I was recently turned onto this poet by a fellow in sorcery. I hope it is well received and enjoyed.
What is the soul comprised of and where is the magic within it? We as humans, given our past zealous fanaticism to religion, our unending curiosity in the realm of science, and those of us that fall between the two, are indeed always trying to figure the damn thing out. The commonality -a desire to understand what is going on within and how it coordinates with things outside of ourselves.
Socrates postulated that man was more than flesh, but also comprised of a mind and soul, things that he believed to be observable. But Plato broke the soul down further into three more parts-
The logistikon- “The thinking part of the soul that loves the truth and seeks to learn from it.”
The thymoeides- “The part of the soul by which we are angry or get into a temper.” This is also known as the “high spirited” portion.
The epithymetikon- “The part of the soul by which we experience carnal erotic love, hunger, thirst, and in general the desires opposed to the logisticon.
First, let’s focus on the magical implications of the logical self (logistikon).
This is the part of us that perceives the world through our bodies sensory faculties. It absorbs knowledge of the natural world, others, and our own thought processes, and turns them into wisdom (Sophia) based upon our experiences. In our magical practices, our ability to connect to the world around us is of the upmost importance. For those of us who follow the beauty path, the ancestral path, and the twisted path,
the intake of our sensory experiences would seem to be amplified, like that of animals, Not becauae of a belief that we are more animalistic, but simply from long years of learning to listen and observe. Humanity, for the most part, seem to check their senses at the doors of their minds and experiences, leaving this incredible part of themselves to starve and weaken to the point of death. I encourage you to root into yourself through nature to find a beginning place, for, “understanding is the beginning of wisdom.”
How do we strengthen this connection?
In our practices, varied and personal as they may be, there is a rather centralized idea that encircles our instinctual need to settle ourselves in nature to some capacity. For me, as a naturalist and druid, this impulse to observe and find the truth, be it natural or scholarly, is incredibly strong. So, speaking on the fostering of this portion of the soul, for me is simple.
Be quiet. Pretend as if you have no vocal chords at all. Be in nature even if you are not yet apart of it. The way you learn the laws and rewards of the natural world are by being within it against its walls, and then slowly you will find yourself trusted by it and brought into the heart of the forest itself.
The mid-section of the soul
The thymoeides, is the seat of power. This is why it’s associated with anger and enacting our personal will upon others and the world at large. Focusing on the internal structure of your thoughts and emotions and even letting thise things go, is the key to understanding this part of your self. Meditation is the tool used to balance out this portion of the self. Through meditation we discover out inner most thoughts, desires, contol, discipline, and eventually with practice and guidance from those further down the path.
The base of the soul
In the third portion of the soul we encounter lust and desire. Where other more self controled and body discipline centric beliefs may suggest that you refrain from using this part of yourself nevertheless acknowledging it, paganism in general suggests that is it to be enjoyed, explored, and encouraged (safely & consentually) Pleasure is another path to enlightenment, to the human experience, and to honesty. So as a lover, I must stand here and say that this portion of the soul does not have to counteract the logical self, but can indeed compliment it. Because it in fact brings balance to the perceptive, so the indulgence in the ritual of pleasure is a great magic indeed. This magic can be observed in gathering together for meals, enjoying family and fellowship of others, and anytime groups gather and we auto – sync our thoughts and opinions into a like-minded conglomerate.
The magic of the soul may be excercised but is yet unimaginable. As you discover the magic that lies within, and science exposes the makings of what it is comprised of, let all of us who practice the occultic, left handed, obscure, intuitive, and natural arcane arts be increasingly meditative and aware of its implications, its applications, and it’s intentions.
“As soon as the seal was clear of the water, it reared up and its skin slipped down to the sand. What had been a seal was a white-skinned boy”
-George Mackay Brown
Selkie is the Orcadian dialect word for, “seal”. The word derives from earlier Scots, selich, (from Old English, seolh) So, selkies are a very common sight across Orkney. Heads bobbing above the waves, they are often seen by the shore, watching inquisitively with uncannily human eyes.
In the Faroe Islands there are two versions of the story of the Selkie or Seal Wife. A young farmer from the town of Mikladalur on Kalsoy island goes to the beach to watch the selkies dance. He hides the skin of a beautiful selkie maid, so she can not go back to sea, and forces her to marry him.
He keeps her skin in a chest, and keeps the key with him both day and night. One day when out fishing, he discovers that he has forgotten to bring his key. When he returns home, the selkie wife has escaped back to sea, leaving their children behind. Later, when the farmer is out on a hunt, he kills both her selkie husband and two selkie sons, and she promises to take revenge upon the men of Mikladalur. Some shall be drowned, some shall fall from cliffs and slopes, and this shall continue, until so many men have been lost that they will be able to link arms around the whole island of Kalsoy. Unlike the Finfolk, who retained their malicious tendencies throughout the years, the selkie-folk have come to be regarded as gentle creatures, with the ability to transform from seals into beautiful, lithe humans.
