Fantasy, Fiction, ireland, Lore, love, Magik, Nordic, Orkney Islands, scottland, Seals, Selkie

Romance of the Scottsh Sea: Selkie Lore

“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.

Amorous encounters

. 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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om8LzIcFmbA

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.

Literature

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!”
Phrase Key

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zZy2Q3QY0Q&list=PL4593CF2488169FD8

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

http://www.stolaf.edu/people/hend/VictoryMusic/July-MusicTrad_SelkieLore.htm

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All Halows Eve, Ancestors, fall, Halloween, harvest, harvest festival, ireland, Lore, Samhain, Samhain Ritual, scottland

The Eight Fold Wheel: the lunisolar nature of Druids

 

The Wheel of the Year &  Druid Festivals

The importance of recognizing these particular times of the year is something that I feel a lot of people both pagan and not over-look or take for granted. I have a friend whose personal practice doesn’t employ any usage of recognizing these times and it made me think very hard upon the subject over the last couple of weeks.

Before we had our current system of measuring time, the Gregorian calender, ancient Celts used the Coligny calender. It was discovered in France near Lyon in 1897, made of bronze and inscribed in Latin and Gaulish, it is said to have been created by the druids. During this period the Druids were converting to Christianity, but it is imagined that in this case, they wished to record a piece of their belief system and history that was of exceptional importance: Time.

Now the ancient Celts were certainly not the only ones to have such a lunisolar calender, however it is our focus here. The term lunisolar, reflects the due equality of import that the people using such a system would have given to both night and day, winter and summer, and everything in between. The system was one that attempted balance.

According to the current Arch Druid of the OBOD, Phillip Carr-Gomm (2002) , author of Druid Mysteries, “…Druidry recognizes eight particular times during the yearly cycle which are significant and which are marked by eight special festivals. Of these eight times, four are solar and four are lunar – creating thereby a balanced scheme of interlocking masculine and feminine observances…These four festivals are astronomical observances, and we can be sure our ancestors marked them with ritual because many of the stone circles are oriented to their points of sunrise or sunset. By the time the circles were built, our ancestors had become a pastoral people, and times of sowing and reaping were vital to them.”

The observance of these particular times of the year when broken down into their respective corners all earmark specific times of plenty, wanting, change, burgeoning, and all of the other remarkable experiences we undertake throughout our lives as humans.

The Celtic year begins at what westerners heed as the end of the year, winter. Similarly the same is practiced in the acknowledgement of the day. For the ancient Celts the beginning of the day was at sundown and went forward from there. It was Julius Cesar who noted in his Gallic Wars (Book VI Pg.343), that, “The Gauls affirm that they are all descended from a common Father, Dis, and say that this is the tradition of the Druids. For that reason they determine all periods of time by the number, not of days, but of nights, and in their observance of birthdays and the beginnings of months and years day follows night.”

Samhuinn-

The next important marker in the year is Samhuinn. Modernly celebrated as All Hallows Eve,  it was believed by the Celts that all began in darkness, and so the Celtic New Year became the first point on the wheel, Samhuinn. This was a time of great spiritual importance for many different peoples. To the Druids it was the place where the ouroboros bit its tail, and the veil that lay between the world of the living and the dead became sheer. For a good example of a modern Samhuinn rite, Sarah Anne Lawless is a well respected author and artist, and the story here, is a vibrant pagan experience eloquently formed.

 

 

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All Halows Eve, American Lore, Ancestors, autumn, Beer, celebration, fall, Feast, Halloween, harvest, Hearth Fire, holiday, ireland, Lore, love, love lost, Magik, new year, poetry, Ritual, Samhain, Samhain Ritual, scottland, spirits

Samhain: A Night to Honour…

All Hallows Eve is a contemplative night for me and my household.

