Goddess of the early Irish and British Celts, and Mother of all ... displays her vulva to ... Birth, the ... Life, the Gateway to the Womb of the Goddess, from whom allcome,
Goddess of the early Irish and British Celts, and Mother of all Life. Sheela-na-gig displays her vulva to symbolise Birth, the Origins of Life, the Gateway to the Womb of the Goddess, from whom all come, and to whom all return.
She is inspired by the numerous Sheela-na-gig plaques dotting the early Irish and British churches and shrines, vibrant reminders of a proud celtic mother goddess. Sheela-Na-Gig The Goddess Displaying Her Parts. This Celtic archetype of the Great Mother appeared in folk and church art by at least 1080 AD, but undoubtedly is of much earlier origin. She may be identical with the war goddess Morrigan, consort to the Dagda. One of her images is found near the ancient goddess shrine of Avebury, where she symbolized fertility; displaying her sexual parts was believed to ward off evil. Carvings of Sheela-na-Gigs may have accompanied the seasonal harvest custom of weaving corn dollies which dates from North European antiquity.
Sheela Na Gig's are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a goddess figure , usually found on Norman churches but possibly of celtic origin. They consist of an old woman squating and pulling apart her vuvla a fairly strange thing to find on a church Ill think you'll agree when you consider the puritanical attitudes of many christians. The carvings are very old and often do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from a previous older building (see the weathering on the Church Stretton Sheela as compared to the surrounding masonry). This may have a connection with fact that many churches are built on previous pagan sites (for instance Kilpeck) and may have been incorporated into the building from the previous pagan shrine. Many of the carvings are badly weathered and it is difficult to determine features. This would also seem to indicate an older origin than the host church.
They were placed on churches, castles and other important buildings of the medieval period and, until quite recently in some instances, they acted as dedicatory or protective symbols promoting good luck and fertility.
Interpretations of the figures generally fall into four main categories: fertility icons, warnings against sins of the flesh, representations of a figure from the old Celtic goddess trinity, and protection from evil.
gCioch" ("sheela of the breasts") or "Sile-ina-Giob" ("sheela on her hunkers"). In the Encyclopedia of Sacred Sexuality, Rufus Camphausen notes that in Mesopotamia the term "nu-gug" ("the pure and immaculate ones") referred to the sacred temple harlots, and he postulates that the name may somehow have had its origins there. Kathryn Price Theatana outlines an interesting etymological study of the name on her website-- well worth a look. Even though the image is overtly sexual the representation is always grotesque, sometimes even comical. They are usually associated with "hags" or "old women". The carvings often incorporate ribs showing on the torso and sometimes facial scaring as well, although this feature seems to be more common in Ireland than in mainland Britain.
Anderson, Jorgen. The Witch on the Wall: Medieval Erotic Sculpture in the British Isles. Rosenkilde and Baggen, Copenhagen, 1997
Camphausen, Rufus. The Encyclopedia of Sacred Sexuality. Inner Traditions: Vermont, 1999.
Cherry, S. A Guide to Sheela-na-gigs. National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, 1992
From Beyond the Pale: Art and Artists at the Edge of Consensus. Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 1994 (This was the catalog that accompanied the exhibit of the same name that ran from September 1994- January 1995 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art)
Kelly, Eamonn P. Sheela-na-gigs: Origins and Functions. Country House, Dublin, 1996
Marron, Fiona. "Sheela-na-gig: A Letter from Fiona Marron". The Beltaine Papers. Issue #10, Lammas 1996
McGarry, Greg. Sheila Na Gig: A Celtic Treasure Hunt. Preas An Phuca, Donegal, 1993