In the surviving folklore, there is no agreement as to how often the selkie-folk were able to carry out the transformation. Some tales say it was once a year, usually Midsummer’s Eve, while others state it could be “every ninth night” or “every seventh stream”.
Regardless of how often they were able to transform, the folklore tells us that once in human form, the selkie-folk would dance on lonely stretches of moonlit shore, or bask in the sun on outlying skerries (rocks).
The selkie skin
A common element in all the selkie-folk tales, and perhaps the most important, is the fact that in order
to shapeshift they had to cast off their sealskins. Within these magical skins lay the power to return to seal form, and therefore the sea.
If this sealskin was lost, or stolen, the creature was doomed to remain in human form until it could be recovered. Because of this, if disturbed while on shore, the selkie-folk would hastily snatch up their skins before rushing back to the safety of the sea.
. The selkie-men were renowned for their many encounters with human females — married and unmarried.
A selkie-man in human form was said to be a handsome creature, with almost magical seductive powers over mortal women. According to tradition, they had no qualms about casting off their sealskins, stashing them carefully, and heading inland to seek out “unsatisfied women”.
Should such a mortal woman wish to make contact with a selkie-man, there was a specific rite she had to follow. At high tide, she should make her way to the shore, where
she had to shed seven tears into the sea.
The selkie-man would then come ashore and, after removing his magical sealskin, seek out “unlawful love”.
In the words of the 19th century Orkney folklorist, Walter Traill Dennison, these selkie males:
“. . . often made havoc among thoughtless girls, and sometimes intruded into the sanctity of married life.”
There is a folk song called, “The Maiden & The Selkie,” that is a very lovely and tribal depiction of the romance of the Selkie-man to the women of the Orkneys, to hear it click the link:
If a girl went missing while out on the ebb, or at sea, it was inevitably said that her selkie lover had taken her to his watery domain — assuming, of course, she had not attracted the eye of a Finman.
But while the males of the selkie race were irresistible to the island women, selkie-women were no less alluring to the eyes of earth-born men. The most common theme in selkie folklore is one in which a cunning young man acquires, either by trickery or theft, a selkie-girl’s sealskin.
This prevents her from returning to the sea, leaving the seal-maiden with no option but to marry her “captor”.
The tales generally end sadly, when the skin is returned, usually by one of the selkie-wife’s children. In
some accounts, her children go with her to the sea, while others have them remaining with their mortal father. Tragic and connective the lore of the Selkie is a profound representation of the human connection and longing for the sea.
The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry or The Grey Selkie of Suleskerry is a traditional folk song from Orkney. The song was collected by the American scholar, Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century and is listed as Child ballad number 113.
“The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.”
An earthly nourris sits and sings,
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairns father,
Far less the land that he staps in.”
Then ane arose at her bed fit,
And a grumly guest I’m sure was he,
Saying “Here am I, thy bairns father,
Although I am not comely.”
I am a man upon the land,
I am a silkie in the sea,
And when I’m far frae every strand,
My home it is in Sule Skerry.”
“It was na weel”, the maiden cried,
“It was na weel, indeed” quo she,
“For the Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie,
To hae come and aught a bairn to me!”
Then he has taken a purse of gold,
And he has laid it on her knee,
Saying, “give to me, my little young son,
And take thee up thy nouriss fee.
It shall come to pass on a summer’s day,
When the sun shines hot on every stone,
That I shall take my little young son,
And teach him for to swim the foam.
And thou shalt marry a proud gunner,
And a very proud gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
And the very first shot that e’re he shoots,
he’ll kill both my young son and me.”
An interpolated 5th stanza has also been heard:
‘Twas weel eno’ the night we met,
When I’d be oot and on my way,
Ye held me close, ye held me tight,
“Just ane mair time ere the break o’ day!”
nourris = nurse
ken = know
staps = stops
bed fit = foot of the bed
grumly = strange
The version I like best of this was done by Joan Baez. To hear it click below:
Great books for more on Selkies:
- Thomson, David. The People of the Sea: A Journey in Search of the Seal Legend
- Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures
- Williamson, Duncan (1992). Tales of the seal people: Scottish folk tales
- “The Brides of Rollrock Island” by Margo Lanagan
Source material: http://www.orkneyjar.com/index.html
It begins with dreams. It always does. For me I found myself reading about the Salmon, and fell into a deep slumber. Upon waking, I had dreamt this story version of this old Irish folk tale.
