The sign reads:
산림내 무속행위를 하지 맙시다
(무속행위는 100만원이하 과태료 처분)
Shaman Rituals Prohibited
Let’s Not Have Shaman Rituals In The Forest
(Fine For Shaman Rituals Less Than $1000)
It’s a sad and a wonderful thing, at the same time, for a modern nation to have this kind of problem—of people dancing around too much in the forest. Google images tells me that a Moo-soke-haeng-wee, or Shaman Ritual, looks like this—
But may result in this—
I photographed that sign just across the river from my apartment, which also happens to be the sight of am-gak-hwa, or petroglyphs. Some experts from Dongguk University believe these carvings date from the Bronze Age, although to me they look far older. Don’t forget that I’m an expert as well. I saw Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
That’s one of the poor pictures I took of the prehistoric carvings, but far better images can be found here. The sketch is helpful, as it’s actually fairly difficult to make out the carvings on this cliff, which hangs over the river in a spectacular fashion, and they were only discovered at all about twenty years ago. Recently construction has begun on some kind of traditional wooden pavilion just twenty feet above this cliff, and since you can’t kick a stone in Gyeongju without unearthing some kind of spectacular treasure from the past, the construction workers discovered this incredible relief, from the Unified Silla period, between the 7th and 10th centuries. The site has evidently been in use for religious purposes for thousands of years, but apparently because some people have made a mess while dancing around and invoking Korean river spirits, any further dionysian events will have to be clandestine.
One of my friends mentioned that these petroglyphs resemble dominos, and while that is certainly true, deciphering them would appear to be impossible. Still, they reminded me of these expensive Korean talismans that Korean Buddhist families use to ward off evil. One of my students has these slips of paper, which are painted by shamans, taped up over his bedroom door—
They consist of Chinese characters mixed in with Buddhist motifs—note the swastika in the lower right corner, as well as symbols for fire (火) and king (王)—and they usually go for hundreds of dollars, although since my wife’s grandmother is a shaman, we got a couple for free.