Selkie Naming Ceremony

12th May 2012

Selkie in Irish Folklore

In Irish folklore, there are many stories about creatures who can transform themselves from seals to humans. These beings are called selkies, silkies, selchies, roane, or simply seal people. The seals would come up onto rocks or beaches and take off their skins, revealing the humans underneath. Once ashore, the selkies were said to dance and sing in the moonlight. Selkies were considered to mostly be gentle beings, perhaps because of seals’ kind-looking eyes.

Selkie women were supposed to be so beautiful that no man could resist them. They were said to have perfect proportions and dark hair. They also made excellent wives. For this reason, one of the most common selkie stories is that of a man stealing a selkie woman’s seal skin. Without her skin, she cannot return to the sea, and so she marries the human man and has children with him. She is a good wife and mother, but because her true home is in the sea, she always longs for it. In the stories, she ends up finding her seal skin that her husband has hidden, or one of her children unwittingly finds it and brings it to her. According to legend, once a selkie find her skin again, “neither chains of steel nor chains of love can keep her from the sea”.

Selkies represent a wild, untamed beauty. For a country surrounded by the ocean and a people who make their living off it, it is natural that its folklore reflects that beauty. There is a spiritual freedom, mystery, and gratification of magically being able to travel between the separate worlds of the sea and land, which relates to the people’s strong dependence on and bond with the unpredictable sea.


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