What Is Mago and Magoism? How Old Is Magoism?
The Great Goddess is known to all peoples throughout history. Under patriarchy, S/HE is either temporarily forgotten or disguised as another name or form. The knowing of the Great Goddess goes beyond any human language, more precisely, patriarchal languages. S/HE is rooted in the unconsciousness or the collective consciousness. For our discussion, I call HER S/HE, the Female. East Asians have called HER Mago. Mago signifies the Female, another name for the Creatrix of the universe. Throughout East Asian history, Mago has manifested as S/HE (One) AND HER representatives (many). S/HE is the All, WE, the entirety of the earthly eco-system. Magoism refers to the Way of the Great Goddess, the gynocentric reality of all beings on the Earth. The word “Mago” is salvific, codifying the ultimate reality.
The Great Goddess, Mago, symbolizes the power of genesis on macro- and micro-cosmic levels. Here is the gynocentric narrative: Mago is supreme as the progenitor, cosmogonist, and ultimate sovereign of the Earth. S/HE is not only the First Mother of humans but also the Originator of all species on Earth. As the Goddess of the Earth, Mago mediates the earthly community to the universe. Thus, S/HE is called the Heavenly Goddess. Note that Heaven and Earth are not deemed dualistic. Mago is addressed by many names. Among them are the Triad Deity (三神, Samsin), Grandmother or Crone (Halmi), Auspicious Goddess (瑞姑, Seogo), Evil (Magui), Immortal Goddess (仙姑, Seongo) and Old Goddess (老姑, Nogo), all of which have roots in Korean/East Asian traditional culture.
In lore, S/HE is thought to have come from the Seven Stars (the Big Dipper). The serpent that symbolizes the Seven Stars was deemed sacred, a reminder of Mago’s Abode. As Samsin Halmi (Triad Grandmother/Goddess), Mago oversees the birth, death, and illness (especially chickenpox) of a child. She is also depicted as the Giant Crone who shapes natural and cultural topography such as mountains, rivers, villages, stone walls, and megalithic structures. Although having been favored, revered, and celebrated by East Asians in the course of history, Mago was largely forgotten in the public domain up to the 1980s in Korea. She re-emerged to the public, as the principal text of Magoism, the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), was made available in the Korean language in the mid-1980s.
The term “Mago” itself manifests universally as the notion of the Great Goddess. The root “Ma,” which means both the Mother and the Goddess, is found in many names of the Goddess for the world. “Go” in “Mago” is used as a modifier indicating Mago, as in “Seon-go (Transcendent/Immortal Goddess),” “No-go (Ancient Goddess),” and “Seo-go (Auspicious Goddess),” to name a few. “Go” is also related with if not derived from Goddess “Gom” or “Goma,” the She-Bear Sovereign of Danguk, the nine-state confederacy of the remote past. The Japanese term “Kami (Deity)” is derived from “Goma.” “Go” appears linguistically and mythologically related with “Gaia” and “Guanyin.” As such, “Ma-ga (Ma Gaia)” in Mycenean Greek and “Ma Guanyin,” the Magoist Goddess commonly known through Buddhism, all can be seen as the derivatives of “Mago.”
The Magoist Cosmogony highlights the sonic movement of cosmic elements as the Creatrix. In the beginning, there was light. The movement/vibration of light (cosmic music) in the universe caused creation to take place over eons. Stars were born in the previous cosmic era. In due time, Mago was born together with the Earth (the Stronghold of Mago) with her moons. Her (self-)emergence marks the beginning of earthly history. Mago listened to and acted in tune with the cyclic movement of the cosmic music. In further due time, S/HE bore two daughters, Gunghui (Goddess Gung) and Sohui (Goddess So) parthenogenetically. This Primordial Triad laid the foundation for the earthly environment for all species. Mago, assisted by HER two daughters, orchestrated the terrestrial plan to bring acoustic balance in harmony with the cosmic music/sound/vibration. S/HE delegated HER descendants to cultivate and manage the sonic equilibrium of the Earth.
Like the word “Mago,” “Magoism” manifests as One Culture AND many cultures of the world that venerate the Great Goddess. In a broad sense, “Magoism” refers to the entirety of gynocentric civilization. It is pre- and meta-patriarchal. It is the Source of patriarchal cultures. In a narrow sense, it indicates the one that has shaped East Asian histories and cultures. The very naming of “Magoism” restores the nature of East Asian civilization as gynocentric, contrary to the standard Sinocentric [read ethnocentrically patriarchal] view that ancient China is the origin of East Asian civilizations. Magoism is the golden measurement.
Mago’s manifestations, varying from nature-shaper to Daoist Goddess, are so multivalent that they appear to be unrelated to one another. As such, it is not surprising to note that scholars including Daoist scholars and Korean folklorists have respectively focused on some particular manifestations in China and Korea. They either treat Mago as a Daoist Goddess of unknown origin or conclude that the Mago known in Korea is not the same Goddess known in China.
