Princess Bari in Korean Mythology – Origin Story, Importance & Other Myths

Bari, also known as Princess Bari, is a prominent figure in Korean shamanistic mythology. The legend of Princess Bari is one of the most well-known Korean myths and is often recited during gut, which are traditional Korean shamanistic rituals.

Below, World History Edu presents the major myths surrounding her origin story and importance in Korean mythology and folklore.

Birth and Abandonment

Bari’s tale begins with the unfortunate circumstances of her birth. Her father, the king, had been desperate for a male heir to continue his royal lineage. After the birth of six daughters, the king’s impatience grew. When Bari, the seventh daughter, was born, his disappointment was so profound that he ordered the baby to be abandoned on a mountainside.

Despite such a tragic beginning, fate had other plans for Bari. She was discovered and subsequently nurtured by a heavenly deity, ensuring her survival and well-being.

As Bari grew, she became aware of her origins and the reason for her abandonment. Rather than harboring resentment, she demonstrated immense compassion and filial piety.

Bari’s story has been adapted into various cultural forms in Korea, including pansori (a traditional form of musical storytelling), dance, theater, and literature. Image: Princess Bari holding the flower of resurrection. Painting for shamanic rituals, 18th century.

Quest for the Water of Life

The tale continues with Bari embarking on a quest to the underworld to retrieve the water of life to save her ailing parents, showcasing her undying love and devotion to them despite their earlier rejection.

None of her six siblings was willing to go, but Bari, having learned of her true lineage, stepped forward. She faced numerous trials and challenges on her journey to find the water of life.

Her elevation to a divine status

Through her selfless actions and unwavering commitment to her family, she eventually earned her rightful place in the heavens and became a deity associated with healing and shamanic rituals.

Deity of rebirth

In one of the myth it is said that despite Princess Bari’s heroic efforts, she faces another heart-wrenching challenge: she is not permitted to reunite with her family.

This cruel twist is a consequence of her initial abandonment; even though she forgave her parents and saved their lives, cosmic laws dictated that she couldn’t remain with them.

Guided by fate, Bari then journeys to the underworld, a realm of spirits, shadows, and souls. There, she transcends her mortal existence, becoming a revered goddess of death and rebirth.

In this role, Bari undertakes the sacred duty of guiding souls through the mysteries of the afterlife, ensuring their transition from one phase of existence to the next.


Her story is not just a tale of adversity but also a testament to resilience and destiny. It serves as a poignant reminder that, sometimes, the most challenging paths lead to the most profound purposes.

Bari’s transformation into a goddess of the underworld underscores the idea that even in the face of abandonment and heartbreak, one can find purpose, meaning, and a place of honor.


The tale of Princess Bari holds a significant place in Korean mythology and cultural practices, particularly in the context of shamanistic rituals. Here’s why Bari’s story is so important:

Shamanistic Rituals

The legend of Princess Bari is frequently recited during “gut” (or “kut”), which are traditional Korean shamanistic rituals. These rites often seek to appease spirits, ensure good fortune, or guide the souls of the deceased to the afterlife. By invoking Bari, the shaman calls upon her role as a guide for souls, ensuring safe passage to the next world.

Representation of Filial Piety

Bari’s tale emphasizes the Confucian value of filial piety, a core principle in Korean society. Despite being abandoned at birth, Bari undertakes a perilous journey to save her parents, showcasing immense dedication and love. This selfless act serves as a reminder of the deep responsibilities children bear toward their parents.

Death and the Afterlife

Princess Bari’s story delves deeply into themes of death, rebirth, and the soul’s journey. By becoming a deity in the underworld, she symbolizes the cyclical nature of life and death, and her tale provides comfort and understanding about the mysteries of the afterlife.

Empowerment and Redemption

Bari’s journey from an abandoned child to a powerful deity illustrates themes of rejection, resilience, and redemption. Her story is a testament to the human spirit’s ability to overcome adversity and find purpose.

Cultural Impact

Beyond shamanistic practices, the legend of Bari has been adapted into various Korean cultural forms, such as pansori, dance, theater, and literature. These adaptations have ensured that her story remains a living part of Korean cultural consciousness.

Women in Mythology

In a pantheon often dominated by male figures, Bari stands out as a powerful female deity. Her tale challenges traditional gender norms, especially considering the context of her birth and her eventual rise to divine status.


In summary, Princess Bari’s story in Korean mythology encapsulates several core values and themes pertinent to Korean culture, spirituality, and societal norms. Her tale continues to resonate with many, providing both solace and lessons in resilience.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *