(Book Excerpt 3) The Mago Way: Re-discovering Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia

cover front final rdcd

[Author’s Note: The following is from Chapter 8, The Consciousness of WE/HERE/NOW.]


The Budoji stories the primordial drama of Mago’s beginning. It furnishes a yet-to-be-heard story of the beginning of the Great Goddess, the taboo story in patriarchy. It is the story of the Creatrix that patriarchy has attempted to erase. It can be temporarily forgotten but can never die because it is the story that is at the root of patriarchy. Ultimately, it is The Story that is happening HERE and NOW.

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(Book Excerpt 2) The Mago Way: Re-discovering Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia

cover front final rdcd[Author’s Note: This is the second part of the two sequels.]

This book reflects the flow and evolution of my intellectual/spiritual/physical journey toward the Great Goddess. Although Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of this book have been previously published in anthologies and journals, they are not exactly the same as the original essays. I have rewritten Chapters Four and Six to a significant extent to align with up-to-date insights that I have newly included in Chapters One and Eight. For other chapters, I have made necessary changes in the body and endnotes so that they, while upgraded to the newest insight, remain as milestones to their original versions. Figures (24 in all) are included to aid visual orientations. I have created the Glossary for key concepts, after standardizing the romanizations and translations of East Asian words.[i] It is my hope that this book comes to you as a revelation, as it does to me.

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(Book Excerpt 1) The Mago Way: Re-discovering Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia

cover front final rdcd[Author’s Note: This is the first of the two sequels of the forthcoming book.]


Salvation for the terrestrial community depends on our ability to keep patriarchy in check. We CAN keep patriarchy in check by telling the gynocentric truth. The gynocentric truth mirrors what patriarchy is; it is none other than a dangerously deranged force of destruction. Because it is deceitful and threatening, we tend to see it bigger than it actually is. It has no power of giving or nurturing Life. Patriarchy is NOT winning but ever-dwindling and ever-dying. This book, The Mago Way, re-presents the ancient way of telling the gynocentric truth: to Re-member collectively the ORIGIN STORY of the CREATRIX. The Way of Mago unleashes the power of the almost forgotten story of HER Beginning from Old Korea. It is the one and only story of WE that takes place Everywhere and All the time. It is cosmic/galactic/solar/terrestrial/individual/personal/atomic in scope. The Mago Way summons the gynocentric reality of WE/HERE/NOW to raise our minds/hearts.

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(Essay 1) Returning Home with Mago, the Great Goddess, from East Asia by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

Sotdae, symbolizes Mago Triad

Sotdae (솟대), pole that symbolizes the Mago Triad

[Author’s Note: This essay was first published in Trivia, Voices of Feminism, Issue 6, September 2007.]

I come from Korea. When I say I came from Korea, I do not mean “Korea” in a nationalistic sense. Nationalism, reinforced by international politics as a cardinal rule of the global community, precludes the agency of women; it is a game of the patriarchal controllers. When I say I am Korean, I mean I am a Magoist Korean, a gynocentric Korean. My Korean identity refers to my cultural and historical root. Fortunately, I have found my Korean gynocentric root in the tradition of Mago, the Great Goddess, from East Asia.1

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(Art) Mago by Lydia Ruyle

KOR3_Mago.2013Mago of old Korea and East Asia, also known as Magu, Mako, Samsin Halmeoni (Triad Grandmother Goddess) and Cheonsin (Heavenly Deity), is the Great Goddess. Mago is the progenitor, creatrix, and ultimate sovereign. Early gynocentric cultures venerated Her in many forms. Her multivalent identities include an immortal, mendicant, crone, shaman, and/or nature-shaper of mountains, rocks, caves and seas. In art, Mago often carries a basket of lingzi mushrooms, medicinal herbs and flowers–all symbols of immortality.

Source: Painting c. 1400 CE by Seokgyeong. Joseon Dynasty. Korea

We, the co-editors, contributors, and advisers, have started the Mago Web (Cross-cultural Goddess Web) to rekindle old Gynocentric Unity in our time. Now YOU can help us raise this torch high to the Primordial Mountain Home (Our Mother Earth Herself) wherein everyone is embraced in WE. There are many ways to support Return to Mago. You may donate to us. No amount is too small for us. For your time and skill, please email Helen Hwang (magoism@gmail.com). Please take an action today and we need that! Thank YOU in Goddesshood of all beings!

