Monday, April 18, 2011

A Good-luck Pig's Head

Yesterday afternoon Keegan, Sophie, and I went for a hike in the mountains near our apartment. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed seeing all the new leaves and mountain cherry trees still in blossom, but it was a mostly unremarkable walk. That is, it was unremarkable until we got back to Deokpo and saw a group of women sitting on the ground apparently having a picnic. They attracted my attention because one of the women was holding a long white cloth, which she was knotting in a careful way. I looked a little closer at the spread on the picnic blanket and saw that it was arranged like a good luck offering, with lots of fruit. There was a large, brown leathery object right in the middle which I finally recognized as a pig's head! That was a surprise!

When we got back to the apartment, several of our friends were outside having a barbecue. I mentioned the surprising pig's head, and the two Korean girls told me that it's not too unusual to have a small ceremony with a pig's head to pray for good luck when buying a new car or starting a new business. You should put bills in the pig's mouth, ears, or nose for extra luck. I asked them if it was expensive to buy a pig's head, and they said no. But when I looked for more information online, I discovered this article, which explains a bit about the ceremony and the recent difficulties in obtaining pig's heads due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Who knew? I love that I am still learning new and surprising things about Korea even after almost three years here.

No comments: