I remembered Gaelic stories I had heard about the silkie, a “spirit being” that appears to be a human wearing a seal’s skin. According to the legends, sometimes the silkie takes off its sealskin, perhaps to sun on the rocks by the seashore. If someone steals the skin, the silkie cannot return to the sea and must live ashore as a human, pining for its life in the sea. If the silkie is fortunate it will be able eventually to rediscover its skin, put it on, and make a dash for freedom. There are some Gaelic families that claim to have descended from silkies….
Is the silkie a human being disguised as a seal—or a seal disguised as a human being disguised as a seal? What happens to the true nature of either when they are “shape-shifted” together? Does the human enjoy the glorious adventure of life under the water alternating with the delightful experience of life on earth? Is it twice as much fun—or is the creature forever doomed to be discontent?
A friend asked me: “Where do silkies come from?” I began to wonder if they are an ancestral memory of life coming out of the sea—or an ancestral memory of life returning to it? How do they relate (figuratively and perhaps literally) to mermaids? Is the “sea” the deep sea of memory—or the deep memory of the sea?