Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What is Ancient?

A brief, somewhat historical record of Kim Keumhwa's various shaman ritual roles can be seen here in a series of educational videos about world music and dance. The footage has obviously come from a variety of rituals staged prior to 1990s (when I first met her), from those in her Seoul residence shindang (sanctuary) to a village in the countryside. The annotation says "Shamanism is the ancient religion of Korea", but how can it be "ancient" if it's very much alive and well today. Why not use the word "timeless"?

In his essay Mu: A Reflection on Shamanism and Synthesis, Professor Heinz Insu Fenkl notes, "Shamanism is really about synthesis, about the brining together of things that might otherwise appear to be disparate: the world of the living and the world of the dead; the past, present, and future; the individual and the community; humans and animals; men and women; the person and the cosmos--and in every case, the synthesis creates a form of healing."

Why must it be "ancient" to have gravitas, not to mention value today?  Miguel Rivera, a great teacher-practitioner of Native American traditions, always reminds us that our ancestors are our future.