Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Selkie

If you lived around the coasts of Northern Ireland and Scotland especially the Orkney and Shetland Islands of Scotland and the coast of County Donegal in Ireland you would probably hear the tales of the Selkies or Roanes in Ireland.
     The Selkies were an ancient race of people disguised as seals that could come ashore and shed their skins to take the form of a human. The were also known as Water Kelpies, the seal people or selchies.  They were more gentle creatures than Mermaids or Merrow. The Irish race known as Roane were even a more gentle race than the Selkies.
     A female selkie was said to come out of the sea then shed her seal skin to dance in the moonlight, run in the sand and sing her songs.  If a man comes along and sees her beauty for tales says that she is so beautiful that no man can resist her. She would have an unearthly beauty with dark hair and eyes. Today many Irish and Scottish families that has a child born with black hair and black eyes are usually credited being with Selkie blood in them. Some families are famously known as having Selkie in their bloodline.
     When the man sees the captivating female selkie then if he can find her seal skin and hides it she will be under his power until she finds her seal skin. In most tales she becomes his wife and a female selkie was known to make a fine wife being faithful, loyal, loving, dedicated and being a great mother to her children.
     When a male selkie comes ashore it's not to dance or sing but to find a woman who is 'unsatisfied' and becomes her lover. Just as the females, the males are dark haired with black eyes. They are said to have a magical power over human women.  After they have their fill they return to the sea. While in the sea, the male selkies can be vengeful and make strong storms at sea tormenting the seal poachers. If a human woman wants a selkie then all she had to do was go to the sea and shed seven tears into the sea at high tide. When a human woman was missing at sea it was said that her selkie lover came and got her to take her to his underwater home.
     Another physical feature that they have during their human form is that they have webbing between their fingers and toes.
     The female selkies in their human form and a captive of a love sick fisherman usually will be noticeably quiet and found many times standing somewhere on a cliff over looking the sea and singing their beautiful songs. Some tales are told that when a fisherman is thought to be lost at sea his selkie wife will go to the sea cliff and sing her song to bring him back home.  I wonder if it was because of love or because he was the only one that knew where her seal skin was.
     When a selkie female finds her seal skin either by tricking the husband or getting her children to look for it, she returns to the sea but she never forgets her husband and children. In her seal form she watches over them from far away.
     It is thought that selkies could take the form of a human only at certain times of the year. One tradition says only at Midsummer's Eve and another says every ninth night of the year.
     There are many stories about their origin.
     One belief is that were fallen angels who had fell into the seas became seals while the fallen angels who fell on the earth became known as the fairies. I wonder who started this version.
     Another one is that they were human beings at one time. They did something so horrible that they were doomed to live as seals in the sea.
     Some say that they are souls which were drowned at sea and on one night each year these lost souls were allowed to come ashore in their original human form.
     When Christianity invaded Ireland, selkies or roanes came to stand in for humans in purgatory being caught between two worlds and they were allowed to come to shore once a year. I guess as a reward for their sacrifice.
     When I went to Ireland I walked along a rocky beach and saw seals lying on the rocks out in the bay. It was awesome. I can see where they could have been thought to have that human soul and kindness. Their eyes is what caught me first. They are so deep and mysteriously dark.
     If you are interested in the myths of the Selkies or Roanes then there is a must see movie called The Secret of Roan Inish.  I have seen it and highly recommend it. It's a great movie based on the islands off of Ireland and it was filmed there as well.
     Click here for the movie. You can rent it from Netflix.  The Secret of Roan Inish 

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