Kate Belew Kate Belew
3 minute read

In the islands of Orkney (an archipelago in Northern Scotland), the soft and lapping waves hide the secrets of the Selkie folk. Selkie translates literally to Seal, and the origin myths of the Selkie folks are as murky as the water from whence they arrived. One thing is agreed upon. However, Selkie folk are mythological beings capable of therianthropy, changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin. 

In many myths, specific to the islands of Orkney, Selkie folk are seal people known for their shapeshifting abilities. These beings can slip out of their seal skins and transform into humans. Maybe you have met one of these Selkie folks without ever knowing, except for a sparkle in their eye or their watery energy gifted to them by the sea's magick. 

These stories follow a similar pattern. In the tale, a Selkie woman leaves her seal skin to marry a human man. However, in this marriage, though perhaps filled with love, there is always an underlying current and longing for the tides. Often, the Selkie woman and her husband will have a child together. However, as soon as she finds her seal skin, usually kept out of sight, tucked away in the roof, or hidden in a chest, she will return to the sea and leave her human family behind. 

Similar tales can be found in stories from the Shetland Isles, as well as Irish and Icelandic folktales. Yet, each shapeshifter’s story is particular to the locale and has been passed on primarily through oral traditions. The song of the Selkie folk, a haunting whisper through the isles of time and place. 

Messages from the Selkie 

Honor your desires. When the story of the Selkie appears, it might be time to consider what you honestly long for and want. What does home mean to you? When do you feel most like yourself? Selkie folk keep their eyes on the horizon of the sea, waiting patiently to return to the place where they can be their whole self. Dive in fully, and embrace who you are. 

Connect with mystery. The stories of Selkies come from murky and dark waters. When they appear, it’s time to celebrate the unknown, and connect with the great mystery that surrounds all of us. Selkies remind us that magick can be everywhere as long as we know where to look. 

Shapeshift. The archetypal shapeshifter shows up in cultural folktales around the globe. When Selkies appear for you, consider in what ways you shapeshift. What stories of shapeshifters live on the land where you currently reside or the stories of your ancestors? Shapeshifting is compelling for many reasons, but the mercurial aspect of identity can’t be overlooked. All of us have a little bit of shapeshifter in us. Honor that. 

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