Long ago in Ireland, before it was ever populated with humans, it was known as the Isle of Destiny. Upon this unspoiled land, the Tuatha’ de Dannan, decided it was there they would be safe and there they would make their home. Within the land there were many enchanted and sacred beings: Large groves of trees, where the forest seemed to have a consciousness of its own. There were sacred animals, who were the keepers of much of the original knowledge. And then there were eventually the human folks, some were born of the sea and fathered by the god Mananan Mac Lir, who kept his home near the shores of the Isle of Man, and some who had wandered into the misty landscape from places far from their birth lands. The humans settled amongst the fairies, sacred animals, and the honored groves of trees, and were taught by the harshness of nature and the coldness of the fair folk. These first people bred with the fairies, and so thier children were given magical gifts. The gifts of seeing the future in dreams, communicating with nature, and a rare sort of beauty their eyes shine brighter and enchant those who would look upon them.
These children were taught to honor Nature, and the old ways. And it is there the story begins. A child of the Fairies and humans, both beautiful and bright, was spending time communing with nature, because it made her heart feel light and soul feel clean. She found herself beneath the sacred Hazel tree, where it was said that one could find great wisdom.
As she sat there and sang, for her song was so lovely that birds would quiet themselves in the woods to listen to her magical voice, an ancient Salmon swam up to the roots of the tree. He was the Salmon who held great Wisdom and knew all of the stories of the land. So, immediately she stopped her song, and honored him.
He was pleased by her, and saw her desire for understanding above all things.
So he allowed her to ask him a question. Thoughtfully she sat a long time, deciding what she should do to find her heart’s desire. And then it came to her, “Great Salmon, how is it that you came to be so wise?”
Pleased again, the Salmon answered, ” I spent my life swimming up the stream, until i cam to a forked path. Upon seeing it, I took the left path, and swam as far as it would take me, until I reached the base of this mighty tree.
The trees gentle roots clung and dangled into the water, creating a safe place for me to rest, and every day a hazel nut would land in the water for me to eat.
So every day for nine days, I felt myself grow stronger, as I ate the hazel nuts.
Until on the ninth day, I had reached a place of wisdom that told me, I no longer needed to do so, and so for every hazel nut I ate, a spot appeared on my side, and a thousand tales and bits of knowledge would be revealed to me.
And that is the origin of my wisdom. It is not my own. It was a gift from the tree.”
Awe struck the girl decided to make the tree her home as well.
So at night she would curl up under its gentle roots and call the tree Mother, singing her sweet songs, and every monring a hazel nut would appear on the ground.
On the ninth day, she woke to find the last one, and she cracked it open and slowly ate the contents, and the gift she was given was a permanent connection to wisdom that only she and her daughters would have.
And that is where “women’s intuition” of the the Black Isles originated.
So raw are the hearts of those who know, as the veil transforms into a filmy gossamer and the silence writhing within those knowing hearts becomes filled with voices from the past. Photos of beloved departed carefully framed and set out, ingredients for a feast awaiting the dawn’s preparation, and the scent of autumn hangs in the air. Its almost the Eve.
The children run down the halls squealing without really knowing, but they sense the height of emotion and as mother finds the skirts, masks, and cloaks they beg to know where she hides the treats in the kitchen. Life abounds within the sacred walls, and all is laid out with breathless fingers, and the most hushed sigh that knows, it is almost the Eve.
The alter, lace covered with grandmother’s favourite dressing, holds the fine crystal, satin tapers, a lovely skull, and all of the trappings and ornaments required. A smile of satisfaction from her signals it’s almost All Hallows Eve.
Opening scene for a new short story piece!
Walking down the side street, I found my eyes cast down once more, listening. They were following more closely now and in response my gloved hands clenched automatically as my mind shifted through the possibilities. If I ran they would give chase. The best option was that of patience. The hair of my neck stood on end as my heart raced at an impossible speed.
I glanced sideways, and saw a group of people laughing and pulling on scarves, tightening winter coats, and enjoying a mid-winter night of frivolity. Making the decision more quickly than a thought can be understood, I plowed into the midst of them, knocking one maid down, and a fellow onto the steps of the establishment they had just left.
It wouldn’t be long before I was blocks down the lane and the blood-filled screams would once again fill my ears.
“Oh, I am so sorry! Really. It’s all my fault. I do apologize.”
Then, locking eyes with the girl said, “I truly am sorry.” Quickly turning, I resumed my set course with new found motivation to get away as fast as possible. I could make it farther this time. One block. Come on. Maybe she will get away. Two blocks. Or perhaps her friends and lover could protect her. Three housing blocks down the road, and the night unraveled in shrill and terrifying screams released from the young woman. I knew they could be heard from every part of Edinburgh.
Light flowed through the gauzy curtains as the open window let in the sounds of morning below. Rousing myself, I gripped my chest bandages and felt fresh blood seeping through once more. It pained me to move but I had to report in. The events of last night fresh on my heart, with heaviness, I put my feet to the cold and creaky floor boards. Shuffling across the room to the wash basin I poured fresh water and looked at my bruised and disfigured face.
Its less than you deserve. Came a voice from within.