(Click Donate button below. You can donate by credit card or bank account without registering PayPal. Find “Don’t have a PayPal account?” above the credit card icons.)

(Budoji Essay 5) The Magoist Cosmogony by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

Part 5: Magoist Cosmology

“The primary aim of Magoist cosmology lies in lifting up the conceptual veil in people’s mind so that they can see what is given at birth.”

[This is a translation and interpretation of the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), principal text of Magoism. Read the translation of Chapter 1 of the Budoji.]

Mago, banner art by Lydia Rule

Mago, banner art by Lydia Rule

Magoist cosmology: Magoist cosmology, knowing of the female principle of Magoist cosmogony (story of the Female Beginning), reconstitutes, heals, and maintains the original vision of gynocentric soteriology. Its primary function is to guide humanity according to the law of nature whereby all things are born and evolve into their greatest potential. In short, Magoist cosmology is a gynocentric mode of thinking that shows the Way of all beings. By extension, it is an inherent principle of nature- and women-honoring civilizations.

I suggest Magoist cosmology, underpinning of the Magoist cosmogony, as an antidote to the detriments of patriarchal consciousness. Its female principle restores the original unity among all entities, which has been thwarted by patriarchal cosmologies. Comprising the most foundational program of human consciousness, so constitutive that no one is born without it, Magoist cosmology is ever active and accessible to people. Nonetheless, it is made dormant in the conscious mind of people under patriarchal cultures. Thus, the primary aim of Magoist cosmology lies in lifting up the conceptual veil in people’s mind so that they can see what is given at birth.

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(Budoji Essay 4) The Magoist Cosmogony by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

Biseondae (Precipice of Ascending Immortals), Mt. Seorak, S. Korea

Biseondae (Precipice of Ascending Immortals), Mt. Seorak, S. Korea

Part 4: Magoist Origin of Immortals

“I maintain that Immortals originally refers to Mago’s descendants in Mago Castle, the Primordial Paradise. They are the primordial clan community of the Mago Species, comprised of the divine, demigods, and humans.”

[This is a translation and interpretation of the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), principal text of Magoism. Read the translation of Chapter 1 of the Budoji.]

Magoist Origin of Immortals: All in the Mago Species are given the original nature of immortality or transcendence. Readers are advised to set aside the literal meaning in the English language of the words immortals or transcendents. Immortals is a translation of the East Asian term seon (仙, xian in Chinese). I choose the translation immortals over transcendents not because it is a better translation but because it is the most commonly used term by Western Daoist translators.[i] Although it is known as a Daoist term, I hold that it is pre-Daoist, namely Magoist, in origin. Primarily, it refers to the Mago Species (Mago and Her descendants) who dwelt in Mago Castle, the primordial home, to be discussed in detail in later chapters. Likewise, historical figures known as Immortals are Magoist rather than Daoist.

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(Budoji Essay 3) The Magoist Cosmogony by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

“Reintroducing the concept of the Mago Species has a profound implication, compelling one’s vocabularies to be changed to the Mother’s Tongue.”

8 transcendants.jpg 17

Eight Female Immortals, folk painting, Korea

[This is a translation and interpretation of the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), principal text of Magoism. Read the translation of Chapter 1 of the Budoji.]


There were Four Heavenly Persons at the four corners of the castle.

They built pillars and sounded music.

Four Heavenly Persons are the four clan leaders who reside in the four corners of Mago Castle, Primordial Paradise. They are entrusted by Mago to cultivate the acoustical effect of the universe (the original music).

While the translation of “pillars” is provisional, it may mean a musical instrument of some primordial sort. Given the importance of stone, a theme reiterated in later chapters of the Budoji, the pillars may refer to the stone structure that supports a musical instrument. Or they may indicate stone chimes or an acoustical rock structure.

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(Video) 2013 Mago Pilgrimage to Korea by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

[Author’s note: The first Mago Pilgrimage to Korea took place June 6-19, 2013. We visited Ganghwa Island, Seoul, Wonju, Mt. Jiri, Yeong Island (Busan), and Jeju Island.]

Read Mago Pilgrimage Essay 1 and Mago Pilgrimage Essay 2.

