(Book Excerpt 6) The Mago Way by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Ph.D.

cover front final rdcd[Author’s Note] The following is from Chapter One, “What Is Mago and Magoism and How Did I Study HER?” from The Mago Way: Re-discovering Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia, Volume 1. Footnotes below would be different from the monograph version. PDF book of The Mago Way Volume 1 download is available for free here.]


Magoism, East Asian Religions, and Magoist Mudangs

As mentioned above, Magoism refers to the totality of human civilization that is ultimately gynocentric. Speaking from a narrow perspective, Magoism is the primordial matrix from which such East Asian religions as Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism were derived. In the light of Magoism, a patriarchal religion is redefined as a pseudo-Magoism that which has co-opted the Way of the Great Goddess (Magoism) with the androcentric reversal of the female principle. Consequently, the legacy of Magoism has survived as the seemingly neutral, if not obscure, notion of “the Way (道, Dao, Do)” and overarching cosmologies and philosophies in these East Asian religions and their cultures. To characterize cursorily, I would say that Confucianism focuses on the political and rational aspect of Magoism, whereas Buddhism incorporates the practical and cultural implication of Magoism. By extension, as the word Daoism (道敎, Teaching of the Way) indicates, Daoism has extensively co-opted Magoist concepts, myths, and histories without acknowledging its derivative status from Magoism.

Korean Shamanism or the Mudang tradition (Muism) refers to the religious aspect of Magoism. As such, it is a female-centered religion. Traditionally known as Muin (巫人, Shaman Person) or Mudang (巫堂, Shaman Abode),[i] female Shamans are predominant in number and function. Unlike East Asian patriarchal religions, however, Korean shamanism has perforce walked the path of degeneration over the course of patriarchal history. Korean shamans, deprived of socio-political authority traditionally endowed to them, have managed to survive but not without cost. Deprecated as women’s culture and religion for the last several centuries, Korean Shamanism has acquired a layer of patriarchal outlook. Thus, while retaining the Magoist legacy in rituals and customs, it is tongue-tied, unable to speak of its Magoist origin. It now speaks of the Great Goddess no more than the Mago lore. For example, Shaman lyrics depict Mago in a very subdued manner, while folktales describe HER as a nature-shaper.

I hold that it is only within the premise of Magoism that Korean Shamanism can be fully explained and instated to the status of its original power. Its origin, being the oldest religion in the mytho-history of Magoism, is simultaneous with Magoism, if not earlier than the latter. It is possible that ancient Mudangs were those who made Magoism known to people. For our understanding, however, I posit a technical difference between Magoism and Muism. If Magoism is about the Great Goddess/Mago, Muism is about Magoist royal descendants. Readers need to be reminded that, according to the Mago Myth, all peoples are the descendants of the Great Goddess. Mudangs are those who self-undertake the role of teaching, healing, and leading the human members of the terrestrial community to the knowing of the Great Goddess, the Source of the All on Earth. The ritual they perform is called Gut (굿), which is a spiritual act that brings the human community to the reality of the Great Goddess. Gut is a cosmic ceremony by definition wherein Mudangs summon all beings to their primordial status given by the Great Goddess in the time of the terrestrial beginning.

Mytho-historically, Magoist Shaman rulers were chosen among the princesses of the Magoist royal clan to succeed and fulfill the mandate of Mago Bokbon (麻姑複本, Return to Mago’s Origin) to the world. Lore tells that Mago had eight daughters and dispatched the­­­m to the neighboring islands. They became the Shaman progenitors in those places. Thus, they, together with Mago, are called the Nine Goddesses (Gurang). The folk story is, however, only an abridged version of the Budoji account about the prototypal Diaspora from the paradisiacal home of Mago, Mago Stronghold (麻姑城, Mago-seong). Mago’s eight (grand)daughters agreed upon leaving Mago Stronghold to prevent its  complete destruction and to remind all peoples of their common origin from the Great Goddess. They, representing the four primordial racial clans, took separate paths to the four corners of the world and continued their journey to new settlements. In other words, the first Mudangs were the daughters of the Great Goddess who participated in the cosmogonic drama of the Mago Paradise and witnessed the archetypal event of the first disaster, taking living things for food, which set the path for the degenerative human evolution. The incident shifted the balance of the eco-system, while dividing people, and threatened the primordial community of the Mago Clan with complete destruction. Thus, Mago’s eight (grand)daughters had perforce to leave the Primordial Community of Mago Stronghold. Upon departing, the eldest daughter of Mago, representing Mago’s descendants, made an oath to Mago that She would bring back all people to the knowing of the common human beginning in Mago Stronghold. It was of utmost importance that forthcoming Mudangs understood the oracle of the first Mudangs. The transmission Gut was performed with the passing down of the three regalia from the predecessor Mudang to her successor, a custom later known as the coronation. As such, the vision of Mudangs was cosmic and gynocentric, as it was to have an inner eye to see the cosmogonic event of the Great Goddess in which all, not only females and males but all species on Earth once lived in equilibrium with the cosmic power of creativity.

Pre- and proto-Chinese Korean sovereigns were Magoist Mudangs whose lineage goes back to Mago’s daughters and ultimately Mago. The best known are the three sage rulers: Hanin, Hangung, also known as Goddess Goma, and Dangun. As history ran its course, the royal lineage of Magoist Mudangs was interrupted by the establishment of Chinese patriarchal rule. Nonetheless, the ancient Chinese regime was in no way in the position of creating something new or better than Magoist gynocracy. Emperor Yao, the Chinese dynastic founder, was a rebel force under the traditional rule of Old Magoist Korea. Hijacking the royal lineage of Magoist Mudangs through military advancements, he self-proclaimed Chinese rule to be the State of “the Son of Heaven,” a patriarchal variation of “the Daughter of Mago.”  The Japanese imperial family still claims that they are the direct descendants of Amaterasu.

Recent years have witnessed the increasing number of Mudangs who claim their main deity as Mago. To know how the Great Goddess was worshipped in the past is helpful for modern Magoist Mudangs. S/HE has been favored, loved, and worshipped under many names by East Asians as well as Koreans. HER many names indicate various forms of faith practices, a topic that requires another space. Among them the most pervasively venerated is Samsin Halmi (Triad Grandmother/Goddess), also known as the Birth Grandmother, for overseeing “childbirth, the lifespan of a child and also the health of the entire family, taking on varying roles in the home.”[ii] Samsin is also worshipped as the progenitor in households and celebrated in major seasonal and cultural holidays of Korea.

Indeed, the future is the time for Magoist Mudangs to rise again to take back the gynocentric language that can speak of the common beginning of all beings from the Great Goddess. Today, anyone who understands the cosmogonic beginning of the Great Goddess (the Mago Myth) and chooses the life of bringing the terrestrial community together in harmony of the cosmic music is a Mago Mudang. In short, know the Magoist cosmogonic story and let that story lead you to do something. By definition, everyone belongs to the Mago Clan, the totality of the divine and humans. That is what Magoism is all about and anyone is called to join the most ancient tradition of the Great Goddess, which will bring us back to the beginning, the center of our time and space, HERE and NOW.

(End of the series. See Book Excerpt 1 here.)

Meet Mago Contributor Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Ph.D.



[i] Male Shamans are called Baksu or Gyeok. 

[ii] Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Beliefs: Encyclopedia of Korean Folklore and Traditional Culture Vol. II. The National Folk Museum of Korea (2014), 178.