worship shamanic gods. They may worship nature spirits or folk gods. It is important to note the difference of a jusulsa and a mudang: Jusulsa are lay practitioners of folk magic, and so most of their inherent "power" is thought to come from their natural abilities. They do not have gods and do not perform a shamanic/priestly role. Mudangs are directly connected to the spirit world, all gods and spirits, and so our power is given to us by our gods whom we accept in the initiation ceremony and are considered clergy.

The impact and efficacy of these roles are varied, depending on the individual. If you consider mudangs and monks to be 70-100% effective, jusulsa can be thought to be 30-50% effective. This is, however, a general scale.

Yellow soil and taboo rope. Kim HyeongSu.

Jusul has some similarities to a few different traditions, like Kemeticism and hoodoo. The similarities come down to what is categorized as sympathetic magic. Within jusul, there are a few different further categories: contact, defensive, counter, jeoju (curse).

  1. Contact jusul means when we have contact with something, we believe that energy is shared or transferred. For example, rubbing the Jejudo statue nose will impart good luck onto you, or eating miyeokguk (seaweed soup) right before a test is going to cause your memory to be 'slippery'.

  2. Defensive jusul refers to pre-emptively protecting oneself. For example, putting up a talisman before the misfortune happens.

  3. Counter jusul is when the misfortune has already happened, and so you perform the counter jusul to rectify this.

  4. Jeoju jusul is referring to curses or blessing reversals. It was done only by jusulsa and low mudangs, both of which were considered to be bearing a heavy burden due to inheriting the karmic debt that comes from doing that sort of work, which goes against the natural order. What this looks like could be: Buddhist hells, punishment from Yeomra, delayed reincarnation, and/or further suffering in the next life.

Who can practice?

If you can find a Korean teacher willing to have you as a student, technically anyone. The issue is finding someone in the first place. I plan to offer live courses for this!

Where can I research/learn more about it?

Unfortunately little to no english resources exist. The ones that do may conflate lay rituals with mudang rituals. One such site has a lot of root information being based on Chinese Folk Religion practices.

Can I start practicing?

Yes! My shop is the easiest place to start - incense, candles, and other spiritual supplies. :)

** NOTE: Anyone who practices our folk magic, and may claim to be a mudang but hasn't gone through an initiation ceremony with an elder mudang, is a fraud (even if it looks like they worship our shamanic gods). They are very likely instead to be jusulsa.


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