(Pilgrimage Essay 1) Report of First Mago Pilgrimage to Korea by Helen Hwang

[Author’s note: First Mago Pilgrimage to Korea took place in June 6-19, 2013.  We visited Ganghwa Island, Seoul, Wonju, Mt. Jiri, Yeong Island (Busan), and Jeju Island.]

Part 1 Magoist Alchemy and Consanguinity of All Peoples

My study of Mago, the Great Goddess of East Asia, has hurled me into uncharted territory. (In fact, my life hurled me onto a labyrinthine path.) Mago is not a mere subject of my study. Or, study is not a mere brain activity for me. Mago has been the answer to my intellectual/spiritual quests. And I am to carve out my own destiny. Studying Magoism has become a way of life to me. Magoism is the term that I coined to name the mytho-historical-cultural context in which Mago is venerated. Assessing a large body of source materials that I documented, I learned that Magoism is one of the most comprehensive contexts that can explain East Asian civilizations as a whole. It feels right that reconstructing Magoism, the method that I employed in studying Mago, is the reason why I study Mago.

Ever since I began to contemplate the topic of Mago for study in 2000, I have visited Korea, my native land, almost annually and undertook such activities as documentation, presentation, trips, and field research for the purpose of measuring the landscape of Magoism. In enacting those projects, I have worked with a variety of groups and individuals including feminists, scholars, friends, and the general public. For the last three years, I have organized various sizes of pilgrimages to near and far places with Koreans. Those experiences have gradually led me to the unfolding mystery of Magoist spiritual/intellectual reality.

2013 Mago Pilgrimage, photo by Young-Ai Kim
2013 Mago Pilgrims in Jeju, photo by Young-Ai Kim

That said, it was my honor and privilege to organize and lead the very first intercontinental Mago Pilgrimage to Korea from June 6 to June 19 in 2013. This pilgrimage made a memorable landmark in Magoism. About a decade ago, Mago was hardly known among goddess people in the West. And the situation was not so far different from that in Korea. At that time, I was writing my Ph.D. dissertation on Mago from a multi-disciplinary perspective, not knowing what was forthcoming. The Mago Pilgrimage envisioned the remarkable change!

Any new project entails excitements as well as challenges! This essay to be written in parts is a report of such excitements and challenges. Breaking a new trail into the 21st century, the Mago Pilgrimage completed successfully. I am infinitely thankful for that. My heartfelt thanks go to those who came from far and near and journeyed with me, despite discomfort of many factors including tight schedule, language barrier, and spicy food. One person’s commitment to join the cross-cultural Mago Pilgrimage spoke volumes for her openness and anticipation of “the unknown.” It was a one-of-a-kind event, so to speak. What was shared by participants during the pilgrimage is irreplaceable, only owned by each individual. What I will write is my experience.

What does it mean that I held this pilgrimage? It was a self-proclamation that what I study is not different from what I am committed to do. On a deeper level, the pilgrimage was my response to my Magoist ancestors who have transmitted Magoism collectively to me in our time. It was the event that I was able to uphold the mandate of Magoism, return to Mago’s Origin (Mago bokbon, 麻姑複本). The Magoist mandate, Mago bokbon, spoke it for all including what and why I did. Everything worked for everything else.

Sip-jang-saeng (Beings of longevity), folk painting, Korea
Sip-jang-saeng (Beings of longevity), folk painting, Korea

Considering that my location as a native of Korea always involved a cross-cultural experience in the West, the Mago Pilgrimage that I organized was not exceptional. In short, the Mago Pilgrimage was no mono-cultural goddess event. Was the intercultural feature of the Mago Pilgrimage circumstantial, caused by my own culture-crossing location living in the U.S.? That is not the case. It is embedded in the central thought of Magoism. One needs to be reminded of the consanguinity of all peoples that Magoism presupposes in the cosmogonic myth.

According to the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), an apocryphal text of Magoism, Mago is the primordial mother from whom all people of the four races have come. Being the oldest matrix of the Great Goddess, Magoism is characterized by the mandate that ancient Magoists upheld: to awaken all peoples of the world to the original knowledge of Mago’s Origin. In Mago, we regain the original mind through which we enter the Mystery of Mago. In other words, the Magoist mandate, Return to Mago’s Origin, was applied to everyone, not just Koreans or East Asians.

In the mytho-historical scheme of Magoism, ancient Magoists held onto the idea of Magoist consanguinity as a counter-measure to the expansion of ethnocentric or nationalist developments. Ancient civilizations were created in an effort to implement the Magoist mandate to all peoples of the world. Magoist rulers/shamans/priestesses, according to the Budoji, took overseas itinerary tours in person or by envoys in pre-Budo times. During the period of Budo (Emblem City), better known as Old Joseon (ca. 2333 BCE-232 BCE), ancient Magoists invited all peoples across races, cultures, and geographies and convened intercultural/interracial gatherings every ten years (Chapters 13-16). The purpose of building Budo (the Emblem City), Mecca of Magoism in proto-Chinese times, was to facilitate intercultural/interracial exchanges among the ancients.

Intercontinental Goddess Conference held June 10, 2013, Seoul National University, photo by Young-Ai Kim
Intercontinental Goddess Conference held June 10, 2013, Seoul National University, photo by Young-Ai Kim

With such ancient Magoist conventions in mind, I planned the Mago Pilgrimage to be the locus for cross-cultural encounters. Korean participants were invited to join the Western pilgrims. Intercontinental goddess conference, symposium, and colloquium were the apparatuses that functioned to achieve such objectives. Open discussions, sharing stories, and celebrations spontaneously took place. Thus, Magoist cross-cultural alchemy resumed and ran its course.

Ganggang sullae (Circle Dance), Korea
Ganggang sullae (Circle Dance), Korea

Having lived in a community of international members for several years in New York and thereafter, I am well aware that cross-cultural understanding takes a great deal of tolerance for everyone, to say the least. Nonetheless, I would say that the Mago Pilgrimage showed its possibility. What we did moved us a step forward. I gained priceless lessons that will help future pilgrimages. Korea has a traditional circle dance called ganggang sullae. This year we began the first step of ganggang sullae. It felt that I came close to the dream of inviting everyone regardless of race, gender, and nationality to come and join the circle dance. (This was not possible this year. I was unable to send an official invitation letter for purpose of visa to Korea to two Bangladeshi Buddhist monks who sincerely expressed interest in the pilgrimage.)

Read Part 2.

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4 Comments on "(Pilgrimage Essay 1) Report of First Mago Pilgrimage to Korea by Helen Hwang"

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Donna Snyder
Donna Snyder

Thank you for this first installment of the chronicle of your adventures. Reading it and looking at the pictures has brought a smile to my face.

Respect and blessings to you.



Helen, I enjoy the way your written descriptions connect your Korean language with American English. It’s lovely. Again, I wish I could have been with you on Pilgrimage I – but there will be more. For those of you who would like to speak with Helen, she will be on CML Radio 9.22.13 @11am PST. You can phone in & be apart of the program, chat online or listen @ 347.237.4776 or go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com & search Creatrix Media Live. Warm Wishes. Jayne 4 http://www.womensheritageproject.ning.com