The Selkie – Born Without Skin


Selkie:

Found within the folklore and mythology of Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Iceland, (also known as “seal folk”) are capable of transforming from seal form to human form by shedding their skin.


 

I am a Selkie. A creature born of the sea foam and salt tides, walking upon the land. A watery world hidden behind my eyes and ever rushing through my veins. Externally my skin is seen as belonging to those who walk on two legs and live life with sharp tongues and eager hands. My heart knows my true identity – my true skin -resides elsewhere; calling out to me to return home.

When I arrived on this Earth, I believe I lost my skin. Whether it was the day of my birth or years after, I will never know when I truly was stripped of it. I was continuously told by those who observed my rawness and sensitivity to this world that it was as if I was “born without skin.” The loud nature and rough edges of this planet, and those who resided here, cut my skinless form and left me raw and in fear. I came with a fierce song in my heart – the song of the Selkies, perhaps – and as I moved about this planet, through life, that song was lost as well. For, I had no skin to hold the essence of my being in place. Growing up with an undeniable knowing that I was from another world, my spirit would endlessly cry out to my Selkie brothers and sisters, to no avail. I felt very alone in the world. I was left to this new Earth…

Without a skin…

Without a song…

Without the Sea…

“Along the wild strand by the old broken stones,

Near that keening sea.

She wanders alone to those waters that call,

And the one that she used to be.”

~“Selkie” by Sea Star

Scared Selkie

Years I spent longing to return to the sea; a home I had only a heart memory of. Skinless, I learned new ways of keeping upright on these strange, new two feet. I educated myself on survival, as thriving is no option in a world where you feel you don’t belong. Meanwhile, as the years went by – far away from my being – the skin I had worn and lost before birth, shriveled and died. Any seafoam or salt tide I had left in my blood began to drain from me; leaving me dry and brittle within. Those few two-legged beings who knew of my sealskin grew fearful as I began to crack and wither. They desperately poured water over my crumbling form and dipped me in nearby tide-pools. Even though the surface of my body began to smooth and heal, internally I continued to remain arid. No longer could I sustain my world built around survival without a skin. My parched essence yearned for the watery depths and my true self. I had nothing left in me to maintain a façade that bled me dry and denied me of any drop of Selkie that remained.

I needed the Sea…

I needed a song…

I needed a new skin…

It’s been awhile since she has seen her family,

And she swam so freely near the rocks.

And in that midsummer’s air when she tore out her hair,

For something stolen, something grand, something lost.”

~ “Selkie” by Sea Star

Selkie Skin

In order to restore what had been lost, and gain what had yet to be discovered, I must make the journey alone. The journey to find the Old Woman of the World, who lives as much in us as She does without. This pilgrimage, I believe, we all must make at a certain time in our lives when our soul refuses to go on in the manner it has been for so long. Refuses to endure anymore agony. Refuses to exist in scattered pieces any longer. So, I set out on this solitary quest to find the Old Woman of the World, and learn a new way to live on this unfamiliar Earth. The journey to Her was by no means easy. Indeed, it was the journey of my lifetime. For, to accomplish this quest, one must have the courage to face the darkness of the cave of the Old Woman of the World and the path to find it.

For days, months, years on end, I trekked.

My feet and hands, bare and cold, were sliced by the jagged crags I crossed and climbed…

Yet, still, I persisted…

My body shivering, chilled to the bone by the ice-cold rain that pounded relentlessly down upon me…

Yet, still, I persisted…

My mind screaming at every step to turn back and continue no further…

Yet, still, I persisted…

I persisted, until my feet could carry me no more. I collapsed to the ground, exhausted, hungry, and raw. My wind and rain tattered body lay motionless on the cool, hard face of the Earth. The only sounds piercing my consciousness were that of my own breath and heartbeat. As I lay there and began to listen more intently, I realized my heartbeat was louder than I thought…, and was not mine at all! Pressing my ear firmly to the rocky surface, all the rest of my senses quieting, I discovered I was hearing the heartbeat of the Earth itself. Resplendently rhythmic, with each pulse, my body began to fill with energy. The energy needed to restore my heart with the will to continue. The energy needed to revive my mind and return to the reason behind this quest. The energy needed to continue the search for my skin. Ears ringing with the heartbeat of the Earth, intermingled with my own, I became aware of a new sound. A sound so faint, yet so delightful and enchanting, my eyes began to tear with some of the last of the Sea left in me. This sound, growing stronger and more effervescent by the second, was the song of the one I had been seeking; The Old Woman of the World.

