The Selkie Woman

Courtesy of The MerBlog
One of my favorite tales is a selkie story I found years ago in a book of folktales, by Katherine Briggs.  The selkie is a being that takes the form of a seal when in the sea and sheds it’s skin to walk about as a human on land.  It’s said that the way to keep a selkie is to hide its seal skin, for it can never return to the sea without it.  Selkies can be man, woman or child and always find the way back to the sea that is their home.

In this version, a young hay farmer on the Isle of Unst comes upon a ring of selkies dancing under the light of the full moon in midsummer.  Stealthily, he creeps up, but is unaware that his shadow is before him and enters the ring.  That’s all it takes, and the ‘fairy people’ run in all directions, picking up their seal skins and diving into the sea.  “…soon the air is filled with the sounds of their soft cries and splashes…”.

All except one.

She is the most beautiful woman the man has ever seen.  She is running to and fro, looking as if she’s lost something.  He realizes that his own shadow keeps her skin from sight and before she can realize it, he picks it up and hides it behind some rocks.

At first glance, it would seem that this is a simple tale of a human finding a magical being for a spouse, a common motif the world over.  
Or, it can be a story of ways we hold our own deeper, creative selves hostage, in order to experience union.

It is union with the wild, dark parts of our creative selves whose offspring bring us a sense of connection, awe, wonder and bliss.  
By dark, I only mean those parts we ourselves are unfamiliar with, the places like the home of the selkie in the story.  “…where neither snow nor darkness ever come…”

Deep places in the self, that I am only able to commune with after removing the layers and layers of mundane, predictably -human, daily-life details.

I’m usually too busy for this – like the farmer – making hay while the sun shines, sort of thing.

Courtesy of NASA
It’s only on those potent midsummer evenings when the moon’s in full, when the air brings forgiveness to the heat of the day’s toil, when the sand shines brightly and the sound of the sea is a familiar and gentle love song.
Then, our potent, wild natures can be free to dance – 
                                                                                        for sheer joy.

Some questions occur to me.  What would have happened if his own shadow hadn’t sent them running?  How was it that the selkies, themselves, had no shadows?  When we try to force our wild nature into domesticated life do we ever really experience the union we desire?

Stories hold profound and powerful wisdom that we can tap into for our own self-discovery.  One tried and true method I’ve found for tapping the wisdom of a story is to write a journal entry from the perspective of one of the characters.  Simply muse upon the events this character is experiencing from their perspective.  
It’s a journey with no destination – truly, in this case – the journey is the destination.

It’s also a gift
                    to your wild self.  
                                               Dive deep.

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©copyright 2011 Zette Harbour, all rights reserved.

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