(Budoji Essay 1) The Magoist Cosmogony by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

Ten beings of longevity, Korean folk painting
Ten beings of longevity, Korean folk painting

“The Great Goddess Myth is the first and last revelation to humankind. Where the Primordial Mother is, there is Home!”

Part 1 Introduction

When I first read the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), the principal text of Magoism, my life journey took an unexpected turn. The power of the Magoist cosmogony began to work on me, and suddenly I was returning Home with/to/in Mago, the Great Goddess! Before, “Home” had seemed an unreal destination, a mirage that lured voyagers to its abyss of nowhere. I had been stripped of “Home.” The Magoist cosmogony gifted me with a vision of what I had been seeking as a feminist voyager. I meant to return Home.

In Mago, I felt no longer free-floating, but this was not without its price. My radical feminist searches brought me no material benefits; rather, to become Myself was the reward. Layer after layer of patriarchal deception had to be peeled off. And for women who, like me, came from the non-Western, formerly colonized world, reversing the reversals required a deeper analysis of racism, ethnocentrism, and colonialism. I underwent the process of becoming Me, a process which also led me to WE.

Personally, Homecoming means an integration of myself within the mytho-historical-cultural context of Magoism. However, Homecoming in the Great Goddess can never be an isolated individual act. Magoism unfolds the Primordial Home wherein all beings are kindred. The Primordial Home is for everyone. Everyone is destined to return Home in the Great Goddess because She is Here for us all. She will be Here for as long as humanity survives. Homecoming is a harbinger; it signals the arrival of WE, a very old concept that was misconstrued if not tabooed in patriarchy.

The nature of my life has changed. “I” is no longer in the way of “WE.” “I” and “WE” do not stand against each other. Furthermore, “I” is transformed by “WE,” just as are all things in the universe. Scalar turns to vector. Chaos yields to order. The labyrinth leads to the Source. My feminism is rewarded with gynocentrism, the Goddess Matrix in which the female principle by far surpasses patriarchy.

As many admit, Myth, the story of the divine, is etiological, meaning it explains the origin of things. I hold that only the gynocentric cosmogonic myth can be fully etiological, shedding light on the primal beginning. Myth is inherently gynocentric, for it is derived from the perception of the Primordial Mother, the oldest divine in human history. Put differently, Myth tells us that the Divine is She, that Female is the original divine. Myth is ultimately inseparable from the Great Goddess.

The Primordial Mother is the macrocosmic translation of a mother. She is the Metaphor for life-giver and life-raiser. Divinity issues from Her. In Her, everything, including the God, is endowed with divinity. The etiological and metaphoric nature of Myth is fully illumined only in the story of the female beginning.

The Goddess Myth told to/by us testifies to what patriarchy can’t or doesn’t tell. It is a language distinguished from that of patriarchy, dominating if not violent. The nature of Its language is persuasive and pacific. The truth It tells awakens one to Home. It is intrinsically soteriological, and herein lies the urgency of Myth: It shows the Way that humanity needs to know and follow in order to survive and flourish. The Great Goddess Myth is the first and last revelation to humankind. Where the Primordial Mother is, there is Home!

Mago is not necessarily the “creator” of things. In the Magoist cosmogony, there is no one who created or creates anything alone. (I have used the term “cosmogony” in place of “creation” to avoid the conflation of Magoist thought with the origin-stories of patriarchal religions.) Instead, all things are interdependent and the power of auto-genesis is embedded within the universe itself. In explaining that, the Magoist cosmogony does not employ a magical or a logical jump. In the time of beginning, cosmic rays dance in accordance with the law of nature. Mago and primordial matter are self-born through the movement of cosmic music. Mago is, above all, the Cause of human existence. All things on Earth are indebted to Mago for She initiated the process auto-genesis of the Earth itself. In short, She is the Source of Life on Earth. Without Her, nothing is possible for us.

The Budoji’s cosmogonic narrative galvanizes the gynocentric definition of Myth. Solemn and profound, it tells the story of Mago’s beginning. It is so versatile as to be at once poetic, scientific, and spiritual, providing etiological explanations for music-making, calendar-making, numbering, cosmology, philosophy, thealogy, ecology, and so forth. In sublime language, the Budoji depicts the primordial beginning which culminated in Mago, the Great Goddess. Mago stands at the center of the cosmic panorama that includes the birth of stars, Mago Castle (Earth and the Primordial Paradise), Heavenly Beings (Goddesses and Gods), nature, animals, and all forms of life on Earth. In the beginning, not only things are brought into existence; co-relation, stability, and symbiosis are also established on Earth. In fact, an existence that has mass results from equilibrium on both macro- and micro-cosmic levels. Things exist as part and whole at once.

