Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mountain Climbing

This week is the harvest holiday in Korea. Five days off for me and some reflection later under the full moon.

The air is clean and crisp.

Today I went hiking to the Ice Valley in Miryang. The valley is covered in ice from the beginning of summer till the beginning of winter. A geological phenomena that keeps the area cool year round allowing the ice to form. According to the signs the opposite is true in the winter when the area becomes warm and steam can be seen.

I remember when I was a child in the mountains. I loved and hated the mountains. I loved the beauty, the energy they held. I enjoyed looking up at these mountains. I enjoyed seeing the green and feeling snug and safe in the heart of mountains. And I hated the mountains. I hated the mountains for making me sick, for making the asthma that I had my entire life suddenly a problem. I hated the mountains for holding me where I was, they were a tall prison I could not escape from.

And I miss the mountains. I love journeying into Korean mountains because they are so beautiful and so simple. Unlike the US however they are always full of people. You are never alone in the mountains. Today was no different, during the hike up I was passed by at least ten families. And on the way down passed at least a dozen more on the way up. Family holiday, family activities. Hiking is a popular family activity in Korea.

The hike was only a little more then half a kilometer straight up, but if felt like a lot more. There is a small temple and several open streams with water that is so sweet and cold it is hard not to stop and scoop up some and drink. The dog who was a happy traveling companion bounced about scaring anyone brave enough to come near him. The boy, who had driven for the expedition frowned at the number of people on the mountain. I frowned too. I prefer to hike in calm quiet with no interlopers but the animals, and the mountain.

There were mushrooms on the hills, and snail shells scattered about. The place felt strong of the Sang-shin, the mountain spirits of Korea. I passed a cove next to a small cave and I knew when I looked that this was a shaman’s place. A place where a practicing shaman would come and sleep for a week, or a month or half a year, to absorb the magic of the land and improve her craft. I did not disturb the earth. Korea’s magick does not call to me and I leave it be. I respect it when I call, because I must to reach my own magick, but I give Korea’s magick a wide berth otherwise.

There are still many shaman in Korea who work magick. I have stumbled on them accidentally and gotten many a nasty look. I have also watched reverently from a distance. I remember hiking up a different mountain once. A shaman was tucked down in the valley by the river. She had an alter that included among other things, candles, rice cake, and a pig’s face. A few feet from the alter with the waxy candles burned stood a Korean business man in a full length fur coat, he prayed to each of the directions as the shaman chanted over her alter. I looked up the ritual in my Korean mystic books when I got home. A ceremony to ask for money and prosperity in the upcoming year.

When the hike was finally fulfilled and the ice valley, more a gulch, high up on the mountain spread out before me, all I could see was rocks. The ice was hidden under the pile of stones. The stones protected by a gate on all sides, to prevent the tourists for turning the stones and digging up or taking away the ice. I was a little disappointed, but still satisfied with the hike.

On the way down I watched my feet click across the stones in my flexible sandals. I touched the trees and felt the spark of magick there and wished I could connect with it more directly. Now the full moon is shining and I will go and make what magick I can. I’ll leave the pig’s heads for the those other practitioners, tonight I’m too full of the day, all I need is some clean water and myself.


total-spender said...

Any of the mushrooms of the *magic* variety?

Saradevil said...

In all honesty I'm not sure. And I wasn't feeling adventurous enough to just pick random mushrooms and find out.

You'd have a better chance of knowing then I would.

Jill said...

Oh this made me miss hiking! Houston and all the surrounding areas are flat as a pancake.