My legs came alive and began to carry me toward Her song before my mind had a chance to return to my body. The beckoning of Her voice, as if a gentle sea tide, lifted me off my feet and drew me to where She resided. Suddenly, out of the craggy terrain, stairs carved from the rock emerged, leading down into a dark cave. The cave of the Old Woman of the World. At a time in each of our lives, we arrive at this cave. This place where a choice must be made; to turn back and remain in the comfortable, yet broken space of being we have inhabited, or forge ahead into the darkness…our own darkness. To face that of which is unknown and bears the potential of swallowing us whole. Yet, that same unknown holds the opportunity to reclaim that of which has been lost, and discover what has yet to be unearthed.

I chose…

I chose a song…

I chose the Sea…

I chose a skin…

Let the waters come and find me,

Let the waters come and find me,

Let the waters come and find me and carry me on”

~ “Selkie” by SeaStar

Dark Cave

Descending into the darkness, my whole essence shuddered in fear of what was to come. With each step, I felt the darkness seeping deeper into my being, into my bones. So dense this darkness, I began to gasp for air, my lungs crying out for the oxygen the space around me lacked. My heart beat quickened, pervaded with the petrification of the thought of suffocation. As any light that remained completely absorbed into the damp, rocky walls around me, I continued into the pitch black. The only thing keeping my chilled feet moving was the faint song of the Old Woman of the World. However, as I drifted on, becoming increasingly unsure of where my being ended and the darkness began, the Old Woman’s voice began to fade. I quickened my pace, attempting to chase the intangible voice that had been my only leading force. My legs moved faster and faster, trying to hang on to Her song that grew

Softer…

And softer…

And softer…

Until suddenly it… stopped. I felt myself crumble and drop to the ice-cold ground. When all hope is lost, when all light is gone, what do you do? You relent. I relented…

I relented to the darkness…

I relented to the search…

I relented to the Old Woman of the World…

…and then She appeared.

First, a subtle warmth began to engulf my body, thawing me to my very core. Next, a soft lulling hum started to float through the cave, wrapping around me as if the arms of a mother embracing her beloved child. Then, a faint light, growing gradually brighter, fell over my being and illuminated the space surrounding me. Finally,… She emerged; the Old Woman of the World. A loving and benevolent smile spread upon Her lips, and eyes sparkling like two deep wells possessing the wisdom of all the galaxies combined. Her voice echoed and rang with all the collective voices of the universe singing as one. Without a word, the Old Woman of the World tenderly assisted me to my feet, and guided me to a seat near her Great Cauldron and Spinning Wheel, both of which appeared out of the darkness along with Her. Next to Her fire, next to Her Cauldron, next to Her Wheel, next to the Old Woman of the World… my soul began to heal. As She lifted her wooden ladle from Her Great Cauldron, I bowed my head. Slowly, she poured the essence of all life over my bruised, cracked, and crumbling form.

Slowly…

…My broken pieces began to amend.

Slowly…

…My raw and bleeding body began to heal.

Slowly…

…My arid inside began to dampen and liven.

Slowly…

…I was restored of my sea foam and salt tides.

Slowly…

…I became a Selkie once more.

