In the Shadow of the Selkie

Have you ever heard of the Scottish myth of the Selkie? It’s a tale of a mythical, shapeshifting seal woman who sheds her skin and turns into a beautiful woman. A man becomes enamored of her and steals her skin, hiding it where she cannot find it. As long as he possesses her skin, the seal woman cannot leave. They often live as a married couple, having children and seemingly content. Eventually, the seal woman’s yearning for the sea becomes too much and either the husband, who truly loves her, restores her skin to her so she can return to the sea or she finds it herself and leaves him and their children behind.

I find these stories and the dynamics they express are still present in modern relationships, both interpersonal and communal; as above, so below.

Have you ever observed or found yourself in a relationship in which you feel your spirit is being held, hostage? Perhaps you initially agreed to the dynamics of the relationship but over time they shifted or your needs did and you find yourself unable to break free? I often note this dynamic in relationships where one partner is financially dependant upon another – often whichever is the stay at home parent raising the children or engaging in other traditionally feminine roles. I’m not referring to a SAHM or SAHD who feel this is their life purpose and who are treated as equal partners in the relationship. I’m referring to those in which the stay at home partner is treated unequally and told things like “It’s my money and I’ll decide how it’s spent” (you know what I’m talking about). Or relationships in which the more financially secure and established partner threatens to take away the children or the home if the other partner leaves. Some wonder how a woman can leave her children behind but if she has been forced to bear these children and their father and society determine they are “his”, then perhaps they are really a symbol of her imprisonment. How awful must it be to find yourself forced to bear children for someone who is imprisoning you?

I see this dynamic on a national scale in the US since the attacks on Sept 11th. So many are willing to give up their autonomy, right to privacy and independence for the illusion of safety and security Some have given up their skins in pursuit of the illusion of being cared for by the government and as a result those of us who were not willing to give up our freedom is being forced to anyway. Our skins have been stolen by those in charge. That is such a risky proposition. I think it’s what has to lead us to the situation in which we currently find ourselves and if we don’t fight to reclaim our skins we may find we are never able to return to that place of autonomy and independence and that way lies dictatorship.

So I asked the Divine via the Tarot:

Where am I a Selkie in my own life? 9 of Sword
How is Selkie energy being expressed in people’s lives? Page of Swords
How can we reclaim our skins? Knight of Pentacles
What can the Selkie teach us? 8 of Wands

So, my take on this reading. The first thing I noticed is that there are no Majors present. That suggests that changing this situation is entirely within our control. It’s about using our wits, our minds backed by groundedness and passion. This isn’t a time to appeal to hearts because people’s hearts (in many instances) are filled with fear.

In my own life, I think it’s more a fear of finding myself in a Selkie-type situation rather than a reality. The truth is that I’ll never willingly give up my skin and, in fact, would fight to the death to reclaim it. I’m also not in a relationship with a man who feels the need to dominate me in any way. In fact, he values and supports my independence and snarkiness.

The Page of Swords suggests that Selkie energy is the result of insecurity and an inability to trust in ourselves. We’re not sure we can protect ourselves and are trusting in others to do it for us. It seems logical to trust in the government to put our best interest first but history has proven that is risky and often unrealistic. Especially if the reality is that we’re being terrified into abandoning our skins. We’re not children (well most of us) and need to take responsibility for ourselves and our safety. If we allow anyone else to take away our freedom, we doom ourselves to losing autonomy over our lives. Can we really trust someone who has either captured, imprisoned or brainwashed us to ensure our rights won’t be violated?

The Knight of Pentacles offers the hopeful message that we can reclaim our skins but it will be an uphill battle. We will need to be stubborn, determined and focused. We can’t lose our heads or allow ourselves to be distracted by extraneous matters. Whether this is at a national or personal level, we need to stay the course and be willing to make the sacrifices and take the risks necessary to achieve this goal.

The Selkie teaches us that nothing is stagnant. New ideas and beliefs, new inspiration and energy are constantly entering our lives. Even if certain circumstances fit our needs right now, that may not be the case down the road and we need to be willing to fight for ourselves, for our autonomy and for our ability to breathe free. We need to seize the moment and be willing to burn down the house if all other options are exhausted.

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