Towards the tail end of March as we were contemplating the start of a lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus, I thought of the cry of the old seal, which in the story Sealskin, Soulskin, told by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book Women Who Run With The Wolves calls to the child of the Seal Woman, urging him on to find the seal skin that his father had years ago stolen in order that his mother would marry him, and was now refusing to return.
Melding different versions of the story together – Sharon Blackie fells a different version of it in her book If Women Rose Rooted – I thought of the necessity of the seal woman leaving her husband’s house, the place which confined her to a way of being that was out of sync with her true nature. In the Sharon Blackie story, the selkie woman undertakes, at her child’s urging, a journey to the woman at the end of the earth. It is the child who, after seeking out a wise woman for advice, calls her mother out of the despair, dryness and tiredness, that keeps her in her bed and urges her to make the long and perilous journey. These past weeks, I’ve been wondering what it means to leave that house behind and to embark on a journey to the woman who lives at the end of the earth. Maybe at this time, when so much of what has shaped us and our culture, the belief systems and imaginations that have formed our reality, are being shaken, there is more opportunity to contemplate that journey.
The call of the old seal, as Pinkola Estés defines it, is the call of the deeper soul self, the child represents the medial nature that is imbued with the capacity to negotiate between the soul realm and the outer world. This seems a time more than ever that we have to dig deep into alternative ways of being in order to find ourselves outside of and beyond a system that for so long has defined and shaped us for the purposes of capitalism. The sound of the old seal is a call to return, to discover a lost way of being that is shaped by connection to soul, to the wild and wise woman who lives at the end of the earth. This is the journey I want to be on, and it’s a path I know others are walking. To find the wisdom and way of being, to find the one who can tell us what we need to do.