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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Seal Maiden

We're Seal Clan on my mother's side, and we've got the toe-webbing to prove it.

You know the story. One full Moon night, a man sees the Seal Maidens dancing naked on the beach. He steals one of the laid-by skins, so that, when the dancing's done, the youngest (and most beautiful) of the Seal Maidens cannot follow her sisters back to the Sea.

She becomes the man's wife and bears him several fine children. But then one day she finds her old skin in the chest where it's lain hidden for years, and it's back to the Sea for her. That's how these things work.

It's an interesting story, and an old story. You have to think that among the truths that it tells is the trauma routinely experienced by young women in patrilocal societies when, at marriage, they're uprooted from everything that they know to go live with their husband's family.

But that's where Seal Clan comes from, and to this day some of us bear the signs of that ancestry on our bodies.

I didn't know any of this until my nephew was born. That's when I first heard about the toe-webbing from the aunts, the bearers of family memory. Not all of us have it, but my nephew does and, as it turns out, so do I. I'd never noticed it before because, well, that's just what feet look like, right?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The People of the Sea

I never knew that we were Seal Clan until my nephew was born.

You know the story. One full moon night the fisherman sees the seal-maidens come up onto the beach. They step out of their seal-skins and dance as naked maidens in the moonlight. 

The fisherman steals the skin of the youngest. When her sisters return to the sea, she cannot join them. So she goes home with him and becomes his wife.

But years later, one full moon night, she finds her seal-skin again, hidden away in a chest, and not even her love for her children can keep her from going back.

And that's where certain families get their webbed feet from.

Seeing my newborn sister-son's toe-webbing, the aunts said: Oh he has it too, and then I heard the stories.

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