Old Folktale 1:
A Gifted Fortuneteller Once Lived in This Town.
I was told to walk about 4 km to the southeast facing Mt. Soori after entering Haangari-gol (the town of earthenware pots), and I would see the sign of a swastika 卍 on a white flag.
When the sun was rising above the mountains, I stepped into the entrance of Haangari-gol where vases and jars are crafted with red clay.
I spoke to an old lady as she was handing cool shikhye (a fermented rice drink) to this weary wanderer.
“I heard there’s a gifted fortuneteller in this town.”
“Not just one. Every household has a favorite shaman fortuneteller. You can’t find someone that way.”
“But I heard this shaman is so greatly gifted that visitors come from far away.”
“Oh, every one of them will say they are gifted and great fortune readers. There are also some shaman houses with amazingly skilled shamans right down the street.”
“I heard it’s near Mt. Soori. Maybe I can meet him there.”
“Why do you want to travel farther without resting when there are many gifted ones nearby? If you insist on going, walk slowly and rest from time to time since it’s very hot.”
Midday had passed as I traveled, and along the way, I occasionally saw the waving red and the white flags tied to bamboo poles.
When I reached the edge of the mountain facing Mt. Soori, I found a white flag with the red swastika sign on it.
As I stepped towards it thinking, “This must be the one,” another shaman house appeared in the next alley. In surprise, I looked around and saw that there were at least three shaman houses with similar flags.
“Uh oh, darn it. I didn’t expect this.”
“Shall I go into the first house?”
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Through the slightly open door, I saw an old lady wearing red flower patterned pants standing in the yard murmuring as if she were casting a spell.
“Excuse me. I want to ask you something.”
“Come in at once.”
“I’m not sure if you are the person I’m looking for.”
“What did you come to ask?”
“I’m just curious about the future.”
“Speak louder. Your ancestors are speaking to me all at the same time; I can’t hear anything from you.”
“The future, I’m curious about the future.”
“There is an ancestor of yours who died fighting for Korean independence. He’s lying next to the water streams in the mountain listening to the sound of flowing water and screaming, ‘Don’t go, don’t go!’ to you. Yes, of course.”
“Really? My ancestor?”
“Did you walk here?”
“Don’t walk alone like that.”
“Is that bad?”
“I just had a food offering ritual to the spirits this morning, and there are some fruits and fried dishes left. Would you like to have some?”
“No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“Hurry up and eat.”
“Thank you. Well, then what will happen in the future?”
“In the future?”
“It won’t change.”
“It won’t go bad though. In five years, no, in four years, the streets will become wider.”
“I see. Is it better not to change?”
“It should change. Of course, it’s right to change. But it won’t change easily. You should wait.”
“Where should I wait?”
“You will be reached. You should come then.”
As it was getting darker around the corners of the alley, I went two doors down and knocked on the door where a white flag on a bamboo pole was hanging towards the ground. The door was open, and I stepped in avoiding the small dog barking restlessly.
“Who is it?”
“I came looking for a great fortuneteller of the town.”
A young lady, who was reclining, turned her head.
“It’s been only ten days since I came. If you came to find the famous shaman, you came to the wrong house.”
“Then where should I go?”
“You should look among old and powerful shamans. I don’t even know the streets well yet.”
I turned around and went into the house across the street with a similar flag.
“What is it?” a middle-aged man who was sitting on a narrow porch asked me.
“I want to have my fortune read.”
“Come sit down.”
“Do you know why I came here?”
“Do you want to test me?”
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼“No, I just want to get an answer before the sun goes all the way down.”
“You cannot urge the spirit’s answer as if you are demanding something.”
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼“I’m sorry. I just wanted to know what’s coming in the future.”
“The future? How can I tell you anything if you ask such a vague question?”
“I just don’t know how else I should ask.”
“Over here the lower side is dead, and over there the higher side is alive. Hence, what is still good must not be destroyed.”
“I’m not sure what you mean. Are you saying that everything’s good the way it is?”
“There’s nothing that’s good as it is in the world. But you can’t change it because it’s not good. Don’t decide too soon. And, don’t spread my words too easily either.”
All of a sudden, raindrops started falling.
“You should go back now. I have something to do.”
As he got up and started taking colorful clothes off the clothesline in the yard, I also got up and put my shoes on in order to leave.
“How will you go back in the rain?”
“I’m fine. I always bring an umbrella since it may rain any day.”
As I started walking in the pouring rain, I saw flashes of lightning in the distance.