See Meet Mago Contributor, Hae Kyoung Ahn  for “Ma Gaia Womb” chant music and Meet Mago Contributor, Helen Hwang Ph.D.

(Budoji Essay 2) The Magoist Cosmogony by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

Allegory of Chastity by Hans Memling, 15th C. Source.

Allegory of Chastity by Hans Memling, 15th C. Source

“Mago, the eponymous Goddess, is the head, ruler, and guardian of Mago-seong. She represents the eco-community of the Earth in the intergalactic universe.”

[Author’s Note: This and subsequent essays are part of the forthcoming book tentatively entitled, The Magoist Cosmogony from the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), Translation and Interpretation, Volume 1, that I am currently writing. I am indebted to Harriet Ann Ellenberger, who has given me her prompt feedback and editorial advice in a most supportive manner. I am thankful to Dr. Glenys Livingstone, who has inspired me to write this book sooner than later. I am also grateful for Rosemary Mattingley, who has provided copy-editing of my essays in Return to Mago Webzine.]

Chapter One (Translation)

Mago-seong was the grand castle located in the highest place on earth.
Revering the Heavenly Emblem (Cheon-bu),
it succeeded the Former Heaven (Seon-cheon).

There were four Heavenly Persons[i] at the four corners of the castle.
They built pillars and sounded music.[ii]

The eldest was named Hwang-gung (Yellow Gung),[iii]
the second Cheong-gung (Blue Gung),
the third Baek-so (White So),
and the last Heuk-so (Black So).

Mother of two Gungs was Gung-hui (Goddess Gung)[iv]
and mother of two Sos was So-hui (Goddess So).
Gung-hui and So-hui were the daughters of Mago.

Mago was born in Jim-se (My/Our/This World).[v]
Mago had no [human] emotion of pleasure and resentment.
Taking the Former Heaven male
and the Latter Heaven female,
Mago bore two Hui Goddesses without mate.

Like Mago, two Goddesses,
without mate but by the emotion [of the cosmic periods],
each bore two Heavenly Persons and two Heavenly Women. 
They were four Heavenly Persons and four Heavenly 
Goddesses in all.

[i] Here “in” in Cheon-in 天人 is transliterated as a gender-neutral term, “beings.” It means “a person” but often transliterated as “a man.”

[ii] The whole sentence can also be translated as “They made tubes and composed music.”

[iii] “Ssi” in Hwang-gung-ssi 黃穹氏 intimates both a leader by name of Hwang-gung and the clan led by Hwang-gung. Other terms of “Cheong-gung-ssi,” “Baek-so-ssi,” and “Heuk-so-ssi” are used in the same way.

[iv] Literally “hui” in Gung-hui 穹姬 and So-hui 巢姬 means a woman. Since it refers to Mago’s two daughters, I translated it “Goddess.”

[v] “Jim” in Jim-se 朕世 can be transliterated as “my,” “our,” or “this.”

Mago-seong (Mago Castle) was the grand castle located on the highest place on the Earth.

Mago-seong, located on the highest mountain, is the primordial home of Mago, the Primordial Goddess, and Her descendants, human ancestors. Mago-seong also refers to the Earth itself (see Chapter 2). Mago, the eponymous Goddess, is the head, ruler, and guardian of Mago-seong. She represents the eco-community of the Earth in the intergalactic universe. Mago-seong’s location on the highest mountain symbolizes Mago-seong’s supremacy as the prototype of a Magoist state that will follow the cosmogonic event. Mago-seong’s location also indicates its proximity to the extraterrestrial cosmos, in particular to the Sun, the direct cause of the auto-genesis of all things on Earth.

Rock of Mago Halmi, Mt. Baekbyeong, Gangwon Province, S. Korea

Rock of Mago Halmi, Mt. Baekbyeong, Gangwon Province, S. Korea

Mago-seong: Paradisiacal home of Mago and Her descendants, human ancestors. The axis mundi (world axis, center of the world) of the Magoist cosmogony.

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(Budoji Essay 1) The Magoist Cosmogony by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang

Ten beings of longevity, Korean folk painting

Ten beings of longevity, Korean folk painting

“The Great Goddess Myth is the first and last revelation to humankind. Where the Primordial Mother is, there is Home!”