The Budoji allocates its first four chapters to the cosmogony out of thirty-three chapters. Central themes include the Mago triad, parthenogenesis, the Heavenly Emblem, cosmic music, and Mago Castle. As archetypes, they recur, not only in the mytho-history of Magoism that follows the cosmogonic event, but also in the myths, cultures, religions, and histories of East Asia and elsewhere. Trans-national and cross-cultural resemblances are precisely what the Magoist cosmogony tells us to expect. The Magoist cosmogony is the forgotten story of the Female Beginning.

The Budoji’s Magoist cosmology redefines for moderns such basic categories as the divine (God/dess), humankind, and nature. Its thealogy differs substantively from the theologies of monotheistic masculine religions. In Magoist cosmology, the divine and humans are not two separate kinds of entity. Mago is the Primordial Mother, that is, our Great Ancestor (Grand-Mother). She is the Matriarch of the human species. In that context, not only Mago but also Her progeny, Goddesses and Gods, are referred to as Sinseon (神仙, Immortals) or Seonnyeo (仙女, Female Immortals) in East Asia. Immortals are human ancestors.

Further, such notions as domination or omnipotence attaching to the divine are wholly irrelevant in Magoism. To translate this into modern Western theological language, Magoist theaology is henotheistic. Mago is worshiped together with Her descendant Goddesses and Gods. Nonetheless, Mago as the Primordial Triad together with Her two daughters is distinguished from Her descendant Goddesses and Gods. As the First Being on Earth, She gave birth to two daughters by parthenogenesis, that is, procreation without a male partner. Parthenogenesis and unusual births were understood as the manifestation of Mago, the Great Goddess, by the ancients. Mago represents the Earth to the universe. She is also the Heavenly Empress/Queen/Sovereign. She rules by way of equilibrating musical entities on Earth and in the universe. That is not a romantic fancy. Magoist acoustical cosmology attributes cosmic music and earthly music to ultimate creativity.

Musician, Gameunsa Seoktap Sarigu, Silla (57 BCE-935), National Museum of Korea
Musician, Gameun-sa  Stone Pagoda Relic Box, Silla (57 BCE-935), National Museum of Korea

The following summarizes the first four chapters of the Magoist cosmogony:

1. Cosmic rays are the ultimate cause of auto-genesis in the universe. In particular, the Sun ray is the given material from which everything on Earth is derived.

2. Ultimate creativity is attributed to the cosmic music, Pal-ryoe (八呂, Eight Pitches) or Yul-ryeo (律呂, Rhythm and Pitch), the primordial acoustical movement of the universe.

3. All things have the innate power of auto-genesis. They run the cycle of self-birthing, growing, and reproducing in accordance with the acoustical equilibrium.

4. Mago is the eponymous Goddess of the universe that we perceive. Cosmic periods are demarcated by the birth, procreation, and cosmogonic act of Mago. She represents the Earth community to the universe.

5. Mago is the Progenitor who gave birth to two daughter Goddesses by parthenogenesis. Thus, She and Her two daughters comprise the Primordial Triad. The Two Goddesses share Mago’s divine nature of self-procreation without mate. They respectively gave birth to four Heavenly Beings. Mago assigned to Her progeny (both daughters and grandchildren) the task of supervising the original music.

6. Mago is the Sovereign of Mago Castle, the Primordial Paradise, which is the center of the Earth or the Earth itself.

7. Mago is the Nature-Shaper in the sense that She initiated the process of auto-genesis for the Earth. The Earthly environment was stabilized. Natural elements were balanced. The days and seasons were demarcated. Thereupon, all forms of life were brought forth on Mago Castle.

8. Mago allows Her granddaughter Goddesses to procreate in order for them to cultivate acoustic balance on Earth. Mago Castle finally reached its equilibrium. Mago’s household members dwelt in a blissful state that is not ended by death. They are the human ancestors also known as Immortals in East Asia.

See also Claiming the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City) as a Primal Text of Magoism.

[Author’s Note: This and subsequent essays are part of the forthcoming book tentatively entitled, The Magoist Cosmogony from the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), Translation and Interpretation, Volume 1, that I am currently writing. I am indebted to Harriet Ann Ellenberger, who has given me her prompt feedback and editorial advice in a most supportive manner. I am thankful to Dr. Glenys Livingstone, who has inspired me to write this book sooner than later. I am also grateful for Rosemary Mattingley, who has provided copy-editing of my essays in Return to Mago Webzine.]

Read Part 2.

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