Friday, March 16, 2012

Creature Corner: The Selkie and The Nagas

Today I’m blogging about Selkies. Selch or selk(ie) is the Scots word for seal. Selkies are also referred to as water kelpies or seal people. I find them quite mysterious and I’m working on a story now about one. If you aren’t familiar with Selkies, then please read on.

It seems the legends of these unique creatures or spirits originated in Scottish and Irish folklore. Selkies are seals who have the ability to shed their seal skin and take human form. They are considered gentle, and I’ve just always considered them magical.

For many years I lived along the Oregon Coast. In one particular area along Gleneden Beach, many seals would come ashore and bask in the sunlight. I used to close my eyes and pretend I was alone on the beach, just strolling along when a male selkie would emerge from the ocean in human form, with droplets of water cascading down his muscular body.

Male Selkies are known to possess seductive powers. With their dark hair and eyes, and devastatingly handsome good looks, they are able to seduce a woman with ease. Most males seek out human females for companionship. I have a feeling I could overlook the webs between their fingers and toes. I have a feeling I’d be too distracted by everything else.

Female Selkies are somewhat the opposite, often being quite shy. They don’t go looking for a mate, even when they’ve come ashore and discarded their skin. If a mortal man happens by and captures her skin while she’s in the form of a woman, the she can be forced to become his dutiful wife. If she ever finds her skin only then can she return to the sea.

To me, Selkies are simply fascinating. I enjoyed the reference to selkies in the movie Ondine starring Colin Farrell.

Another interesting creature is known as the Naga.

This week I’m blogging about Nagas. The term Naga means serpent. Nagas are able to shape-shift into a human, or into a snake. Sometimes they can become part human, part snake, and sometimes they can be part mermaid, part snake. Often times they fully change into a snake and can become so large they can devour an elephant. When they are in snake form, they tend to resemble cobras or pythons.

Nagas or snakes represent rebirth, death, and mortality in that they are able to shed their skins and in a sense be reborn. Nagas were known to keep to themselves, typically living in underground cities or deep in the jungle, rather than out in the open with humans. They are found mostly in tales from India in much of the Hindu mythology. It is said Nagas feared unicorns.

While many fear snakes and consider them evil, the Hindus consider Nagas as nature spirits – protectors. In North India, there are communities who claim to be direct descendants of Nagas.

When I came across this type of shape-shifter, it got my imagination working overtime. Beautiful as the snake women were, my mind went a different direction. Something more powerful and masculine. The idea of a man (and we’re talking about a devastatingly handsome man here) cursed to become a Naga by a ruthless Naga queen seeped into my dreams and a story was born. My short story Snake Charmer from Ellora’s Cave can be purchased on its own, and it’s also included in the Glamorous Garnet print anthology.

Ann Cory


Savannah Chase said...

Ann, like you I love the stories about the selkie..I'm fascinated by all the stories and everything about them. It is cool you are working on a story about one..I started one a while ago and it awaits to be finished....Too bad you didn't get to see a male one...:)

Adriana said...

I love that you're working on a Selkie story! One of my fave folk songs is about Selkies - brings back lots of memories!

Deborah Jay said...

I live in the Scottish Highlands, and sadly I've yet to meet a Selkie.
Pity, I would love to.
To make up for this disappointment, I have a beautiful selkie as a character in my latest novel, an Urban Fantasy set in the Highlands. It's nearing completion and I can't wait to get it to my agent. Hopefully she'll be able to sell this one!

Liv said...

I picked up a really cool book about a selkie this week - The Selkie Spell by Sophie Moss. I'm only 10% into it (thanks, Kindle, for letting me be so specific) but I like it so far!
Thanks, Ann, for the cool post.