(Budoji Essay 3) The Magoist Cosmogony by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

“Reintroducing the concept of the Mago Species has a profound implication, compelling one’s vocabularies to be changed to the Mother’s Tongue.”

8 transcendants.jpg 17
Eight Female Immortals, folk painting, Korea

[This is a translation and interpretation of the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), principal text of Magoism. Read the translation of Chapter 1 of the Budoji.]


There were Four Heavenly Persons at the four corners of the castle.

They built pillars and sounded music.

Four Heavenly Persons are the four clan leaders who reside in the four corners of Mago Castle, Primordial Paradise. They are entrusted by Mago to cultivate the acoustical effect of the universe (the original music).

While the translation of “pillars” is provisional, it may mean a musical instrument of some primordial sort. Given the importance of stone, a theme reiterated in later chapters of the Budoji, the pillars may refer to the stone structure that supports a musical instrument. Or they may indicate stone chimes or an acoustical rock structure.

Four Heavenly Persons closely resemble Four Heavenly Kings in the Buddhist cosmology of Mt. Meru (or Sumeru). Readers are reminded of the parallel between Mount Meru (the world’s center in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology) and Mago Castle (the world’s center in the Magoist cosmogony), as briefly mentioned in Part II. Hence, a close affinity between Four Heavenly Persons and Four Heavenly Kings is corollary, making the parallel ever more intriguing. The two are similar not only in iconographic similarities but also in cosmological depictions, a topic to which I shall return, as the Budoji continues to describe Four Heavenly Persons in later chapters.[i]

Four Heavenly Persons (Sacheon-in, 四天人): Four elders of the four clan communities in Mago Castle, the primordial abode of Magoist immortals.[ii] They represent Mago’s eight grandchildren, the third generation descendants of Mago’s descent. Intriguingly and enigmatically, the Budoji gives only four names to Mago’s eight grandchildren, to be discussed in more detail in the next sequel, stating the other four as Sacheon-nyeo (Four Heavenly Women).First three generations of Mago's descentFirst three generations of Mago’s descent

The fact that Mago’s eight grandchildren are paired into four clan communities, like their names that indicate two matrilineal lines of Mago’s two daughters to be discussed in the next sequel, suggests that individuals are recognized by their clan identities. In that sense, individuality or personhood is unknown among primordial Magoist immortals. Put differently, the absence of the “I” consciousness characterizes Magoist immortals in Mago Castle. The lack of “I” consciousness in separation from the whole characterizes Mago’s clan community in Mago Castle as the Primordial Womb for humans. Interdependence between the individual and the whole is foundational. The individual is perceived as part of the whole. And vice versa; the whole is perceived as a sum of individuals.

It is from Mago’s “grandchildren” that human ancestors were born. In Mago’s genealogy, they stand in between the Mago Triad (Mago and Her two daughters, the first and second generation of Mago’s descent) and human ancestors (Mago’s fourth generation descent) in Mago Castle. Mago’s four granddaughters each gave birth to three sons and three daughters.

The Mago Species: In the Magoist cosmology, Mago’s eight granddaughters belong to the realm of the divine together with the Mago Triad (Mago and Her two daughters). The divine refers to the primordial deities who laid the foundation for their forthcoming human descendants. That said, the Magoist cosmogony has enabled me to coin the term, “the Mago Species,” which means a totality of the divine, demigods (human ancestors), and humans. Precisely, the Mago Species refers to Mago Herself, Her second and third generation descendants (the divine, possibly all Female), human ancestors (demigods, “gods and goddesses”), and humans. Indicating the one big clan community of Mago on Earth, the concept of the Mago Species allows us a macro perspective with which we can perceive the primordial unity among the divine, demigods, and humans. All are kindred, headed by Mago, the Primordial Matriarch.