It is a time for joy and tears as the veil is now quite sheer. On this night we light candles and make a large feast of stuffed mushrooms, brown sugared carrots, rosemary potatoes twice baked, and roast salted pork, we throw open all of the doors and windows so that none may be left out, be they man or spirit. We wear masks for protection. We drink wine, mead, or beer, offer sweets for security, and most importantly we hail the honored dead.

This is a night of holy reverence to acknowledge the lives and deaths of those that came before us.

My extended family has let this tradition go for many years, giving into Protestantism, but the ways of our ancestors have come around full circle into our not so modern little house. The snake has bitten its tail, and so I will say the prayers long neglected, and light our hearth after midnight to usher in the new year to come.

As we light it I will say,

” Save. Shield. Surround,

The hearth, the house, the household

The eve, the day, the year.

We honor & thank you.”

For you see, as Celts, the onset of Winter is the birth of our new year, which is actually entirely optimistic. The hardest part is the beginning, Spring is born, matures into Summer, and before you know it, the year wanes…and you have come full circle.

So on your Hallowed Night, make a circle and say a few words of kindness, let it all go, tell raucous stories about family members present and past, for this is the heart of our wild selves and this is the tradition of our people.

I really felt like this poem by Fredrick Manning well represents my heart this season:

“Yea, she hath passed hereby, and blessed the sheaves,
And the great garths, and stacks, and quiet farms,
And all the tawny, and the crimson leaves.
Yea, she hath passed with poppies in her arms,
Under the star of dusk, through stealing mist,
And blessed the earth, and gone, while no man wist.

With slow, reluctant feet, and weary eyes,
And eye-lids heavy with the coming sleep,
With small breasts lifted up in stress of sighs,
She passed, as shadows pass, among the sheep;
While the earth dreamed, and only I was ware
Of that faint fragrance blown from her soft hair.

The land lay steeped in peace of silent dreams;
There was no sound amid the sacred boughs.
Nor any mournful music in her streams:
Only I saw the shadow on her brows,
Only I knew her for the yearly slain,
And wept, and weep until she come again.” 
― Frederic Manning

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autumn, autumn equinox, celebration, fall, harvest, harvest festival, harvest moon, holiday, ireland, Lore, mabon, Magik, moon cakes, mythology, scottland, september, Uncategorized

Mabon & The Autumn Equinox

Tis’ Mabon (May-bon) time again!

This year the Autumnal Equinox will fall on the 22nd of September.  An exciting time for those of us who follow the ebb & flow of our little galaxy. This is the time of year when the harvest is brought in, the leaves begin to turn, and what was new, ripe, and young begins to feel the waning of time and of youth. It is symbolic of the transition between the, “mother,” time & the,”crone,” time. To many pagan faiths the equinox also represents the preparation of the horned god’s death, and the phase before the most spiritually open time of the year: Samhain (Sow-en).

For Celtoi & Druids, the celebration of Alban Elfed occurs this night. Druidry.org says, “Alban Elfed marks the balance of day and night before the darkness overtakes the light. It is also the time of the second harvest, usually of the fruit which has stayed on the trees and plants that have ripened under the summer sun. It is this final harvest which can take the central theme of the Alban Elfed ceremony – thanking the Earth, in her full abundance as Mother and Giver, for the great harvest, as Autumn begins.”

Modern magic folk celebrate the history of their practice, culture, & the lore that is the basis of the traditional Celtic/Welsh path that so many tread.

The tale of Mabon (Modron), the Welsh God, (the “great son of the great mother”), also known as the Son of Light, the Young Son, or Divine Youth, is celebrated. The Equinox is also the birth of Mabon, from his mother Modron, the Guardian of the Outerworld, the Healer, the Protector, the Earth. Mabon was taken after he is a mere three nights old (some variations of the legend say he is taken after three years). Through the wisdom of the living animals — the Stag, Blackbird, Owl, Eagle and Salmon — Mabon is freed from his mysterious captivity. All the while Mabon had rested within his mother’s womb; a place of nurturing and challenge. With strength and lessons gained within the magickal Outerworld (Modron’s womb), Mabon is soon reborn as his mother’s Champion, the Son of Light, wielding the strength and wisdom acquired during his captivity. http://www.twopagans.com/holiday/Mabon.html

