The Imugi (Anaconda) Legend of Baemsagol Valley
At the entrance to Baemsagol Valley, some 1,300 years ago, there used to be Songnimsa Temple. This temple practiced an annual rite on the Chilwolbaekjung holiday (full moon day of July by the lunar calendar) wherein they selected the most pious monk and prayed earnestly for his safe passage to paradise as a deity. In a certain year, the then highest monk Seosandaesa visited the temple, heard about this Buddhist rite, and guessed that there must be a secret behind it. Seosandesa allowed that year’s chosen monk to pray wearing a silk robe anointed with poison, linked by a silk thread to Sinseodae Terrace. Seosandaesa then hid himself behind a rock to watch. At around 1 am, an imugi (anaconda, which was sorry not to have turned into a dragon, slithered up from the valley below Sinseondae Terrace to the sound of roaring water. The imugi jumped upon the praying monk, bit him in the mouth, and disappeared into the water. Seosandaesa returned to the temple, and waited until dawn. Early in the morning, he, together with the villagers, went to Sinseondae Terrace to find that the imugi had died dead, having failed to swallow the whole body of the monk. Seosandaesa now came to know about Songnimsa Temple’s secret of sacrificing a monk to an imugi every year. Thereafter, the valley was named as Baemsagol, which means the valley where an imugi, which failed to become a dragon, died. The village at the entrance to Baemsagol Valley was named Banseon (meaning a “half deity”) in memory of the dead monk because he was sacrificed without becoming a deity.