Grotesques 
The Sheela-Na-Gig let it all hang out

 

Cruise the old churches of Europe and you’re sure to run into the Sheela-Na-Gig. She’s found on arches and carved in stones. Her huge head, staring eyes and her hands reaching down between her wide open legs to spread her swollen and oversized womanhood suggest more prostitution than protection. The Sheela-Na-Gig are said to keep evil away.

She is connected in old stories with the Banshee. The one who guides transition from one existence to another. She is the unknown and Birther of all. The Great Mother.

Goddess stories abound. Despite their having been penned by men, these stories show the bringer of life as a symbolic passage. Giving birth moves the mother to another existence. Death is the same, bringing us to another existence. Each major passage in a woman’s life brings forth new existence. Goddesses of well and river are perfect examples of splitting off or creating new flow.

Is it surprising that many have been archeologically aged and are found to be much older than the buildings themselves, suggesting they were moved from their original pagan structure to the churches which often occupy former pagan grounds.

The Sheela-Na-Gig are grotesque images of womanhood itself. The deep dark passage between existences epitomizes everything human beings will know. She is the protector of life, thus her position at entrances to church yards and arches. Her head reminds us of the unborn baby, oversized and disproportioned. Her eyes stare into our future, knowledge of what-will-be reflected there. Her womb both awaits us in our journey to the next realm and shows the mystery of what has come before.

   


A Treasury of Irish Myth,
Legend, and Folklore

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© 2003

 

The Sheela Na Gig Project

The Sheela Na Gig Project is an attempt to collate information about Sheela Na Gig's in the UK. Whereas there seems to be plenty of data on Irish figures the UK figures are often overlooked. This website aims to address the balance by listing all known figures in the UK complete with photographs. This is by necessity a work in progress so please check back to see if any "new" sheelas have been added.
http://www.sheelanagig.org/

 

 

 

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