The Chinese have a similar celebration, but it is centered differently than that of our European traditions, and it is called the Moon Festival:

“it is a day for family reunion. This lively festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th Chinese lunar month every year, so its exact date by the Western calendar is different every time. Full of joy and happiness, friends and loved ones gather to celebrate a time when the moon is at its fullest and brightest of the whole year, and everyone gathers together to delight in eating moon cakes and appreciating the spectacular beauty of the full moon.”

 http://www.chinatravel.com/focus/mid-autumn-festival/

So regardless of your beliefs…

HAPPY HARVEST TIME ALL.

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Fantasy, Fiction, greek, imps, ireland, Lore, Magik, mischief, scottland, Uncategorized

Imps In The Pantry: LORE OF THE MISCHIEVOUS


“We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. … It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. … [Then] The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies—disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. We will labor now. Alas, it is too late!”

–Edgar Allan Poe

The Imp of the Perverse is a metaphor for the urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done. The impulse is compared to an imp which leads an otherwise decent person into mischief. So to further understand these creatures, let us explore the definition of them:

imp noun \ˈimp\
: a small creature that plays harmful tricks in children’s stories

: a child who causes trouble in a playful way : a mischievous child

Full Definition of IMP

1.obsolete : shoot, bud; also : graft
2. a : a small demon : fiend
2.b : a mischievous child : urchin

Origin of IMP

Middle English impe, from Old English impa, from impian to imp
First Known Use: before 12th century

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imp

“The creature known as an Imp is a sentient beast not more than two fores tall that is said to resemble a thin lizard-like goblin with wings. Additionally, the Imp has an unusual looking face that resembles a smooth, bone-like mask with glowing red eyes. Imps have been favoured as intelligent and loyal familiars among many archmages over the centuries…” -Santharia

Originating from Germanic folklore, the imp was a small lesser demon.

It should also be noted that demons in Germanic legends were not necessarily always evil. Imps were often mischievous rather than evil or harmful, and in some regions, they were portrayed as attendants of the gods. Imps are often shown as small and not very attractive creatures. Their behavior is described as being wild and uncontrollable, much the same as fairies, and in some cultures, they were considered the same beings, both sharing the same sense of free spirit and enjoyment of all things fun. It was later in history that people began to associate fairies with being good and imps with being malicious and evil. However, both creatures were fond of pranks and misleading people. Most of the time, the pranks were harmless fun, but some could be upsetting and harmful, such as switching babies or leading travelers astray in places with which they were not familiar. Though imps are often thought of as being immortal, many cultures believed that they could be damaged or harmed by certain weapons and enchantments, or be kept out of people’s homes by the use of wards.

Imps were often portrayed as lonely little creatures, always in search of human attention. They often used jokes and pranks as a means of
attracting human friendship, which often backfired when people became tired or annoyed of the imp’s endeavors, usually driving it away.
Even if the imp was successful in getting the friendship it sought, it often still played pranks and jokes on its friend, either out of boredom or simply because this was the nature of the imp. This trait gave way to using the term “impish” for someone who loves pranks and practical jokes. Being associated with hell and fire, imps take a particular pleasure from playing with temperatures.
To this end, it came to be believed that imps were the familiar spirit servants of witches and warlocks, where the little demons served as spies and informants. During the time of the witch hunts, supernatural creatures such as imps were sought out as proof of witchcraft, though often, the so-called “imp” was typically a black cat, lizard, toad, or some other form of uncommon pet.
Imps have also been described as being “bound” or contained in some sort of object, such as a sword or crystal ball. In other cases, imps were simply kept in a certain object and summoned only when their masters had need of them. Some even had the ability to grant their owners wishes, much like a genie. This was the object of the 1891 story The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson, which told of an imp contained in a bottle that would grant the owner their every wish, the catch being that the owner’s soul would be sent to hell if they didn’t sell the bottle to a new owner before their death.

