Our brand name Soulskin comes from an Inuit tale about a female seal who is robbed of her skin and forced to live with the robber for more than 7 years before she gets her skin back. I first read it in Clarissa Pinkola Estés wonderful book Women who run with the Wolfes. It is a story about losing yourself, and finding back. I share the tale with you in the words of Zowie Conway:
“In the harsh lands to the North lived an old man who trapped, fished, and slept well but he was lonely. Sometimes when he was in his kayak out fishing in the shallows a seal would come near which reminded him of the old stories about how seals were once human. Occasionally when he looked in their wise, wild, and loving eyes, he would feel such a pang of loneliness that tears coursed down the well-worn crevices in his face. One night he fished past dark but was unable to catch anything so he headed toward home. The moon was rising when he spotted a group of naked women dancing on a large rock. Because he was a lonely man, he stayed and watched. He drifted closer and closer. He was so dazzled by their beauty he didn’t notice when his kayak bumped into the rock.
He spotted something lying near his kayak; it was sealskin. Perhaps due to his loneliness he stole it and hid it in his parka. Soon the women began putting on their sealskins, except for one. She searched high and low for it but could not find it. The man stepped from behind the rock and appealed to her to become his wife. The woman denied his request because she was not from his world. However, he insisted stating that he would return her sealskin to her in seven summers. She could then decide to remain or go. She reluctantly said yes.
In time, they had a son. The mother shared stories of the creatures of her world with her son: walrus, seal, whale, and salmon. As time passed, her flesh began to dry out. At first it flaked, then cracked, then her eyelids began to peel. Next, her hair began to fall out and she developed a limp. As each day passed, her eyes became more and more dull until she could barely see at all.
Eight winters passed when Seal Woman confronted the old man, their argument awakened their son. Seal Woman wanted what she was made of returned to her, she wanted her sealskin. She had fulfilled her promise. The old man refused stating she would abandon them both. He then left the hut in anger. Their son was filled with sorrow over their arguing and cried himself back to sleep.
Later that night the voice of the wind awakened the boy, calling out to him. He followed the sound to a cliff where he saw a large, old seal on a rock near shore. The grandfather seal was calling the boy. The boy scrambled down the cliff; at the base, he tripped over a bundle. As he unrolled it he held it to his nose, it smelled of his mother. He found her sealskin. As he hugged her sealskin, the love of his mother filled him with pain and joy as her soul passed through his. The boy climbed the cliff back to his house where he gave it to her and she quickly pulled it on.
She scooped him up and ran to the sea. She swam with her son, who could breathe underwater, down to the underwater coves of the seals. Seven days and seven nights passed, during which time the luster came back to Seal Woman’s hair and eyes. Her body was soon restored and she no longer had a limp. At the end of the seventh day she had to return her son to the topside world-where he belonged. She instructed him to touch those things she touched when he felt lonely and missed her. He would feel her presence and her love.”
Finding our Soulskins
For me, this tale resembles so much of how we women adapted to the man’s world. We have achieved much in terms of equal opportunities. We run companies, even countries. But we pay a price, and for many women that price includes hiding our true selves. The business world is a man’s world, and while we are allowed to enter the playing field, we have to adapt, get rid of our soulskin. Every attempt to change the environment to meet our needs is met with harsh critique and ridicule, and often enough, violence. So we hide the wild creatures we are.
We may find comfort for a while in our projects, relationships, our children. We may even fool the people around us, giving the impression that we adapted. But inside we crumble when we are separated from our power for too long. With Soulskin, I want to encourage women to claim back their true selves and create lives and companies that make them happy. Let’s stop asking men for our seat at the table. Let’s build new tables! Let’s stop trying to fit in. Find the environment that suits you! To do that you have to know yourself.
The bigger picture
Our world is endangered. The current economic systems destroys land and sea alike. We are many who are no longer willing to be complicit. And at the same time, we have to face reality and start dealing with the changes in the environment and our societies. We have the capability to create resilient communities when we come together, honoring who we are and what we need, and try to understand each other rather than forcing our will upon someone else just because we are unhappy.
Only people who know who they are and dare to live a life true to themselves will be able to change the world. Because it will require to say no. To reject opportunities. To accept uncertainty. To do things others might not understand. To bring together people, ideas and concepts that seem to belong to different worlds, but can only together bring forth the solutions we are looking for. To embrace change. To grow into the person you want to be next.
To courage and love!