Asian Ethnology 82-1 | article Manifestations of Presence in Korea and Bali Crossroads, Intersections, Divergences

Laurel Kendall, Ni Wayan Pasek Ariati

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Bali Korea shaman spirit medium mask ontology

Korean shaman rituals (kut) and Balinese temple festivals (odalan) display presence: gods, ancestors, and restless ghosts in Korea; oscillations between demonic and divine in Bali. Both rituals require an artful construction of space, music, costumes, and, in Bali, masks to convey an emotionally resonant sense of encounter. Our discussion begins at the point of intersection between these two traditions, the crossroads from which we follow their divergence, contrasting the work of a shaman (mansin) in Korea with the combination of an entranced medium (pemundut) and a mask empowered by a local tutelary (sesuhunan) in Bali as ultimately very different visual realizations of presence, or “display” in the context of this volume’s discussion. We consider how the powerful entities that Korean kut and Balinese odalan engage are ontologically realized through different deployments of bodies and objects in ritual space. The idea of crossroads, intersections, and divergences permits a deeper understanding of resonance and contrast than might be subsumed by the broad headings of “possession rituals” or “ritual theater.”