Well, I learned a couple of very strange little bits of Koreana today from Lime, and thought they were interesting enough to post about:
- 삼신 할머니 (SamShin Halmeoni, or SamShin Grandmother) is some kind of midwife-deity to whom old grannies would pray in the early morning, beseeching that their grandchildren would be born healthy. The SamShin Grandmother is the spiritual midwife of Korean babies, and it’s her job to whack little kids on the bottom when it’s their turn to pop out into the material world. This, they say, is why Korean babies have a Mongolian spot on their backsides.
- What’s a Mongolian spot? Through some genetic trait, Korean babies generally have a dark patch around their backside, which looks like a big old bruise from a whacking on the bottom. Apparently it persists until an age as late as five, and can be found in anyone with Mongolian blood, as Koreans have.
I asked Lime about The Dipper Worshippers I’d recently read about in a treatise on Korean religions. It was said to be a extant Taoist tradition that had somehow just become a common cultural practice: the worship of a Dipper constellation in the sky. (This page on Korean temples includes a mention of the Taoist “Seven Star God”, and this new-agey page includes nonetheless interesting speculation on the Big Dipper and its seasonal rotation around the North Star as the source of a famous symbol…)
What really shocked me was the name of the Big Dipper in Korean. The name is 북두 칠성 (Book-Doo Chill-Seong), and when I heard Chill-Seong, I said, “Chill as in seven?” It made sense, as there are seven stars in the constellation.
“Yes, and Seong means star. Book-Doo means ‘North-bound’.” This made sense too, as the Big Dipper points at the north star. This, Lime explained, was why the constellation was especially worshipped by travelers.
Well, something clicked in my head, and I asked about a popular soft drink in Korea, called “Chilsung Cider”. As it turns out, yes, the Korea version of 7-Up (note, the name also involves a Seven) is named after the Big Dipper. It’s not mentioned on the company’s English web page, but they do have CFswhich if you don’t live in Korea, means television commercialsfor your viewing entertainment. Me, I’m partial to 2% near-water. Knowing it’s termed “near water” kind of scares me, though. Anyway, knowing the origin of the name of “Chilsung Cider” is that arcane is kind of cool if you ask me. The only other pop of which I know the origin of the name is a very cheap Coca-Cola ripoff I’ve never seen in shops but I’ve gotten as a combo with pizza; the name of it is just a string of numbers which I later found out is the date of Korean Liberation from Japanese rule, August 15, 1945. But after a long try at searching, I’ve nothing to shown on the net for it. Ah well…