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.

#ComparativeTarot – The Devil (Bohemian Gothic, RWS, Transformational & Whimsical)

The Devil – quite a scary concept isn’t it. How often over the years have humans blamed their aggressive, inappropriate, unhealthy behaviors on some external construct? “The Devil made me do it” is often claimed in a joking manner but perhaps there is some truth to our belief that the evil, wicked things we do are because of the influence of some otherworldly entity but is this true? Does human belief in such an evil figure give it power and strengthen its hold on our psyches? Did we create “The Devil” so we could fob off the blame on something or someone else; a scapegoat? Are we so unwilling to face the darkness in our own souls that we would prefer to allow “The Devil” to claim it instead? These are probably much deeper questions than I can answer right now. Who knows, over the course of my Tarot After Dark blog posts I’ll probably express my opinion on some of these issues but that’s all it will be – my opinion. I have no expertise or additional insight and knowledge that grants me the power to find the answers for anyone but myself. I’m curious to learn where it will lead me.

So, I’ve been missing my Comparative Tarot essays and decided that I’d commit to writing one each week to share with any and all interested readers. Each week I will randomly select a card and then pull matching ones from three other decks. My goal is to include one RWS clone, one deck with a darker sensibility, one lighter more approachable deck and one collage or less traditional deck. This week I’ve decided to use the Bohemian Gothic, classic RWS, Transformational and Whimsical Tarot decks. Let’s explore what insights these diverse decks can offer into one of everyone’s favorite “bad” card.

The first thing that struck me looking at these cards is that one figure appears to be dominating or controlling the other(s). The black-winged figure in the Bohemian Gothic Devil is administering something in a syringe to the other. The recipient is resting against the “devil” and even hugging her close. The “victim” fully embraces her victimization or is she even a victim? The reality is that we can easily blame drug dealers for a loved one’s addiction but what caused them to take that first step? Very few are forcibly addicted to drugs or alcohol. In my experience, they seek them out in an effort to escape the reality of their lives. So is the drug use a cause or an effect? Self-medicating is quite a common extra-curricular activity in the US.

The RWS and Whimsical Devils both show figures that are physically chained or manipulated. They appear to be at the beck and call of whoever is at the other end of their chains.  However, a closer look reveals that those restraints can be easily removed. How fascinating because it implies that, once again, the “victim” is complicity in their enslavement. They could easily take control and free themselves from the restraints but chose not to do so. It makes me wonder about the allure of giving up control to another; to be void of responsibility for one’s actions. We see the reverse quite often when followers seek out rigid and strict religious movements. There is no need to consider what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable – the church leaders will clearly define that for you. The bound people on the Devil cards show us the flip side of that scenario.  They can indulge in whatever depravity or “debased” behavior they desire because their master told them to do it. Quite a bit of psychological research has been done in this area and the results reveal that in most cases people are willing to do cruel, inhumane things as long as an authority figure told them to do it. Clearly being truly independent and free thinking is a rarity.

The Transformation Devil is quite a bit different in imagery but similar in message.  It shows a woman in a black dress standing behind a web, framed in red-orange flames.  Outside the frame are black & white figures, some being restrained by horned demons. Is the woman a prisoner of the web or the ruler of it?  Is she trapped or the entrapper? Perhaps she’s both.  Let’s face it, nothing in life is as black and white as we would like.  Perhaps she was trapped by her own addictions and indulgences and now seeks to trap others because misery loves company.  Or is she the only truly free figure in the card?  She may be framed by the web and flames but does not appear to be part of them or imprisoned by them. Could she be like a Crossroads Demon in the TV show Supernatural – not necessarily seeking out victims but coming when called and promising to fulfill one’s desires at the cost of one’s soul?  Sometimes I get the sense we do not value our souls as much as we should and as a result are willing to lightly trade it away for the promise of materials possessions.