Part 1 Introduction

When I first read the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City), the principal text of Magoism, my life journey took an unexpected turn. The power of the Magoist cosmogony began to work on me, and suddenly I was returning Home with/to/in Mago, the Great Goddess! Before, “Home” had seemed an unreal destination, a mirage that lured voyagers to its abyss of nowhere. I had been stripped of “Home.” The Magoist cosmogony gifted me with a vision of what I had been seeking as a feminist voyager. I meant to return Home.

In Mago, I felt no longer free-floating, but this was not without its price. My radical feminist searches brought me no material benefits; rather, to become Myself was the reward. Layer after layer of patriarchal deception had to be peeled off. And for women who, like me, came from the non-Western, formerly colonized world, reversing the reversals required a deeper analysis of racism, ethnocentrism, and colonialism. I underwent the process of becoming Me, a process which also led me to WE.

Personally, Homecoming means an integration of myself within the mytho-historical-cultural context of Magoism. However, Homecoming in the Great Goddess can never be an isolated individual act. Magoism unfolds the Primordial Home wherein all beings are kindred. The Primordial Home is for everyone. Everyone is destined to return Home in the Great Goddess because She is Here for us all. She will be Here for as long as humanity survives. Homecoming is a harbinger; it signals the arrival of WE, a very old concept that was misconstrued if not tabooed in patriarchy.

The nature of my life has changed. “I” is no longer in the way of “WE.” “I” and “WE” do not stand against each other. Furthermore, “I” is transformed by “WE,” just as are all things in the universe. Scalar turns to vector. Chaos yields to order. The labyrinth leads to the Source. My feminism is rewarded with gynocentrism, the Goddess Matrix in which the female principle by far surpasses patriarchy.

As many admit, Myth, the story of the divine, is etiological, meaning it explains the origin of things. I hold that only the gynocentric cosmogonic myth can be fully etiological, shedding light on the primal beginning. Myth is inherently gynocentric, for it is derived from the perception of the Primordial Mother, the oldest divine in human history. Put differently, Myth tells us that the Divine is She, that Female is the original divine. Myth is ultimately inseparable from the Great Goddess.

The Primordial Mother is the macrocosmic translation of a mother. She is the Metaphor for life-giver and life-raiser. Divinity issues from Her. In Her, everything, including the God, is endowed with divinity. The etiological and metaphoric nature of Myth is fully illumined only in the story of the female beginning.

The Goddess Myth told to/by us testifies to what patriarchy can’t or doesn’t tell. It is a language distinguished from that of patriarchy, dominating if not violent. The nature of Its language is persuasive and pacific. The truth It tells awakens one to Home. It is intrinsically soteriological, and herein lies the urgency of Myth: It shows the Way that humanity needs to know and follow in order to survive and flourish. The Great Goddess Myth is the first and last revelation to humankind. Where the Primordial Mother is, there is Home!

Mago is not necessarily the “creator” of things. In the Magoist cosmogony, there is no one who created or creates anything alone. (I have used the term “cosmogony” in place of “creation” to avoid the conflation of Magoist thought with the origin-stories of patriarchal religions.) Instead, all things are interdependent and the power of auto-genesis is embedded within the universe itself. In explaining that, the Magoist cosmogony does not employ a magical or a logical jump. In the time of beginning, cosmic rays dance in accordance with the law of nature. Mago and primordial matter are self-born through the movement of cosmic music. Mago is, above all, the Cause of human existence. All things on Earth are indebted to Mago for She initiated the process auto-genesis of the Earth itself. In short, She is the Source of Life on Earth. Without Her, nothing is possible for us.

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(Essay 3) Making the Gynocentric Case: Mago, the Great Goddess of East Asia, and Her Tradition Magoism by Helen Hwang

[Editor’s note: Numbers of endnotes differ from the original ones in the article]

Claiming the Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City)

as a Principal Text of Magoism

The Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City) stands out from other sources for its systemic and refined mytho-historical account of Old Magoism. Alleged to have been written in between the late fourth and early fifth century of Silla Korea (57 BCE-918 CE), the Budoji is the Sillan testimony to the history of Budo (Emblem City), a replica of Mago’s Citadel. It is a book that summons ancient Koreans to remember the glorious history of their Magoist ancestors particularly Budo, better known as Dangun Choson Korea (2333 BEC-232 BEC). Budo’s construction and administration in East Asia for nearly two millennia are attributed to the leadership of Imgeom or Dangun. She is the third of the triad sovereigns of Old Magoism after Hanin and Hanung. Designating the civilization of Budo as a direct successor of its previous civilization Sinsi (Divine Market) attributed to the leadership of Hanung, the Budoji traces the Magoist pedigree of pre-patriarchal civilizations ultimately back to Mago and her paradisiacal community, Mago’s Citadel.[i]

Why Budoji, principle text of Magoism, important? That is because it tells us about the lost story of our beginning from the Primordial Goddess.

