B is a 21-year-old Korean male originally from Busan, South Korea. B is currently a college student in Los Angeles, California.
B informed me of this folklore while I was in a college dorm chatting with him about the college admission process. I did not approach B with the intent of collecting folklore, but after he brought it up naturally in conversation, I requested B’s permission to record his folklore experience. The following is B’s story.
B: So there’s like this thing called “무망” (mudang) it’s kinda like an exorcist. Exorcist? Or whatever. But they’re not not really exorcists, but, they’re people who can like talk to ghosts and.. well, these ghosts are more like Gods who can like guide people, like.. like show visions you know? And I talked to them and I wanted to like um know what college I wanted to go to. Like what actually fits me really well. It’s like a fortune teller kind of thing. And I gave her a list of like all the schools I wanted to go, and like what schools would be the best. And the list had like USC um… Cornell.. what is it, Colombia or like anywhere, Carnegie. And she pointed to like these-uh, she divided the schools into like “O” “triangle” and “X” and the “Os” signified-like, they signified that I would get into that school. “Triangles” would be like, she wasn’t sure because there’s like a… waitlist-like waitlist thingie in America and.. it’s not exactly the same in Korea so like she didn’t know what it was. And “X” would be, um, I wouldn’t get there sadly laughs. And surprisingly, she got like seven out of nine guesses correct. And the last one was Columbia, and she put a “O” there. Or it was a “triangle,” no, I think it was an “O.” And I was expecting that I would go there but I failed, so like I was really disappointed with that. But, she got everything right, and she pointed to like USC.. or somewhere and she told me that I would go somewhere like, somewhere warm instead of like the cold areas which is like normally the east side, East Coast. Like the, all the Ivy Leagues. And, well.. I wanted to go to the East Coast but she told me that I would go somewhere like warm and I though it was uh.. bullshit. But, here I am laughs.
Reflection: At least in terms of practice, the Korean mudang in B’s account sound quite similar to American fortune tellers who both read cards and speak to spirits to predict futures. I am admittedly skeptical about the legitimacy of fortune telling, but it is hard to believe that the mudang was able to successfully determine seven out of the nine colleges correctly, especially without previous knowledge about the colleges . This odd and difficult to explain occurrence has at least made reconsider my stance on fortune telling. Based on B’s story and the continued popularity of Shintoism in Japan, it seems that shamanistic practices are still able to fulfill a need within modern East-Asian societies.