Religion is a term that represents people’s beliefs and cultural systems. Everyone is free to join any religion as long as it is registered with a certain government. Each religion has its own doctrines and tenets. This is why, the one leading the group should be a person with the distinctive moral values. The main function of religion is to unite human beings with their gods.
In one country, there may exist a various number of religious groups as, for instance, in Korea. Not long ago, Korean ancient beliefs have been associated with the religion group called Mugyo. Among their principles, the precious place occupies an ancestral veneration. This ritual has been a part of the traditional practices since the late centuries. All the same, the practices were affected by the wars that took place in Korea. Unfortunately, a lot of the people were forced to run away from their own country in order to look for a homage elsewhere. Naturally, they absorbed a new vision of things having been influenced by the environment of their new home countries. They were offered the new religious beliefs as a first priority over their own culture.
After the end of the wars, some of these people went back to their native country and introduced their new believes to those in Korea. As a result, it caused the diffusion of the Korean culture boundaries. The appearance of the new religion movements was the another factor that contributed to the change of the traditional religions. The doctrines of these new movements taught that some of the cultural rituals, like ancestorial veneration or spirit consultation, involved the superstitious practices. In comparison, such religion as Christianity strictly condemns devil worshipping or idol worship. This religion has gained many followers, who having joined it tried to evade their cultural rituals, as they had been brainwashed and accused of not being godly.
The other factor that also contributed to the changes in the traditional religions is urbanization together with a modernization .These two components come along with the influence of the western culture. The local people moved to the urban centers in the search of jobs .Here they met people from the different communities with whom they interacted and exchanged their views. This rural urban movement affected their religious believes, and at a certain time, the Korean government burned the Mugyo religions from the urban areas. This forced the followers living in the urban areas to move from shamanism to a different dominion.
The Korean culture was eroded due to the points mentioned above. Today, there is even a division between North and South Korea as results of the wars that took place earlier. Some people have thought it was wise to retain their culture. That is why they have brought changes in the traditional believes so they fit in the new regime and were accepted by everyone . The innovations were implemented on the most criticized practices. The following is well discussed below:
Mugyo is a religion that originated from the Southern Korea. It is also termed as the religion of gods or the Korean shamanism. It has a strong belief that the world is filled with spirits and ghosts. This religion has been renovated and made look like an archive of the Korean culture. It is associated with the veneration of ancestors which is termed as jerye in the Korean community.
Veneration of ancestors is an activity that has been taking place in Korea since the past centuries. It is usually a practice associated with the honoring the ancestors, and taking care of them in terms of giving a support. This can include giving them gifts in the form of food, cigarettes, money, est. The Korean people believe that veneration of ancestors is one of the main stages among the other eight that one need to pass through, so as to complete their duties on earth. They associate it with filial duties to their parents. They take their time to honor their ancestors as they believe that all their physical exhaustion is a consequence of the hard work the parents did while bringing them up.
In Korea, this religious practice is said to be a result of the combination of the Confucius teachings and the one of Laozi. Traditionally, the Koreans used to offer the food as sacrifices on the altar made for the deceased as it is stated in the Koreans mode of communication with the spirits in the spiritual world. At other times, they would visit their tombs and leave the gifts there.
According to the beliefs involved in Mugyo, the veneration of ancestors was to be carried out by a woman who was known as mudang or shaman. This woman had to be from the ch`onmin social class. It was also a person from a poor family a low class person. Her main duty was to serve as an intermediate between the livings and the spirits. The Po spirit was the spirit believed to remain on earth after a person has died, and if not well taken care of went rooming from one place to another. Despite the fact that this religion had been dismissed by the government claiming that it mostly involved fallacy actions, due to the growth of self confidence in ones culture, it has found a way to remain in the communities minds and hearts.. Families in china believed that, when a person died, his/her soul continued to exist within the community, and it had powers to protect the family members from the wrong doers. The family members of the deceased were expected to feed the spirit by donating food and wine to the predecessor in a family temple. The rituals were hold on the tombs where their deceased was buried. The Korean people believed that a person had two souls, the Po and the Hun. The Hun was the spiritual soul that was supposed to enjoy a trip to the place of immortals; while the Po was considered to be a body spirit that remained on earth, and was the one they took care of. In addition, people were offered the Joss sticks instead of the prayers, which contained a message that the family wanted to pass to the deceased.
There is a considerable difference of how veneration of ancestors was performed in the past, and how it is done in the modern days. For example, we have seen that in the past, the shaman was a woman but in the present days the ritual is performed by men. It is clear that the Korean people have made changes to enable it to be accepted by others in the community, starting with the government that thinks that this religion involves a lot of superstitious activities.
Despite the fact that new religious denomination has cropped up, there are people who still perform this ritual. Unlike how it was being performed in the early days, where people used to feed their ancestors daily, nowadays they have one day in April during the Qingming, when they take time to respect their ancestors.
This ceremony is conducted with the presence of only 10 men who are called Wei. It is held on a mountain where the men practice climbing behind the spring field. Their destination usually is a village cemetery. On their way, they move without stopping or talking. The cemetery contains piles of mud that is set in rows. These rows represent a certain age group. There is also a crucial difference in that, namely, the one who conducted the ritual in the past was a woman called mudang; those who perform the ritual these days are men called Wei.
At the first place, the men reach the graves of the people who has died recently, and at last, move on to the rest rows systematically. The main attention is paid to the graves of their family members. One man known as Wei Minghe notifies the rest ones symbolizing the deceased house; and explains that if they manage to mud on the grave before the dawn, the dead soul will acquire a tiled roof; bud if they are late, then the deceased gets a thatched roof.This ceremony is conducted just before the sunrise.
Christianity is a religion that has acquired quite a number of followers in China in the recent years. This religion took part in the renovation of the Korean rituals. In the past century, it had absolutely refused to get involved in the shamanic rituals. Unfortunately, its followers faced persecution and were sentenced to death. As a result, they opted to incorporate these practices in their new doctrine .They chose as well a concrete date on which they would carry out their memorial services to their ancestors.
I suppose, that any cultural practices of the community should not be dismissed as it is a spiritual legacy of the people. Some of the rituals has been practiced since times, when those who are being venerated now were alive. The Koreans believe that, venerating their ancestors is one of the ways to show the filial grief, therefore, it should not be denounced as it has its own benefits.
Through the commemoration of the ancestors, one gains the protection and the relief that the spirit would not room around causing disasters in the society as it is believed. Veneration of ancestors should then be a strong and valued cultural practice in the whole Korea. I think, the religion will never get to the end in Korea, as we can now see that they have managed to save their legacy, and no matter how the government tries to burn it, it finds a way to revive.