The Sheila-na-gig is a figure from medieval stone carvings of the British Isles (mostly Ireland), of a grinning woman holding open Her vulva. She is regarded by some as a gargoyle-like figure meant as a medieval allegory of lust, or as a magical figure meant to cure infertility in women, but others have seen in Her an echo of the ancient Irish earth mother.
The word "gyg" is Norse for giantess, in other words, a supernatural or deified female, while "Sheila" is a woman's name, or used as a word for "girl".
The vulva as holy symbol of birth and life is a very ancient idea that symbolizes the life-giving and regenerative powers of the Earth Mother. The image of the vulva has a long history of being carved in stone, and is found all over Europe from the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages. Passage graves were built in the shape of the Goddess, with the passage the vagina, and the tomb chamber itself representing Her uterus. "Tomb" and "womb" were equated, thus ensuring regeneration and continuity after death, in the same way that a "dead" seed is planted in the fertile earth and sprouts up to grow into a complete plant.
Despite the fact that to modern eyes Her pose is "obscene" the Sheila-na-gig is most predominantly found carved in the decoration of churches.
This card in a reading indicates old and ancient themes that lie beneath the roots of the current situation. For example, the instinctual desire to have children may be dictating more of your life than you are aware, or sexual desire may be pulling the strings. Also, this card asks that you reexamine your ideas of what is "obscene" and what is "proper".
Alternate spellings: Sheela-na-gig, Sheela-no-gig, Sheelanagyg, Irish Síle na gCíoch "Sheila of the Breasts"
FROM: Sheila-na-gig******Sheela na Gigs (or Sheela-na-Gigs) are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings in Ireland and Britain, sometimes together with male figures. A well-known example can be seen at Kilpeck in Herefordshire, England. In The Sheela-na-Gigs of Ireland and Britain: The Divine Hag of the Christian Celts – An Illustrated Guide Joanne McMahon and Jack Roberts cite 101 examples in Ireland against 45 in Britain.
There is controversy regarding the source of the figures. One perspective, by James Jerman and Anthony Weir, is that the sheelas were first carved in France and Spain in the 11th century; the motif eventually reached Britain and then Ireland in the 12th century. Jerman and Weir's work was a continuation of the research started by Jørgen Andersen, who wrote "The Witch on the Wall", the first serious book on Sheela Na Gigs. Eamonn Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, draws attention in his book Sheela Na Gigs: Origins and Functions to the distribution of sheelas in Ireland to support Weir and Jerman's theory; almost all of the surviving in situ sheelas are found in areas of Anglo-Norman conquest (12th century), while the areas which remained "native Irish" boast only a few sheelas. Weir and Jerman also argue in Images of Lust that their location on churches, and their ugliness by mediæval standards, suggests that they were used to represent female lust as hideous and sinfully corrupting.
Another theory, espoused by Joanne McMahon and Jack Roberts, is that the carvings are remnants of a pre-Christian fertility or Mother Goddess religion. They point to what they claim are differences in materials and styles of some Sheelas from their surrounding structures, and that some are turned on their side, to support the idea that they were incorporated from previous structures into early Christian buildings. There are differences between typical "continental" exhibitionist figures and Irish Sheelas, including the scarcity of male figures in Ireland and the UK, while the continental carvings are more likely to involve male figures, and the more "contortionist" postures of continental figures.
Such carvings are said to ward off death and evil (Andersen, Weir, and Jerman). Other grotesques such as gargoyles and Hunky Punks are frequently found on churches all over Europe and it is commonly said that they are there to keep evil spirits away (see Apotropaic magic). They are often positioned over doors or windows, presumably to protect these openings.
FROM: Sheela Na Gig - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
******The goddess of fertility in British-Celtic mythology. She is prominently displaying her genitals in an attempt to allay the power of death. With the advent of Christianity she is portrayed (even on the outside of English churches) as a female demon to ward off evil.
Ancient Irish Goddess of birth and death, Sheila Na Gig's (pronounced shee'lah-nah-hig) grinning figure with both hands holding open her yoni adorned many a church doorway, till she was torn down or smashed by the offended. The Celts honored the sacred power of woman's genitalia and used sculptured of such for protection. Sheila Na Gig is portrayed here as a hag (woman of wisdom) in all her glory: rib cage of bone, breasts dried out and sadding, with few remaining teeth and little hair, yet vibrant and defiant in the beauty of her age. This beauty is the right of all women to claim. She dares you to look at her, face your fears of aging, and triumph in your celebration of what will age and die.
The Lessons of this GoddessSheila Na Gig grins at you provocatively and invites you to join her in opening. Now is the time to open to new experiences, people, places, and things. Now is the time to begin new projects, forge new directions, venture out boldly. The universe invites you to come out and play. Perhaps you've had to contract your enery to deal with a wounding, grieving, an ending. Or you haven't felt it was safe to open up. You may have needed a time of seclusion, sorting out, and focusing inward. The Goddess is here to remind you that a period of contraction is followed by expansion and opening. It is time to nurture wholeness by integrating what the stretching, expanding, and opening will bring.
FROM: Sheila Na Gig, Goddess of Opening******Sheila Na Gig
from Goddesses and Heroines
Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan
Smiling lewdly out from rock carvings, this goddess of ancient Ireland can still be seen in surviving petroglyphs: a grinning, often skeletal face, huge buttocks, full breasts, and bent knees. What most observers remember best, however, is the self-exposure of the goddess, for she holds her vagina open with both hands.
She is the greatest symbol of the life-and-death goddess left in Ireland, where her stones have in some cases been incorporated as "gargoyles" in Christian churches. Her name means "hag"; her grinning face and genital display are complicated by the apparent ancientness of her flesh. Laughter and passion, birth and death, sex and age do not seem to have been so incompatible to the ancient Irish as they are to the modern world.
FROM: Sheila Na Gig******The Goddess Displaying Her Parts. This Celtic archetype of the Great Mother appeared in folk and church art by at least 1080 CE, 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.
FROM: Clonmel Sheila-na-gig 7"-Sacred Source******
Colors:red, orange, purple, magenta
Moon phase: full or waning
Animals: heron, crane, stork
Herbs/Flowers: Hawthorn, birch, willow, cedar, black cohosh, heliotrope
Stones: any hard stones or building stone
Aspects: Protection, death, fertility, birth, lust, opening, enjoyment of life,
feminine power, feminine mysteries, womb chakra
Wheel of the Year:
Alder moon (Fearn): March 18 - April 14
Willow moon (Saille): April 15 - May 12
Other Links: *I'm looking for some more links, so this'll probably grow.
- Sheela Na Gigs
- Tara's Sheela-na-gig Website
- Sheela Na Gigs of Ireland and England
- Sheela Na Gigs, The