Let the waters come and find me,

Let the waters come and find me,

Let the waters come and find me and carry me on”

~ “Selkie” by SeaStar

Great Mother

            Spirit and human form revived, I was still left naked without a skin. For, this was the reason of my quest to the Old Woman of the World. This was the reason of my quest through the rain, through the cold, and through the darkness. I needed a new skin. Sensing my thoughts, as the Old Woman of the World knows all, She lovingly spoke to them,

“So, you are in need of a new skin, my daughter; your old skin was stripped of you and dried; you have existed in a place of fragmentation; you are in need of a song, a skin, and the Sea.” Images and visions of my life to this moment began to emerge and dance within the flames of Her fire. I saw all that She spoke of. I felt all that She spoke of.

“Many survive in a world foreign to them, yet none thrive in a world they feel they don’t belong. My love, you are here for a reason. A reason you have yet to unearth. You have only forgotten who you are; who you have always been. *You have done well to make it this far, Daughter. But, there is more for you to do before you are done.”  Placing one hand on my heart and gently grasping my own hand with Her other, the Old Woman of the World quieted. All at once, I knew…

I knew where to find the Sea…

I knew where to find my song…

I knew where to find my skin…

…For it has resided there all along.

I am back to the beginning. I am back to the place I spent years longing for the Sea. I am back to the place I was bled dry of all my sea foam and salt tides. I am back to the place my quest for the Old Woman of the World began.

I am back to the beginning.

My gaze shifts downward to my hands, once dry and brittle, but now full of life. My lips lift into a grin, my heart begins to sing a song that had long been lost to me, and in the distance, I hear the unmistakable calling and crashing of the Sea. There, lying in my two hands is my own Sealskin; just where it had been all along.

I always had my song…

I always had the Sea…

I always had my skin…

…All I had to do was realize that they were never truly lost to begin with.

“Till one day the rains came and tucked her away,

In a small room where light’s rarely seen.

And there behind books was a cupboard locked strong.

She used all the strength ever known.

And in the dark den was her own seal skin,

Which she grabbed and ran back to the foam”

~ “Selkie” by SeaStar

New Skin

……

According to the Celtic Encyclopedia of Mythology and Folklore, “in Ireland and Scotland, eating seals was considered a form of cannibalism” (411). Myths are relatable and endure due to the truths that they bear. Behind all the magical creatures, deities, and heroes, lie themes of life that connect us all as humans. Every myth touches a different note, and registers with a diverse part of each of us. The myth I chose, the Selkie, is a symbol of what every human being has to face at one time or another; finding our true selves, or our “skins”. The story of the Selkie is one of personal struggle and self-discovery. It is an illustration of reclamation and unearthing of our true essence (whatever that means to you), and the journey required of us to reach this point. I stepped into the perspective of the Selkie to tell my own story. I told it through eyes that are not much different than my own, as I resonate deeply with the feeling of being in a world where you don’t belong and of yearning for a home your heart only knows. I know on a soul level how it feels to be near giving up. I have taken the pilgrimage to reclaim my skin. In fact, I still continue to walk the path to the Old Woman of the World! I feel we do so many times in our life, until we truly remember who we are.

Who we have always been…

“Once a Selkie finds its skin again,

 neither chains of steel nor chains of love,

can keep her from the sea.”

~ Tadhg – The Secret of Roan Innish

Selkie with Seal

Credits

  1. Pic. 1 http://anachronisticfairytales.tumblr.com/post/57561058637/juan-wijngaard
  2. Pic. 2 http://www.opengravesopenminds.com/critical-thoughts/magical-skins-the-selkies-transformation/
  3. Pic. 3 http://loriemartin.com/2016/02/
  4. Pic. 4 https://aminoapps.com/c/pagans-witches/page/item/the-welsh-celtic-goddess-cerridwen/r082_1PmIqImJ8wJD18PQKedM3DEX4LYR26
  5. *Text from If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie (page 77)
  6. Pic. 5 http://powerlisting.wikia.com/wiki/Selkie_Physiology
  7. Pic. 6 http://thecelticwoods.blogspot.com/2016/05/selkies.html

*The outline of a good amount of this story was borrowed from Sharon Blackie’s book If Women Rose Rooted. The myth I drew inspiration from resides on pages 71-80 of her book.

Love,

Freedom Faerie