The notion of the Mago Species is no new invention, however. It is an ancient perception that is lost among moderns. Thus, it comes as a revelation to us. Foremost, it enables an alternative perspective in which the divine is no longer viewed in separation from humans. The theology of monotheistic masculine God is found utterly inapplicable. Strikingly, humans are elevated to the status as the direct offspring of Mago, the Great Goddess. Readers are reminded that the term “Mago” is a common noun meaning the Great Goddess rather than a proper noun that indicates a particular goddess. Reintroducing the concept of the Mago Species has a profound implication, compelling one’s vocabularies to be changed to the Mother’s Tongue. We will have a new self-understanding; we are the scion of the divine Mago family! That will rename the surroundings anew. [In fact, ancient rulers of East Asia claimed to be the direct descendant of “Heaven,” a euphemism for Mago, by taking the surname of Hui, to be discussed in a later sequel.]

Furthermore, the female principle embodied in the Magoist cosmogony prepares ground for the reconstruction of the gynocentric grand narrative. The Grand Magoist Narrative would be starkly different from the totalitarian meta-narrative drawn from the cosmology of the masculine Creator God who does not share DNA with His creation. Gynocentrism undoes patriarchal meta-narratives. The divine, demigods, and humans are no longer viewed as separate entities lacking an organic connection. Metaphorically, Mago’s “umbilical cord” connects and nourishes the divine and humans as Her offspring. Deities are no other than the ancestors of humans. Hierarchy, domination, and isolation are replaced by kinship, symbiosis, and interdependence.

Issue of determining the sex/gender of Four Heavenly Persons: The character “in (人)” in Sacheon-in (Four Heavenly Persons) is a gender-neutral term, meaning “persons.” However, it is often taken as “men” by androcentric translators and interpreters. The Budoji, alleged to have been written in the late 5th century CE, remains obscure in depicting the sex of Four Heavenly Persons. We cannot rule out the possibility that its androcentric scribes and translators over the course of history during which it was hand-copied for preservation have tempered explicitly female denoting terms. That said, a correct assessment concerning how the original text of the Budoji depicts the sex of Mago’s eight grandchildren is difficult.[iii] The task of determining the sex of Four Heavenly Persons is complex and daunting. I have postulated and tested possible scenarios through a meticulous textual analysis, a cross-examination with evidence in such other genres as folklore and art, and a comparison with the data from other religions and cultures. In any case, what remains indelible is the female principle embodied in the Magoist cosmogony, which cancels out any androcentric attempt.[iv]

Assessing the sex/gender of Four Heavenly Persons (Sacheon-in, 四天人) is crucial in that it marks the watershed for the bifurcation of the Mago Species into two sexes and consequently the emergence of the male from the Female.[v] That said, applying modern notions of gender to the Magoist primordial deities can be misleading, if not irrelevant. In the Magoist cosmogony, two sexes do not stand in opposition to each other. Sexual differentiation of the Mago Species is a part of the evolution process, not the cause of conflict or domination. In fact, sexual differentiation, like racial differentiation to be discussed in the next sequel, bears no negative connotation. The original female (the Female) is not merely a sex/gender denominator. It is the Way of Life in which all are re-membered as kindred.

Summarily, I suggest the following three scenarios:

Scenario A: Four Heavenly Persons are Goddesses, which indicates that Mago’s eight grandchildren are all Female.

Scenario B: Four Heavenly Persons are Gods, which indicates that Mago’s eight grandchildren are half male and half female.[vi]

Scenario C: Four Heavenly Persons are Hermaphrodites, which indicates Mago’s eight grandchildren are half hermaphrodite and half female.[vii]

I maintain that Four Heavenly Persons denote Four Goddesses who represent four clan communities in Mago Castle (Scenario A). Like the Mago Triad (Mago and Her two daughters), they are Goddesses. This indicates that Mago’s eight grandchildren are all Female.

Scenario A has merits in several ways. First of all, it accords with the female principle that runs through the Magoist cosmogony. That Mago’s genealogy, namely the family tree of the Mago Species, is matrilineal throughout the third generation does not appear contradictory.