The transnational occurrence of the term “Mago (麻姑)” should not be dismissed or treated as anomalous. Likewise, HER seemingly heterogeneous manifestations should not be taken selectively for scholarly investigation. In understanding the multivalent and transnational manifestations of the Great Goddess, we need a new theological lens of the Great Goddess, which I would call Magoist theism. Water is a good metaphor for the Great Goddess. Rivers and lakes cannot be said to be the nature of water by taking into consideration only bodies of water. Magoist theism is NOT compatible with the binary scheme of monotheism or polytheism. The Great Goddess is not measured by the number of Goddessheads. S/HE is NOT either One or many but One AND many. S/HE is like water in bodies of water. Magoist theism is even different from henotheism, which refers to the worship of a particular deity among multiple deities. The Great Goddess (Mago) is inseparable from HER other multiple manifestations (Magos). She is the All. She is the whole AND the particular at once. By extension, the term “Mago” is sometimes used to mean Magoism, the matrix of the Great Goddess. When “Mago” is invoked by poets or devotees with a nostalgic emotion, it means the gynocentric bygone antiquity or Old Magoism, which is equated with the paradisiacal home/womb/tomb of All. The term “Mago” also means “the Reign of Mago,” the gynocentric mytho-history of grand peace.
The provenance of Mago is as old as the concept of mother. “Ma” in “Mago” refers to both “mother” and “the Goddess.” It is difficult to date the earliest evidence of Magoism simply because we do not have written records of pre-patriarchal times. HER supreme nature is written out of history.
Above is from Chapter One of Dr. Hwang’s book, The Mago Way: Re-discovering Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia Volume 1 (Mago Books, 2015), pp. 9-13. (free downloads available).
(Updated December 31, 2016)
“As People of Mago, I have no country. As People of Mago, I want no country. My Country is the Whole World.”
Return to Mago, Magoism the Way of She was created in an effort promote connection among people of differences including gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, economic status, and/or sexuality and duly officiated in August, 15 2012.
We are scholars, researchers, teachers, artists, activists, seekers, and/or faith practioners from all centers of the world.
“Mago” is both a common noun meaning “the Great Goddess” and a specific goddess who is the progenitor, nature-shaper, and ultimate sovereign known to East Asians especially Koreans since the time immemorial. Mago is the Progenitor, Creator, and Sovereign, according to Dr. Helen Hye-Sook Hwang’s research.
“Why did I create Return to Mago (Magoism, the Way of S/HE)? It is my way of moving onward and forward to Life and Creativity as someone who is not coming from the dominant gender, race, class, and culture. Alas, we are positioned against one another in patriarchy! Are we going to just accept or sink down into silence? Mago is Here for us to return to the Female Origin of civilization and unity not only among peoples but also among species and cosmic entities!”
For Dr. Hwang’s publication, see her C.V. here.
Summary of the Mago Web up to date:
The Mago Web, a collection of different projects created to serve the mandate of Mago Bokbon (Return to Mago’s Origin), began to spin its first nexus as a result of my interview with Jayne DeMente and Anniitra W. MaKafia Ravenmoon, co-hosts of Creatrix Media Live, March 23, 2011.
Mago Circle, Facebook Group, was created shortly after the above interview, May 23, 2011. Founding members included Dr. Mary Ann Ghaffurian, Dr. Rosemary Wright, Deirdre Cruickshank, MaryAnn Columbia, Leslene della Madre, and Anne Wilkerson Allen.
Return to Mago, Magoism the Way of S/HE officially began August 15, 2012. Changed to a full-fledged Webzine with a new URL (magoism.net) in February 3, 2014.
Mago Academy (https://magoacademy.org) began to operate in fall 2012.
Offered “2013 Mago Pilgrimage to Korea,” June 2013.
“2014 Mago Pilgrimage to Korea,” October 2014.
“2015 Virtual Mago Pilgrimage to Korea” October 2015.
“2016 Mago Pilgrimage to Korea” June 2016.
Online class “Gaia and Mago: Rekindling Old Gynocentric Unity,” co-facilitated by Dr. Glenys Livingstone and Dr. Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Feb. 15-July 19, 2014.
Anna Tzanova joins Mago Scholars for the Magoist Studies Program, 2015.
Online class “Korean Historical Dramas,” co-facilitated by Dr. Helen Hwang and Anna Tzanova, MA, Feb. 2016.
Sumaiyah Yates joins Mago Scholars for the Magoist Studies Program, 2016.
Online class “Introduction to Magoism,” October 2016.
Mago Networks, Linkedin Group, was launched in Feb. 21, 2014.
Mago Books (https://magobooks.com) began on December 23, 2014.
Published the first anthology of the collective writing series, She Rises: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? Volume 1 in June Solstice, 2015.
Published The Mago Way: Re-discovering Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia Volume 1 in October 3, 2015.
Published the second anthology of the collective writing series, She Rises: How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? Volume 2 in June Solstice, 2016.