Why is the Budoji, principle text of Magoism, important? That is because it tells us, in a systemic manner, about the lost story of our beginning from the Primordial Goddess, that is, Mago, in the paradise called Mago-seong (Mago Castle/Citadel). Ten beings of longevity, folk painting, Korea.

Composed of thirty-three chapters, its epical narrative is replete with unheard but resonant concepts and symbols such as cosmic music, triad, parthenogenesis, mountain paradisiacal community, genealogy, and so on. Among others, the Budoji unleashes one most fascinating cosmogonic account yet-to-be-known, the story of Mago’s beginning.[ii] Mago, emerged by the cosmic music alongside the stars in the primordial time, began her procreation. Then she initiates the natural process of self-creation. She had her offspring to procreate and asked them to administer the paradisiacal community in Mago’s Citadel. She is the cosmic being who listens to the rise and fall of the cosmic music. The primary task of Mago’s community was to produce Earthly musical resonance that corresponds with the music of the universe. The sonic balance between the universe and the Earth is absolutely essential to the survival and prosperity of the earthly community.[iii]

Mago Castle, Hebei Province, China

Mago Castle/Citadel, Hubei Province, China (courtesy of Mr. Junhui Song)

The Budoji not only makes it possible to recognize a large corpus of transnational primary sources as coherent within the context of Magoism but also enables the researcher to understand erosion, variation, and mutation wrought on individual data in the course of history. Budoji’s mytho-historical framework is particularly crucial in assessing the large number of folkloric and topological data that are otherwise seen anomalous or corrupted. For example, the stories that Mago lived in a rock or Mago carried large boulders on her limbs and built megalithic structures find resonance in Budoji’s narratives. Its accounts concerning rocks and landmasses are too complex to present here. Some examples are: Mago began her act of creation by moving and dropping a heavenly landmass and into heavenly water; Magoist sovereigns became rocks that made resonating sounds upon death. In short, Magoism animates pre-Chinese history of East Asia otherwise labeled as “primitive societies.” It entertains the idea that animism and shamanism are not isolated practices but the older religious forms of Magoism.

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(Essay 2) Making the Gynocentric Case: Mago, the Great Goddess of East Asia, and Her Tradition Magoism by Helen Hwang

[Editor’s note: Numbers of endnotes differ from the original ones in the article]

Reconstructing Gynocentric Korean Identity

Scholars in the West, upon assessing a religion or deity of the non-Western world, tend to pair the topic with a modern nation. Thus, they often project their modern knowledge of the nation or culture onto the indigenous religion or deity they study. Such a methodology betrays the assumption that the modern notion of national identities is time-proven and bias-free. In this process, one’s perception of other people’s cultural expression is molded by Western-made modern knowledge of that people. This kind of knowledge ceases to exist outside the Western mind. Some go further to point out that the religious expression of a non-Western country in point is colored by the air of nationalism that is culturally on the rise in that country. This kind of assessment suggests the idea that a cultural expression fostered by nationalist zeal is inauthentic or impure and therefore of less value for study. While such conclusions are not necessarily wrong, I find it misguided. Done so, it prepares the ground for Western scholars to wield the authority of Western hegemony over the non-Western world. Precisely, it is blind to the fact that no cultural expression in modern times is free from nationalist ethos. Modern life is inherently shaped by the shade of nationalism whether it is in a non-Western world or a Western world. In my view, the question to be asked is: How can we assess a religious expression of a people beyond the modern notion of national identities? Or how can we go beneath the modern notion of national identities in order to assess a religious expression of a people?

