Wind Festival

Wind Festival

Type of Holiday: Folkloric
Date of Observation: February-March; first day of the second lunar month
Where Celebrated: Korea
Symbols and Customs: Bamboo Altars, Good Luck Papers

ORIGINS

Korean folk religion predates the arrival of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism to the peninsula, but scholars are uncertain of its origins. Hundreds of deities are worshipped throughout Korea, many of whom are tied to specific locations and natural objects. Most of the deities are women, as are most of the religious specialists, called mudang. They perform services ranging from funeral rites to personal fortune-telling to community ceremonies.

The custom of praying to the Wind God exists in the southeast and some other coastal areas of Korea and is known as Yeongdong halmanne, which means "southeast grandmother," or I-weol halmanne, which means "grandmother of the second moon." According to legend, Yeongdong halmanne was a goddess-grandmother who came down from heaven during the second lunar month to see the world, accompanied by either her daughter or her daughter-in-law, and stayed from the first to the twentieth day. When the grandmother was accompanied by her daughter, nothing bad happened; but when her daughter-in-law came with her, things had a tendency to go wrong. The daughter-in-law, who was an epileptic, would raise storms that sank boats and damaged crops. People started offering special prayers on these days, asking the grandmother and her daughter-in-law not to cause trouble but to offer their families safety and good luck.

In coastal areas of Korea, farmers, fishermen, and sailors still offer special prayers and sacrifices to "Yeongdong Mama" and her daughter-in-law during the second lunar month. Tempting foods and boiled rice are set out in the kitchen or garden, where temporary altars have been fashioned out of bamboo (see BAMBOO ALTARS ), and little pieces of white paper (see GOOD LUCK PAPERS ) are burned. A "tabu rope" is placed in front of the house to keep out beggars and sick people, who are regarded as unlucky, and fresh earth is spread around the house.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Bamboo Altars

In areas where storms are a constant threat, Koreans set up branches and leaves of bamboo in their kitchens or gardens and tie pieces of colored cloth and paper to them. They lay out sacrifices and offer prayers under these makeshift altars, which remain standing for twenty days. Each morning during this period, fresh well water is drawn and served in a new gourd placed under the altar.

Good Luck Papers

The custom of burning small pieces of white paper on which the birth dates of family members have been written is believed to bring good luck. The higher the ashes fly, the better the luck they will bring.

FURTHER READING

Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Sang-su, Choe. Annual Customs of Korea. Seoul: Seomun-dang, 1983.

Wind Festival

First day of second lunar month
In the rural districts of Korea's Kyongsang-namdo and Kyongsang-pukto Provinces, a grandmother known as Yungdeung Mama comes down from heaven every year on the first day of the second lunar month and returns on the 20th day. If she brings her daughter with her, there is no trouble; but if she brings her daughter-in-law, who is an epileptic, it means that a stormy wind known as Yungdeung Baram will wreck ships and ruin the crops. To prevent such devastation, farmers, fishermen, and sailors offer special prayers and sacrifices to Yungdeung Mama and her daughter-in-law. Tempting foods and boiled rice are set out in the kitchen or garden, and little pieces of white paper containing the birthdates of family members are burned for good luck: the higher the ashes fly, the better the luck. Sometimes altars are made out of bamboo branches with pieces of cloth or paper tied to them. Sacrifices are laid under the altars, which remain standing until the 20th day of the month.
SOURCES:
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 191
(c)
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