2017 Mago Work Calendar, November 2016.
How The Mago Circle Facebook Group began:
This Blog, Return to Mago, Magoism the Way of S/HE, (now Webzine) was an offshoot of the Mago Circle, a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/magoism/, which began as a result of Dr. Hwang’s roundtable discussion in the Creatrix Media Live, an internet radio show [http://www.blogtalkradio.com/creatrix-media-live# or http://www.blogtalkradio.com/creatrix-media-live/2012/03/18/march-mago-madness-with-dr-helen-hwang-phd].
The following is an excerpt from Helen Hye-Sook Hwang’s discussion with Jayne DeMente and Anniitra Ravenmoon for the Creative Media Live aired on March 23, 2011.
Jayne DeMente: Welcome Helen, I was fortunate to read some of your research and I applaud you because, we in the Western WSE movement have long needed to hear more from Asian women spiritual leaders and feminists and your reference to the Neolithic timeline…
For our listeners and participants online, let’s lead with the question of who is Mago, was she a mother figure, what is Magoism, does any other deity pre-date her?
Helen Hye-Sook Hwang: Mago is the great goddess known to East Asians throughout history. She is the first mother of all, cosmogonist, and ultimate sovereign/ruler. She has many names. Among them are Triad Deity (Samsin), Grandmother (halmi), Auspicious Goddess (Seogo), Evil (Magui), and Old Goddess (Nogo). She is also known as the Giantess who shaped the natural and cultural landscape. Her manifestations are so multivalent that one may think they do not refer to the same goddess. She was well loved, given high esteem, celebrated by East Asians in the past. She was almost completely forgotten, however in modern times, up until the 1980s in Korea, when the principle text of Magoism, the Budoji, re-emerged.
Mago is a mother figure in the sense that she bore two daughters, Kunghee and Sohee, and managed her household called the Castle of Mago, the primordial paradise of humanity. She is the ancestor of all races. She takes care of everything on earth via the equilibrium of cosmic music/sound/vibration.
Magoism is the term that refers to the totality of culture/civilization venerating Mago as the great goddess. It is a tradition largely unnoted but co-opted and distorted in major East Asian religions. The concept of Magoism helps one identify and understand Mago’s multivalent manifestations that are found trans-nationally. It also makes possible to name the female-centered original/primal civilization that gave birth to the forthcoming East Asian civilizations and religions.
Whether Mago is the earliest deity known to East Asia is unknown. In fact, there are goddesses unearthed from “pre-historic” archaeological sites without their names. The life-sized goddess statue was unearthed in the site of Hongshan Culture, northeastern region of present China dating from 4,700 to 2,900 BCE. The heavy use of jade along with the partly bear-figured female icon is congruent with the account of Magoism in the Budoji. Also, of course, there are numerous female figurines called dogu excavated in Japan’s “pre-historic” times.
The ancient origin of Mago or Magoism has a merit to explain some facts that remain a mystery, so to speak. Korea is also known as the land of dolmens. Half of the world megaliths are populated in the Korean peninsula. There are numerous pyramids found in mainland China. There is a documentary film about the sunken temple beneath the sea of Okinawa Japan, etc. dating to 10,000 years ago.
Then, how early does Mago date to? It is difficult to date the earliest evidence of Mago or Magoism simply because written history does not exist in pre-patriarchal times. As you see here, when we talk about the earliest of something, everyone assumes it is of Chinese. So let me follow this line of thought: Ge Hong’s record on Magu from China dates to the early fourth century CE (Ge Hong 283—343 CE). However, Daoist scholar Robert Ford Campany states that the cult of Mago dates back to the Stone Age.
It is more difficult to date Mago in Korean records simply because ancient written records did not survive. Two books, the Budoji and the Handan Gogi, alleged to have been written in the late 4th or early 5th century and subsequent later times, which refer to Mago otherwise known as Samsin (Triad Deity) remain controversial. Considering that the name Mago is embedded in Korean language as in “gom,” “geum,” and “gam,” whose meaning indicates ruler, sovereign, and head, the origin of Mago is as old as these words. Likewise, most materials that recount Mago as cosmogonist are of folklore, place names, literature, arts, and debris of historical and religious records, most of which are difficult to date for its origin.
(For the whole content, please read https://magoism.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/mago-the-first-mother-of-east-asia/)
Online publications and radio talks on Mago and Magoism by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Ph.D.
http://books.google.co.kr/books?id=iQPXgTj_0lIC&pg=PA114&lpg=PA114&dq=magoism&source=bl&ots=0VK51Mly39&sig=h7427RDzkJyrsx_osLLcHvCY0fs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=U2D7T-brAYmnrQHW9aGLCQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=magoism&f=false (pp. 107-121)
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/creatrix-media-live/2012/03/18/march-mago-madness-with-dr-helen-hwang-phd (CML Radio Roundtable Talk Show)
Publication about Helen Hye-Sook Hwang and her Research about Magoism
http://youngandjung.blogspot.kr/search?q=helen+hwang (The Daily Dreamer)