I hold that the modern category of national identities in particular causes harm to the study of the goddess. Modern nationalities go hand in hand with the impetus of patriarchal religions that do away with the female principle. There is an unmistakable difference between the male divine and the female divine when their manifestations are found cross-nationally. It is generally assumed that exchange of cultures between nations allows the male divine to be disseminated from one people to another. It is true that patriarchal religions have traveled around the globe and disseminated their gods into other nations. When it comes to the goddess whose worship is widespread across nations, such as the case of Mary in the West, however, this kind of reasoning proves to be inadequate. Antithetical is the idea that patriarchal religions actively promote the transmission of the great goddess from one nation to the other. Thus, the very perception of the transnational goddess is systematically thwarted in the realm of patriarchal religions. Androcentric researchers may choose to either dismiss as anomalous the topic of the goddess whose manifestation is found cross-nationally or treat her as a local deity severing her from her transnational context. This has been done to the topic of Mago.

Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City)

Budoji (Epic of the Emblem City)

While Mago’s manifestation exists across the national boundaries of Korea, China, and Japan, it differs in nature, density, and complexity in these countries. Likewise, primary sources also show different traits according to the country. Korean sources surpass her Chinese counterparts not only in number but also in density and complexity. Mago’s supreme divinity is essentially affirmed in Korean sources, whereas it is treated as unknown in Chinese and Japanese counterparts. More to the point, the Budoji, the principal text that re-emerged in Korea in 1986, asserts that Koreans were the defenders of Old Magoism (Magoism in pre-patriarchal times) against the pseudo-Magoist Chinese regime. How can we understand the primacy of Korean Magoism without resorting to the modern notion of nationalist identities?

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(Essay 1) Making the Gynocentric Case: Mago, the Great Goddess of East Asia, and Her Tradition Magoism by Helen Hwang

Making the Gynocentric Case:

Mago, the Great Goddess of East Asia,

and her Tradition Magoism[i]

This study documents and interprets a substantial body of primary sources concerning Mago [麻姑, also known as Magu or Mako] from Korea, China, and Japan. Much of this material has never been brought to light as a whole. In working with these various and sundry data including folklore, paintings, arts, literature, poetry, toponyms, rituals, historical and religious records, and apocryphal texts, I encountered an organic structure that relates these seemingly unrelated materials and named it Magoism. Magoism refers to an anciently originated gynocentric cultural and historical context of East Asia, which venerates Mago as supreme divine. Although “Magoism” is my coinage, its concept is not new. Magoism is referred to as the Way of Mago, the Origin of Mago, the Event of Mago, Reign of Mago, Heavenly Principle, or simply Mago in historical sources. In the West, its partial manifestation is known as the cult of Magu within the context of Daoism. One of the earliest verified records, the Biography of Magu (Magu zhuan) written by Ge Hong (284-364) dates back to proto-Daoist times.[ii]

Crane and Yeongji mushroom (symbols of longevity), Chimney, Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul Korea

Crane and Yeongji mushroom (symbols of longevity), Chimney, Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul Korea

Nonetheless, “Mago” remains largely forgotten and misrepresented to the world especially in modern times. More incisively, her sublime divinity is made invisible despite strong evidence. No scholarship in the West has treated Mago as a topic in her own right. Mago’s multiple identities ranging from the cosmogonist to a grandmother, from the progenitress to the Daoist goddess, from the sovereign to a shaman/priestess in Korea, China, and Japan remain unregistered in modern scholarship. When mentioned, her transnational manifestation is not recognized cogently. She is often lumped together with other parochial goddesses from China. Other times, she is fetishized as a Daoist goddess of immortality. She is also known, among other representations, as the giant grandmother (goddess) who shaped the natural landscape in the beginning of time among Koreans. In any case, Mago is not deemed on a par or in relation with Xiwangmu (the Queen Mother of the West in Chinese Daoism) and Amaterasu, (the Sun Goddess of the Japanese imperial family), both of who represent the East Asian pantheon of supreme goddesses to the West.

I hold that the paramount significance of Magoism lies in the fact that it redefines the female principle and proffers a gynocentric utopian vision to the modern audience. Its utopian cosmology is no free-floating abstract idea but imbedded in the mytho-historical-cultural reality of East Asia. I suggest Magoism as the original vision of East Asian thought. Put differently, Magoism is an East Asian gynocentric testimony to the forgotten utopian reality. In the sense that Magoism presents an East Asian gynocentric symbolic system, this study is distinguished from Western and androcentric discourse. In other words, its gynocentric universalism should not be subsumed under the discourse of Western or patriarchal universalism. Magoism prompts an alternative paradigm of ancient gynocentrism that redefine major notions of the divine, human, and nature in continuum. Mago, the great goddess, is the unifying and at the same time individualizing force in this system. Magoism enables a macrocosmic view in which all individualized parts are organically co-related and co-operating. As a religious system, it is at once monotheistic and polytheistic. That is, Mago is the great goddess in her multiple manifestations. Underlying the patriarchal edifices, the Magoist principle is the Source from which the latter is derived.

