When you first hear "Selkies' or ‘Silkies’, you might think of a fluffy breed of chicken. Be warned, these Silkies from Celtic mythology are anything but a fluffy farm chicken.
Selkies, also spelled Silkies, Sylkies and Selchies, are a mythological creature found throughout Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland. There are even some legends that come from other countries including Iceland and Native America. According to folklore, Selkies live as seals in the sea, but can transform into a human by shedding their skin. Selkies must find their sealskin in order to return to the sea, or they will be trapped on land.
There are many legends of human men who have taken the sealskin of a female Selkie and kept her as his wife. In many cases, her children find her sealskin and unwittingly allow her to return to the sea. Male Selkies are believed to be very handsome, and will often seduce married women. However, if a human woman wishes to meet a male Selkie, she must shed exactly seven tears into the sea.
When a Selkie comes into contact with a human, they are not able to visit that human again for seven years unless that human steals their sealskin. While Selkies share many similarities with mermaids, their ability to shed their skin and shapeshift into a seal, complete with fangs and whiskers, is unique. While mermaid only partially transform.
Selkies are generally seen as calmer creatures when compared to sirens. and in many cultures, they live close to the shore. They are usually depicted as preferring love and are often depicted as a mother holding a child, as opposed to seductive mermaid searching for her next victim to drown.
Many origin stories exist about selkies. Such as a Spanish ship wrecked on a shore, and bodies of sailors washed ashore had their black hair resembling seals. Some believe selkies are fallen angels. While in Christian theory, selkies are seen as souls of people stuck in purgatory.
In Ireland and Scotland, Selkies have been depicted in a number of novels and films. ‘A Stranger Came Ashore’ by author Mollie Hunter and the movie ‘Song of the Sea’ both tell stories about the mysterious Selkies.
Did you know? The word Selkie derives from earlier Scots selich from Old English, meaning Seal.
Get the Kick-Ass Mythology emailed to you directly by signing up to my Newsletter. Click here.