Although the images on these four cards are very different their messages are similar. They remind us that in most instances our enslavement is the result of our continued choices. We have the ability to break free and move forward but that requires a strength of will and willingness to take responsibility for one’s life that many do not truly want. We may prefer the blame self-destructive, addictive and violent behaviors on some external devil but the truth is that human’s need so external influence to engage in atrocious behavior. What The Devil in the Tarot reminds us is that we do not have to remain enslaved. We have the ability to free ourselves if we also possess the desire and will to do so. It may not be easy. Let’s face it, regardless of how or why we became enslaved or addicted once we become so it can be almost impossible to free ourselves without some assistance. Even if you can’t cut those strings or pull away from that addictive devil by yourself, you can seek help once you realize that you want to free yourself. The Devil is frightening and seductive but it’s also a wake-up call. If you want to take those chains from around your neck you need to do whatever it takes to be truly free. That message is clear throughout these four very different takes on this intimidating card.

#TarotDaily – Page of Wands + 5 of Pentacles (#TrickorTreat)

How are you holding back? What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of starting over; of being the student again, the beginner. At the same time I do have faith and confidence in my ability to succeed at whatever I focus my energies towards achieving. I think there is still a part of me that resists drawing attention to myself; that wants to avoid standing out from the crowd. Call it the lingering effects of high school mocking and teasing.

My inability to seek support and assistance further complicates matters. I’m definitely in the “rugged individualist” camp. I know it’s short-sighted and makes things more difficult than they need to be but it’s a mold I find almost impossible to break. I come from a long line of self-sufficient, fiercely independent women. We can bear a helluva lot without asking for help. In this respect I’m my own worst enemy. So, the only thing holding me back is me and my own self-doubt and stubbornness.

#TarotDaily – King of Wands Rx + The World Rx #AllHallows)

How aware you of all of your different selves? How can you best honor and/or integrate them into your life?

I’m very aware of my different selves. I would say I’m the master of them but that would be quite an overstatement. I can say that I’m comfortably familiar with the ones I know and well aware there may be a few more waiting to be introduced. I’d hate to think that I am now all that I will ever be.

As for integrating them into my life, well, clearly I need to dance to the beat of my own drummer. I have to listen to the music that lives in my heart, creating moves that blend my current selves with any potential future selves. I need to learn to incorporate that which is and that which is becoming. Easy to say, perhaps not so easy to do but I look forward to the challenge.

#TarotDaily – Page of Cups + Hanged Man Rx (Radiant WS)


TarotHunter’s Salt Rounds:

  • You look deep within to discover your heart’s desire but your perceptions and viewpoint make achieving it problematic.
  • You may be young and seen as emotionally immature but others, but that is not how you see yourself. However, we can all be somewhat deluded in our self-perceptions.
  • Communing with fish and maintaining bizarre yoga poses has given you a reputation as an oddball. However you refuse to see the world through any lens but your own. You’vd learned from past experiences that while others’ perceptions may be intriguing, they won’t sway you from your course.

#TarotDaily – Devil Rx + 5 of Coral (#Pholarchos)

Her melancholy poured from her instrument. Her sadness shadowed her like a cloak. Although she was doing what she loved it was overshadowed by regret. She could have been doing this so much sooner if only she hadn’t let her own inner demons and the negative comments of others deter her; undermine her confidence; hold her prisoner; worm their way into her brain.

She paused for a second, shaking off those negative thoughts. That was all in the past now. she was moving forward and needed to focus on her future; no longer shackled to the past. She had found bliss and planned to treasure it.

#TarotDaily – 5 of Stakes + Yemaya (#SacredBridges)

TarotHunter’s Silver Bullets:

  • Do not give in to despair or let desolation become a permanent mindset. Instead, trust your intuition; listen to your instincts. Reality is that eventually things will change, hopefully for the better but if you give in to defeatism you won’t be able to recognize the changes.
  • Shielding yourself from reality only works for so long; you will eventually need to face the truth. Explore spiritual ideas and practices to help you handle matters in a soul-centered, holistic, positive way.
  • Yemaya holds the key to the answers you need but you cannot see her if you don’t open you eyes, heart, mind & soul. Try communicating with your spiritual guides, listen to their answers and use them to think about your path moving forward.