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(Pilgrimage Essay 2) Report of First Mago Pilgrimage to Korea by Helen Hwang

[Author’s note: The first Mago Pilgrimage to Korea took place June 6-19, 2013.  We visited Ganghwa Island, Seoul, Wonju, Mt. Jiri, Yeong Island (Busan), and Jeju Island.]

Part 2 Traditional Korea and the Primordial Home of Magoism

It was the time for the sacred, ancient mystery of Magoism to be reenacted once again for the Race of WE! Mago Pilgrimage was an open invitation to the deep knowing that Korean Magoism unfolds beneath the surface of patriarchal consciousness. It was a call from the Background [to borrow Mary Daly’s term, which, I explicate, refers to the biophilic reality wherein the deep memories of Goddess are alive, unfettering from the foreground, patriarch reality] to be present with Mago, the Great Goddess, Here and Now! Third eyes flashed, while open hearts unlocked the doors to the path. We heard the whisper, the chorus of the natural, cultural, and historical landscapes of Korea, the arcane music of the Female Beginning. The magic worked its own feats.

Awakening as Goddess by Yongnim Kim

Awakening as Goddess by Yongnim Kim

As could be expected, undertaking the Mago pilgrimage entailed daunting tasks for me. Nonetheless, it was proven to me time and again that the purpose creates the means. The Korean saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” spoke to it well. We, the intercontinental pilgrims, were made welcome by supporters, organizers, and volunteers from the locale. We attracted fabulous scholars, teachers, artists, administrators, and activists along our paths. It was the first cross-cultural and cross-gender goddess event to be held in Korea in modern times! Excitement and anticipation were high.

Geumdong Daehyangro (Bronze Incense Burner), 7th C, Baekje (18 BCE-660 CE)

Geumdong Daehyangro (Gold-copper Incense Burner), 7th C, Baekje (18 BCE-660 CE)

As a researcher of Mago and Magoism, I knew the Mago pilgrimage was the right thing to do. In fact, I had been faithfully following the direction that my heart beckoned to throughout my life. The consequences were the actions that I took. This time, however, I was rewarded with the fate-ful encounter; the very research of Mago came as a revelation to me. The topic of Mago emerged from nowhere at the juncture of my labyrinthine journey to non-patriarchal [gynocentric] consciousness. I was a student of feminist studies in religions. Without knowing what was in store for me, I knew that I was not content with the feminist theology of patriarchal religions of the West and the East. If any theme of these religions had appealed to me — I wished at times, to confess to my readers — during those years, my path would not have crossed with Magoism. My radical feminist quest was the cause for encountering Mago. Continue reading

Meet Mago Contributor, Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Ph.D.

Helen Hwang pixel reduced

Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Ph.D.  is scholar, activist, and advocate of Magoism, anciently originated tradition that venerates Mago as the Great Goddess. She earned her MA and Ph.D. in Religion with emphasis on Feminist Studies from Claremont Graduate University, CA. She also studied toward an MA degree in East Asian Studies at UCLA, CA. Hwang has taught for universities in California and Missouri, U.S.A. Since 2012, Dr, Hwang has founded, directed, co-edited, written for the Return to Mago E-Magazine (http://magoism.net), Mago Academy (http://magoacademy.org), and Mago Books (http://magobook.com). Continue reading

(Art) Bari Gongju by Lydia Ruyle


Princess Bari, is believed to be the ancestral mudang shaman and the patroness of all shamans in Korea. She was the seventh daughter of a king who abandoned her in infancy. Bari went on a mythic journey, crossing the border of the living and the dead and returning to bring her parents back to life, thus becoming the first mudang and mother of all. Bari, known as the goddess of nature and universe, guides the dead to the underworld.