Secondly, the mention of unusual parturition by Mago’s granddaughters in Chapter 4 intimates that they are all Female. According to the Budoji, Four Heavenly Women gave birth from their sides.[viii] Side-births are seen as a vestige of parthenogenesis by which the Mago Triad, being the original Female, procreated progeny. At least, “side-births” indicates that the male was non-participatory in reproduction.

Thirdly, Scenario A is corroborated by the Mago folktales that describe Mago with eight shaman daughters. The organic link between the two is tangible. The motif of Mago’s eight granddaughters in the Budoji revives as Mago’s eight daughters in oral tradition. It also explains the origin of Pal-seonnyeo (八仙女, Eight Female Immortals), a favored troupe in Korean Shamanism.[ix]

Lastly, it throws insight on the origin of Pal-ryeo (Eight Female Musical Tones), the ultimate creativity in the Magoist cosmogony. It is from Pal-ryeo that primordial beings including stars, moons, and Mago Herself came (see Chapter 2). Pal-ryeo and Pal-seonnyeo do appear related in Korean folkloric and Shamanic iconography in that the latter is often depicted as playing musical instruments, riding the clouds or flying in the air.

[i] Juxtaposition of Four Heavenly Persons with Four Heavenly Kings suggests that the androcentric taking of Sacheon-in (Four Heavenly Persons) is possibly old, or at least not in modern times.

[ii] By “Magoist immortals” I mean the collection of the divine, demigods, and humans in Mago Castle.

[iii] Readers are reminded that the original text of the Budoji is lost and that the current text is a modern retrieval of the original text by Geum Bak, a descendant of the alleged author. After all, the Budoji, like other written texts of the ancient world, was made known to the public by the hand of men. When it comes to gender implications, we cannot rule out the possibility that the original text was misconstrued if not altered over the course of time.

[iv] For detailed discussions, see my article: Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, “The Female Principle in the Magoist Cosmogony,” (Ochre Journal of Women’s Spirituality, Fall 2007) [http://www.ochrejournal.org/2007/scholarship/hwang1.html].

[v] I am primarily focusing on the “sex” not “gender” of Mago’s grandchildren. The discussion of gender for Magoist primordial deities is secondary, contingent upon their biological and reproductive functions.

[vi] Scenario B stays in place due to the obscurity of the Budoji in stating Sacheon-in (Four Heavenly Persons) and Sacheon-nyeo (Four Heavenly Women) in tandem in Chapter 2 and the androcentric interpretation of Sacheon-in to mean Four Heavenly Men.

[vii] It is a pure speculation that the character “in” in Sacheon-in refers to hermaphrodite. Scenario C is plausible only with the assumption that the text was not altered by scribes.

[viii] The Budoji is redundant or inconsistent in depicting the type of parturition by Mago’s granddaughters. While it mentions that Four Heavenly Persons married Four Heavenly Women and that each couple gave birth to three sons and three daughters, it also states that Four Heavenly Women gave birth from their sides. See Chapter 4, the Budoji. Such inconsistency intimates an androcentric alteration of the text concerning Four Heavenly Persons. In my view, the element of “marriage” is an amendment in a later time. I hold that heterosexual union takes place in the fourth generation of Mago’s descent.

[ix] Given the etiological nature of the Magoist cosmogony, Mago’s eight granddaughters as well as Eight Female Immortals possibly illumine the origin of Eight Immortals in Daoism and Eight Bodhisattvas in Buddhism. It is highly plausible that, in light of other similar examples, such patriarchal religions as Daoism and Buddhism may have adopted the Magoist troupe of Eight Female Immortals and replaced the female with the male. I have also discussed elsewhere that the uncertain number of muses in ancient Greece and matrikas in Hinduism, often conflated to be eight or nine, bears similarity with Mago’s eight granddaughters (with Mago, it becomes nine) or nine ancient Magoist rulers.

To be continued. Read Budoji Essay 2. and Budoji Essay 1.

[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.]

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