Selkies are seaside fey, native to the Hebrides and northern Scottish Isles. They appear as large seals, and legend says they can shed their sealskin and appear with perfect male or female forms, their features alluring and beautiful. They are called Roanes in Northern Ireland. They cannot steal human mates as some faeries do, instead must lure them. But since they are so beautiful, few resist them. Isle Folk believe they can control the storms along the coasts, and may have aided in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 by using their combined magick. They are capricious, but of a good nature, except when it comes to their mates. Then they are just as jealous as they are beautiful. Legend also says they cannot stay on land with their human lovers but must return to the sea.

More than one tale from the Hebrides tells of male Selkies that came onto shore to father half-human children. In my family there is such a tale that goes back over 300 years. Annie MacGillivray was engaged to be married to Sean Ogilvie, but he died. So disconsolate, she walked into the sea as the tide was going out with the intent of ending her life. As she was nearing death, something saved her, pushed her toward shore. When she got on the beach, she saw it was a seal. Mad that the meddling beastie dared to interfere, she reached for a piece of driftwood to throw at it. A man's hand closed over hers preventing her. Annie's eyes lifted to behold the most beautiful man she had ever seen. His name was Cian, and he told her life was precious and nothing was worth killing one's self over. Then he disappeared into the sea.

Every night Annie went back to the shore hoping to see this mysterious man again. Just as she was about to lose hope, her tears fell into the sea.  Seven tears to summon a Selkie. He finally answered her call. They became lovers and Annie bore him a son, but she soon learnt the legends were true. Cian was a Selkie and thus could not linger on shore with her for more than a year and a day. He did not want to leave her, so he gifted her with a strange orange-brown candle, telling her to burn it in the window at midnight when she could stand the pain of separation no longer. Well, that candle was eventually replaced with another, and another. Annie and Cian had 13 children. When she died the candle was in the window, and that same candle had been preserved for over three centuries.

 Near midnight, when the winds were high, they say you could see a faint flicker of a candle in the window of Annie's auld cottage, and that the seals still came to that spot and sang their songs.



Copyright 2000
DeborahAnne MacGillivray
All Rights Reserved 


artworkLucian de Chenault 2000
this set is for private use and
may not be copied or used
without written permission

Back to Scotlore