Bari Gongyu: from princess abandoned to the legendary heroine of Korean shamanism

The myth of Princess Bari Gongyu is one of the best known within traditional Korean legends. The history is based on shamanism, specifically, Korean. Learn more about this legendary heroine:

Bari Gongyu addresses the story of the seventh and last daughter of a king who never managed to have a male descendant. Before ascending the throne, the king disobeyed the shaman's advice and brought bad luck to the kingdom. After the birth of six women, she went crazy knowing that the seventh child would also be a girl. With anger, he ordered the baby to be taken away. The queen implored so that she could give at least a name to the child. And he named her Bari (버리다), which means abandoned. At the request of the king, the servant placed Bari to float on the river, which was found and cared for by an elderly couple.

After fifteen years, the king became ill, and no doctor was able to cure him. The queen dreamed that her husband had been cursed for throwing a gift from heaven. The only possibility of curing him would be for one of his daughters to seek ambrosia in the mountains of the west. But the daughters were selfish, and none was willing to fulfill the mission. Upon learning of it, the king's servant went after Bari, who, upon hearing the story, agreed to go far in search of ambrosia.

Bari went through many tests: disguised as a child, he crossed the world of the dead and met the owner of the underworld. His disguise, however, was discovered by a terrifying hermit, with whom he had to marry as punishment, giving him seven children. After nine years of the beginning of her trip, she returned to the homeland with ambrosia, along with her husband and children.

When he arrived at the castle the king would have already died, seeing his father in the coffin, he spilled ambrosia in his mouth. The king was resurrected, so that all glorified the day of the abandoned princess. He was so happy that he asked Bari to do anything. She rejected the offer initially, asking the father later if she could be the guardian of the dead and defend them from their hardships. From there, Bari Gongyu could see the two worlds: she became the godmother of the shamans, the one who endured everything, the one closest to the underworld.

The myth of Bari Gongyu and Korean female shamanism:

Bari represents the woman who suffers for the decisions of the parents, but who sacrifices herself in search of their acceptance. Despite the trials and the ideal of daughter, wife and mother to which she was subjected, Bari refused to follow in the father's footsteps. Thus, he chose to be an intermediary of the dead. This shows that Bari Gongyu went his own way, beyond the expectations imposed by society on women. Such a story of sacrifice and overcoming made it appear as a model of virtue to be followed by the Koreans.

For many years that myth of shamanism has caused commotion in Korean women. Basically, shamanism is one of the oldest beliefs of mankind. The practices are mediated by a shaman (man or woman) capable of contacting the spiritual world, involving mystical beings, animals, etc. Because of this, the shaman has the power to influence nature, anticipate, guess, cure, etc. In particular, in Korean shamanism, women predominate as shamans.


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