In the world of Korean shamanism, there is a particular god, called <i>taegam</i>, which is allegedly famous for its love of money and its abundance of greed for material wealth. During the shamanic ritual of <i>chaesu-kut</i>, the rites for good fortune and luck, this god is popularly worshipped as the Deity of Wealth and is typically symbolized by money placed all over its face and spirit costumes. Nonetheless, as money has the two sides of heads and tails, <i>taegam</i> also has two very different facesâ<i>so-taegam and taegam</i>. This article explores the ambiguity of the two <i>taegam</i> gods, focusing on the symbolic action of money-offerings and how its meaning is taken from the perspective of the ritual actors, in the hope of shedding light on the place of Korea's traditional popular religion of shamanism in today's transformed urban landscape. By discussing the semantics of "money is the filial child" (a remark made by <i>so-taegam</i>) and "money is the enemy" (as remarked by <i>taegam</i>), statements I often heard during my fieldwork in Seoul, I suggest that the ambivalent symbolic nature of <i>taegam</i> should be seen as an indispensible vehicle for understanding ritual life, as well as everyday life, of urban Korean people since it is closely related to both normative orientations and the contradictory aspects of the material culture of contemporary urbanites inhabiting the borderless, globalized, and fluctuating modern capitalist market. This conclusion is reached partly with reference to existing sociological theories of money and anthropological inquiries into the ambivalent aspects of <i>taegam</i>.
Journal of Korean Religions – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Nov 23, 2012