Imps can be found in art and architecture throughout the world, usually carefully and painstakingly hidden under the eaves of a church or the foot of a ceramic cup, so they can only be found by the most interested and observant of people.
Imps may be described as an evil spirit or demon. They frequently appear in children’s stories such as ‘Silvia’ in which she is followed by a black Imp. Since their time, they have become more overlooked as not many people actually know what they are.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imp

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Fantasy, Fiction, ireland, Lore, Magik, scottland

Scottish Lore: The Kelpie or Waterhorse

A WATERKELPIE is a creature that lives in the deep pools of rivers and streams and is not to be confused with Loch Ness, who is theorized as many other things. The name may be from Scottish Gaelic, “cailpeach,” or, “colpach,” meaning: heifer and colt. Kelpies have been described as a young, sleek, handsome horse black or brown in color who can shapeshift into human form. It is said the creature’s skin is like glue and once enticing a rider onto his back they are stuck to be dragged to their water death and eaten. The Water Horse in other Celtic myths refers to the creature as, “A beautiful white mare who lures riders unto it’s back before running into the water and sometimes off cliffs, drowning their riders.”

Rhiannon, the Welsh goddess of horses, is said to ride a White mare as well which leads some to think of her as a Goddess of death because of the Water Horse story. Some tribes also refer to the “Water Horse” instead of Death who “Rode upon a pale horse.”

In many of the deep pools of the streams and rivers guardian-demons were believed to reside, and it was dangerous to bathe in them. It was the common opinion that some rivers and streams were more bloodthirsty than others, and, therefore, seized more victims than their milder companions. When an accident did happen, comparisons of course were drawn between the number that had been drowned in this and the next stream or river, and the stream or river was spoken of with a sort of awe, as if it were bloodthirsty and a living creature and much of this was attributed to the ever hungry Kelpie.

But I is also said that a Kelpie might be caught, and when caught, could be made to do all of the heavy work on one’s farm. If you were the one planning to catch the Kelpie, you would want to watch for an opportunity of casting a bridle over their head on which had been made an, “X,” or a star. When this was done the creature would become quiet. And when you set him free, be sure to look him square in the eyes, repeating the words–

“Sehr back an sehr behns. Cairrit a’ the Brig o’ Innerugie’s stehns.”

There are accountings and stories alike, quite old, of a men who had an encounters with a Kelpie:

Sometimes, when a castle or mansion was being sacked, a faithful servant or two contrived to rescue the plate-chest, and to cast it into a deep pool in the nearest stream. On one occasion a diver went to the bottom of such a pool to fetch up the plate of the neighboring castle. He dove, saw the plate-chest, and was preparing to lift it, when the Kelpie ordered him to go to the surface at once, and not to come back. At the same time the Kelpie warned him that, if he did come back, he would forfeit his life. The diver obeyed. When he reached the bank he told what he had seen, and what he had heard. But others caustically threatened him and promised him a large reward, so the man dove again. The others looked on from the embankment, and within just a moment or two the diver’s heart and lungs rose and floated on the surface of the water. They had been torn out by the Kelpie of the pool.

Another tale of a Kelpie encounter:

“A hardy Highlander was returning home on one occasion from a sacrament. He was on horseback. He had charge of a number of horses that were at pasture on the side of a lonely loch. The loch lay on his way home, and he would pass it, and see whether it was all well with the animals. One afternoon he came upon them all in a huddle, and to his astonishment, he saw in the midst of them what he thought was a large grey horse that did not belong to the herd. He looked, and in the twinkling of an eye, he saw an old man with long grey hair and a long grey beard. The old man turned with a wicked glare in his eyes hungry and threatened, and started after the farmer. The farmer, fearing for his life, immediately started off, and for miles, over rocks and rough road, the farmer galloped at full speed until his home was reached and he was certain the grey man was no longer following him.”

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