Belief in a world inhabited by spirits is probably the oldest form of Korean religious life, dating back to prehistoric times. Shamanism has its roots in ancient, land-based cultures, dating at least as far back as 40,000 years. The shaman was known as “magician, medicine man, psychopomp, mystic and poet” (Eliade, 1974). What set him apart from other healers or priests was his ability to move at will into trance states. During a trance, the shaman’s soul left his body and travelled to other realms, where helping spirits guided him in his work. The shaman provided healing on many levels; physical, psychological and spiritual. The work of the shaman was based on the holistic model, which took into consideration, not only the whole person, but that person’s interaction with his world, both inner and outer. The soul was considered the place of life breath, where essence resided, and any physical illness was inextricably linked with sickness of the soul. Illness of the mind had to do with soul loss, intrusion, possession.Photographing the Ceremony Since then I have been to two different ceremonies. Each time we were allowed to take photos and video. The photos in the accompanying slide show are from a good luck ceremony or 'gut' in Korean. There is a woman in the photos wearing a black shirt and red vest. She came all the way from Seoul just to meet this shaman. We had her permission to take photos during the ceremony. Many of the pics are out of focus - sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. There was a lot of movement in these ceremonies and I wanted to convey that. At times the shamans look like mystical whirling dervishes, jumping up and down, stabbing the air with their knives and swords. Many pictures were blurred to convey that sense of motion and mysticism. On the other hand, I'm still learning about photography so some of the pics were too out of focus. Also, I had to go with a high ISO which made many of the pics even blurrier and caused some burning around the lights. I think I pushed my camera and lenses to the limit in a low-light situation, but I'm sure there is more I could learn to improve the quality. Any tips are appreciated. For More Info About Korean Shamanism Kim Soo-nam, a Korean press photographer, spent 30 years documenting Shamanistic rituals around Asia. He passed away in 2006. You can see some of his photos and read a great article about his life and work here. Dirk Schlottmann, a German ethnologist and photojournalist currently living in South Korea did is doctoral thesis on Korean shamanism. He has some fantastic photos of shamanistic rituals on Flickr. He also has three galleries (1, 2, 3) on a German website. The New York Times published a great article called Shamanism Enjoys Revival in Techo-Savvy South Korea. Finally, if you have any information about the topic please post in the comments below.