she spotted me and sent a reminder
seal skin, soul skin
that place in-between
that place where I can hold together the love found in opposition
that delicate marriage between the mundane and the mystical
One of my favorite fables is Seal Skin, Soul Skin (originally from the Inuit Nation) as told by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. My truncated version of the story:
It is the tale of a lonely, old fisherman. He had heard stories about how seals were once human, so when seals would approach him, he was deeply moved by their wise and loving eyes.
One night as he was returning home, the moon was rising. He spotted a group of naked women dancing on a large rock. Dazzled by their beauty, feeling his loneliness, he allowed himself to drift closer. He spotted something lying near his kayak—it was a sealskin. He scooped it up and hid it in his jacket.
As the women began putting on their skins, one woman could not find her own. The man stepped out and appealed to her. Holding her only means back into her own world, he insisted—would she marry him? He promised to return her sealskin to her in seven summers when she could then decide to stay or go. She did not see that she had a choice, so reluctantly said “yes.”
They had a son. The mother shared stories of her world with her son, but the stories were not enough to keep her strong. Her flesh began to dry out. Her hair began to fall out. She developed a limp. As her eyes dulled, she lost her vision.
After eight winters, she confronted the old man—she wanted her sealskin. She had fulfilled her promise. The old man refused—she would no doubt abandon him and their son. The argument awakened the boy and filled him with sorrow.
Later that night, the wind called out to the boy. He followed the sound to a cliff where he saw a large, old seal. The grandfather seal was calling him. As he scrambled down the cliff, he tripped over a bundle—a sealskin that smelled of his mother. As he hugged the skin, the love of his mother filled him with joy and pain—her soul passed through him. He ran back home and gave his mother her sealskin; she quickly put it on, scooped up her boy and ran to the sea.
Together they swam and swam, down to the underwater coves of the seals. After seven days and seven nights, her body was restored and the luster came back to her skin, hair and eyes. Her full vision returned. At the end of the seventh day, she returned her son to the topside world where he belonged and assured him that he would always feel her presence and love.
Certainly this is a tale of needing to be true to one’s own nature and the renewal of the mother, but my draw is to the boy—the Sacred Child. While he is caught between and ensnared in the conflict between the material world of his father and the spiritual world of his mother, he is imbued with both and has an understanding of both. He is uniquely gifted with a perspective that is both aware and forgiving. His father literally took the life out of his mother, but he exists and is loved and knows joy because of that offense. His mother abandoned him, but because she shared her renewal with him, her vitality pulses through him. He has the gifts of balance, love, awareness, perspective, and forgiveness to offer.