The Siren’s Bones (Chapter 7 part 2)

We have come to the end and again thank you all so much for your following of the tale and for your great responses all the way through. It was a difficult ending for me and a bit of an agony but I had to let it go so here it is!

Please read Part one  first

see The Siren’s Bones on the  header menu at top for list of chapters

( this last chapter is divided into two post

Part two

They heard thunder in the distance and felt the prickle of their hair standing on end when suddenly and with a loud hissing, St. Elmo’s fire lit up the rooftops on the shore and blue flame surged along the mast of the little boat. Muireal, lying on the bottom boards looked as though she had been wrapped up in a bright halo shroud. Everything was aglow and the water became turbulent. When Alasdair looked over the side he saw hundreds of seals. They were swimming alongside and under the boat, bumping violently against the hull until at last it capsized.  Alasdair saw Muireal slip beneath the waves in flickering bursts of light that at last were extinguished and then all was quiet again.

mer upsilon6a

His companions were nowhere to be seen and Alasdair alone made it to shore. He told Fiona that he thought there had been a seal that had kept close to him till he reached the rocks but the events of that bitter day were still confused in his mind, so he was not sure if he was remembering the one that had followed them on the way to the lighthouse. In fear and shame he had told no one that Muireal had been with them that day.

lighthouses of Scotland2

lighthouses of Scotland

As he finished his story he looked at Fiona with tears running down his face. Fiona leaped up and pounded his chest.  “Why!” she cried. “She trusted you!” She collapsed into a chair with her head in her hands. Reaching into his pocket Alasdair pulled out the little bone flute he had taken from Muireal’s hand when she was laying so still on the rocks.  He put it on the table and went out the door. Fiona picked it up tenderly and holding it to her heart she slowly walked upstairs.

Imprisoned by an implacable tide, Fiona drifted through her days. Each wave of memory was a  pearl that had scattered  and if she could only find the precise point where that fragile string had unraveled she might put back together that splendid necklace of days with Muireal.  Of course she should have known. Her daughter had been a visitor here and Duff had known that she would not thrive. He knew that she belonged to those who dwelt in that other world, whatever it was, and in the end they had claimed her poor,sweet body as their own. The pain was no less bearable.

 

selkie and the whales long crop

Some time later Fiona had another dream. Muireal was laughing and waving from the beach. Duff was waiting close by and Fiona ran toward them but somehow could not reach them. The shoreline kept receding.  Everything was flowing backward to the edge of ocean and sky where the fisher moon casts her silver net over the sea. Fiona knew then that she had to release her precious daughter into that flux of  tide and time and  a voice again spoke in her heart like it did on the night of the shooting stars. This time it said, “before I go mother, you must bless me!”  The next day, Fiona went down to the point. She threw the flute far into the loch where the bones of drowned sailors and fishermen, and all denizens of the deep are ground together by sand and tide.  Perhaps some incarnation of Muireal would find it there. This strange and beautiful  journey was over and she prayed that her daughter’s new passage would be blessed and full of wonder.

eagle moon

The people now knew what had happened and there was sadness and contrition in the community.  In the months that followed, one of the local fishermen said that, prior to a good catch, two seals were often seen swimming together and the larger seal appeared to have an injured flipper. He claimed the pair would drive the fish toward the nets, but then, fishermen were always full of wild tales. myselkieDown on the rocks by the point, a small colony of seals took up residence. They had never done that before and the islanders decided that it would be unlucky to disturb or harm them and so they were protected and left alone. From that day forward people referred to the point as Muireal’s Lookout (Ionad faire Muireal) and some nights when the wind whistled a haunted song along the bluffs, mothers told their children that it was the siren, Muireal, playing her flute, and that the fishing was sure to be good the next day.

The Selkie ( one of the Child Ballads-  Judy Collins & Tommy Makem)

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Background:

The Selkies (or Silkies) were shapeshifters in Orcadian myth. They are also part of Icelandic and Faroese legend.  They were seals in the ocean but shed their skin to take on human form on land, often seducing whoever came under their spell. There were children born of this strange union and the Selkie  would come back to claim them.

A female Selkie however, usually did not fare as well on land. There was once a man who was enamoured of a Selkie . He hid her seal skin so she would not be able to return to the sea. Filled with longing for her home and her companions she wasted away with grief and died.

Sule Skerry is a small remote island or skerry in Northern Scotland off the Orkneys where a great Selkie supposedly lived.

Stranger still, in the outer Hebrides the clan MacCodrum ( a sept of the MacDonald’s) still claim to be the descendants of such a union!