My Mudang Story
At 8 years old, the winds of the spirits started to gently blow their influences into my life. I was a sensitive child, an odd child as my mother recalled. She confessed at times she wondered and thought if I had sin-ki (신끼) gods energy.
I grew up in a typical immigrant family, my parents arrived and settled in NYC in the early 80's. They owned dry cleaners to support the family and every morning we woke at 5:30 am getting ready to head out to the store. My preschool was just a block away, I would sleep in the back of the car and at the store until it was time for school. I remember the unique smell of rice cooking from the rice pot and the steam from the pressers, it was delicious - nostalgic.
In my younger youth, my parents were Protestant Christians, we would go to church every Sunday while I begged not to be put in Sunday School. I hated school. When I was in early elementary (Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade -??) I was bed-ridden, my legs stopped working and I remember my dad had to carry me everywhere. They brought over a doctor for a house call, but could not find anything or clues. I remember the burning pain and stiffness whenever I attempted to walk. As suddenly as it came 3 days later, I was fine and regain my ability to walk and run as if it never happened.
I always had a colorful and 'vivid' imagination. I liked to pretend that everything was alive with 'energy' and had many friends everywhere. As I got older, those 'energies and friends' felt heavier and after some time, I began to grow fearful of the things I sensed.
My mom recalled when I told her it was okay to divorce. A year or two later, when I was 9 my mom packed her bags, divorced and left. I was 9 years old when my mother walked out, my brother was 5 and my sister was about a year and a half old. I suddenly had a huge responsibility and needed to rapidly grow up overnight. I took on my mother's role and responsibility but couldn't fill the void of her absence. It wasn't until 6 years later, I reunited with my mother (which I oddly knew and sensed already). It was a rocky union and took many years to mend the damage. Its something I learned to only recently let go.
I had an excessive amount of unexplainable incidents and my fair share of spirited encounters. My father put my siblings and me into Catholic school, it was hard to make friends because I was a new transfer and weird. I was definitely the weird and odd kid in class. I would ask my classmates if they can come with me to the bathroom because I was convinced a spirit was lurking. I carried a cup of water which I prayed over, silently hoped it was blessed. I was definitely a paranoid child, a spirited child. When night came, my anxiety would peak and my internal spirit radar would constantly keep me on edge. I felt their eyes, their energy all around me, I would bury myself deep into my covers and prayed myself to sleep.
College night school, during a lecture I would walk out to use the restroom then being suddenly shoved. The halls were empty and no one was there. I quickly dismissed it, thought I was being careless and clumsy. I took a few steps before I was shoved harder, I was shaken ran back to class. One night, sleeping on my friend's couch I was falling asleep when I was poked and shook awake. I thought it was one of those in-between sleep moments and laid back down until I was shoved off the couch. I ended up not sleeping the entire night.
By my early 20's I was obsessed with searching for answers and clues to any explanation of my colorful life. Many psychics told me there was a curse in my family, someone put a hex on my maternal line. A negative entity was attached to me, and for a set fee ($$$) I can have a ritual done to remove this negative attachment. I tried many, often getting fooled. I searched for an entire lifetime it seems, to find some explanations for my experiences.
Things began to deteriorate, I was too scared to sleep so I waited for the sun to rise. Every time I closed my eyes and attempted sleep, I would have gawi (가위) sleep paralysis attack- one after another. One night, I had a gawi attack when I felt I was being held down. When I woke up and came to, I saw a small young girl sitting on my chest -staring at me. Her presence wasn't dark or menacing, but she was curious about me. My mom quickly dismissed what I saw when I told her, she responded I should eat healthier and sleep more. My health started slowly declining, and my body felt like it was punishing me. My health wasn't the only thing affected but my life events as well.
I was kicked out early, so I learned to work and support myself. My mid 20's I walked out of a relationship and ended up sleeping on the couch in the basement of a friend, broke and jobless. I worked in a gentlemen's club, as a front end assistance manager. I tracked every dollar and transaction of every person in the club, I was usually one of the last people to leave the club. Working in such an environment, I had access to drugs and formed a very bad habit, with almost two close calls of overdoses. I kicked the habit, never touching it ever again. I had many dark moments in my life.
After the birth of my 1st child, my partner grew intensely concerned about my well-being. I was having episodes of premonitions or visions, I would be screaming with fear because I went temporarily blind or something would grab my ankles holding me down. I had dreams that constantly took me to the deepest darkest places fueling my fears. As the sun sets, the sounds of the drums would begin to bang, building momentum - driving me insane and egging on my anxieties. I felt as if my insides were shriveling up and I just wanted to crawl out of my skin. Then the longing, the pulling of the mountain and trees- urging me to leave my family. Through tears, I would try to sum up and explain all the weird feelings and happenings. I used marijuana to filter out and block all the things I felt and seen, in hopes to sleep a little.
I was a chronic pain patient. By the age of 31, I already underwent 4 surgeries (spine, knee, shoulder, ovaries) countless physical therapy sessions for my sciatic nerve pain, injections to alleviate the spinal cord compression I had - my list goes long. My doctor joked that my scans show the body of a 70-year-old...no kidding.
I grew suicidal because I just wanted everything to end, to stop - I just wanted to be left alone, to sleep, to just rest. Luckily, I had a young child to care for that always kept me grounded whenever I had bad thoughts. My young son started to act odd, I would find him in the middle of the night sitting up and blankly staring at an empty chair. One night he told us about a man that watches him every night - immediately raising all the hairs on my body.
Through the modern innovations of Google, I decided to find and connect with a mudang (shaman), to find the answers to my life long quest. I gathered up the courage for my son's sake and called my mom. I bawled uncontrollably. I told her everything and did not spare any details. I urged her this was a life and death emergency, and she was on the next flight in (it was the first time she was there for me). We sat and spoke, as I nervously babbled about spirits, ghosts, gawi, and the various things I see. She called a few places and made an appointment for a consultation. My mom took me to a Korean astrologist, who decoded my natal birth chart but could not explain any of my life experiences - such a disappointment.
With my aunt's recommendation, we went to one last place. We arrived and were greeted by sternly looking dragons carved into the columns by the front door. We were escorted into a great big room with a large wooden altar, and beautiful bowls and cups lined up. I never saw such a place. I began to feel immense energy and emotions pouring out of my body, that I began to shake, shudder and cry - many things happening at once that my body couldn't process. My mother was shocked and incredibly taken back by my strong reactions and loss of control I was having.
That was the day my life changed - forever
Later that year, I went on a month-long pilgrimage to Korea with my shin-oma spirit-mother.
On Oct 29th, at the mountains of Gyereong-san 계룡산 (the most sacred, energetic mountain with the strongest ki)
I underwent my 3- day ceremony naerimkut. Underneath the heavenly blue skies, in the presence of witnesses and with the guidance of mudang elders - I was accepted by the gods and ancestral deities.
Since then I had been working, serving and apprenticing with my spirit mother learning the sacred arts of my Korean heritage and culture.