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Cultural Traces Around the World

Indigenous Folk Tales of Jeju Island, Seolmundae Halmang and Goddesses

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Jeju, which means “a town across the sea,” is the largest island in Korea. At the center of the island lies Hallasan, the highest mountain in Korea which reaches 1,947 meters above sea level. In addition to Hallasan National Park, designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Since ancient times, Hallasan has been worshiped as a sacred mountain where the gods and deities reside.

Seolmundae Halmang is a goddess who is said to have created Jeju Island. Halmang means grandmother in the Jeju dialect. “It is said that long ago, Seolmundae Halmang built Hallasan mountain and Jeju Island by carrying stones and soil in the hem of her skirt and pouring it into the middle of the sea. The meaning of Halla is ‘a mountain that pulls the Milky Way.’ When Seolmundae Halmang first made Mt. Halla, it was like you can touch Milky Way from the top of the Mountain.” “It can be said that the legend reveals the existence of the female myth before the myths of patriarchy were formed. So, for example, before the male-centered myths were formed in the Bronze Age or Iron Age, there were stories of women who ruled over humans.”

It is believed that there are 18,000 gods in Jeju. Among them is Yeongdeung Halmang who is the goddess of the winds and the sea. “It is believed that Yeongdeung Halmang, the goddess of wind, crosses this sea and sows the seeds of abundance in Jeju Island, bringing the energy of spring and life.” “Jeju Island has a lot of stories about goddesses.” There is also a story about a vegan goddess who only ate tree fruit. “The heart of the goddess who cherishes life is still passed down as a story among people like this.”

Jeju, which has been blessed by many gods, preserves its clean and beautiful nature. Jeju is also taking the lead in adopting clean energy for a sustainable future and environmental preservation. In 2009, Supreme Master Ching Hai remotely participated in the international conference “Children’s Health & Sustainable Planet” held in Jeju, and spoke about the province’s beautiful nature and people. “We have just been exchanging notes and I’m sure if I go there today or another day I would absolutely enjoy the company of your people, and the fresh air and the unique landscape, and the tall mountain and sparkling sea that your island possesses, and the warm people of Korea that I had many times the honor to experience. I love Korea. I love Korean people. I truly do.”
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