Source: Joseon Minhwa (Korean Folkpaintings) Museum. Yeongwol. Korea

(Art) Dokkaebi by Lydia Ruyle

KOR2_Dokkaebi 2013

Dokkaebi is a fierce guardian of sacred space who can create mischief or protect people from evil spirits. Standing on a lotus flower, her fanged mouth, hanging breasts, and ritual belt identify her as a crone. Dokkaebi’s dragon face associates her with water to protect a wooden building from fire. Her presence is placed on clay roof tiles to ward off a “teeming invisible army of hostile spirits and ghosts.”

Source: Baekje Roof Tile. 18 BCE-660 CE. National Buyeo Museum. Buyeo. Korea


(Art) Sangwon-sa Apsara by Lydia Ruyle

Sangwon-sa_Apsara.2013 copy

Sangwon-sa Apsara
Apsaras in Korea are youthful female spirits of clouds and waters who fly in the sky and communicate with people. As celestial musicians, apsaras adorn the oldest copper bell in Sangwon-sa Buddhist temple connecting sound and spirit. As ethereal beings, they are depicted with ribbons and may be compared to angels. Apsaras are also caretakers of fallen heroes.

Source: Copper bell. 725 CE Sangwon-sa Temple.
Odaesan National Park. Korea

Goddess Icons
Spirit Banners of the Divine Feminine © 2013


(Mago Essay 3) Toward the Primordial Knowing of Mago, the Great Goddess by Helen Hwang

[The following sequels including this one are a modified version of my paper presented to Daoist Studies, the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in 2010.]

Part 3 Daoist Rendition of Mago, the Great Goddess

Being the creatrix, progenitor, and ultimate sovereign, Mago has been addressed by  many names. Her derivative names include Samsin Halmeoni (Triad Grandmother/Goddess), Cheonsin (Heavenly Deity), Daejosin (Great Ancestor Deity), Nogo (Crone/Grandmother), Gomo (Goddess Mother), Magui (Devil), Seogo (Auspicious Goddess), Seonnyeo (Female Immortal), Seonja (Immortal Person), and simply Halmi (Grandmother/Crone/Goddess) especially in Korea. To say the least, these names, respectively embedded in a particular cultural and historical background, reflect a complex and enduring feature of Magoism.

One may wonder: How is it possible to assess that these goddesses with different names refer to the same goddess, Mago? While such a query is legitimate, its answer entails a prolix explication of inferences based on the comprehensive analysis of a large volume of data, a technique that requires all human faculties, not just rationality. Foremost, the name “Mago” is the primary defining factor to identify Her transnational manifestations in East Asia. This name crisscrosses otherwise seemingly unrelated data including folklore, arts, literature, poetry, and religious and historical records. Such toponyms as Mt. Mago, Rock of Mago, and Cave of Mago presently extant in Korea, China, and/or Japan further substantiate the coherence of Magoism in East Asia. Having established the patterns and styles of Mago stories, the researcher is able to identify a common motif that is shared by the stories and place-names of the goddesses with derivative names. In short, these stories are organically interconnected, reflecting the universality and particularities  of Magoist theism.    

Magu gathering medicinal herbs, u.d. China

Magu gathering medicinal herbs, u.d. China

As with Her many names, the researcher or art historian requires the same technique to assess a broad range of Her visual representations. One can begin with a good number of paintings whose colophons designate Mago. Two of the most conspicuous colophons are “Magu gathering medicinal herbs” and “Mago presents longevity.” However, many icons including sculptures and embroideries do not have such an indication. In that case, one can tell the Mago icon by its pictorial themes recurring in the images that are identified as Mago. That said, there is no doubt that the Mago icon stands as the prototype of its numerous variations, which are beyond my documentation at this point.

A large portion of Mago visual representations I have documented is casually referred to as “The Immortal Magu (麻姑仙, Magu Xian or Mago Seon)” by moderns. As such, it is assumed that She is a Daoist goddess. Would the Daoist appropriation of Mago’s visual images be accurate? I hold that the Daoist rendition of Mago is a specious stopgap, leaving many issues unattended. When B is derived from A, B alone can explain neither A nor B. Not only Her pre-Daoist origin but also Her supreme divinity as the Great Goddess remains unexplained. Furthermore, Daoism has offered no framework to explain the transnational dissemination of Magoist material culture in Korea, China, and Japan.     

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