Sheela Na Gig

Photo credit – Wikipedia

It turns out I am sadly uneducated about fertility figurines, goddesses, Earth Mothers. Since yesterday’s post about the Venus of Willendorf, I have done a bit of browsing around the web. This was in part spurred on by Opher’s comment yesterday: There are lots of examples of similar ones Sheela Na Gig comes to mind – often with very marked genitalia. P J             Harvey did a great song about her.

Now I had never heard of either of these things.  Having read and listened, I now do. Turns out PJ Harvey is  an English musician, singer-songwriter, writer, poet, and composer. Which is why Opher is familiar with her work – he’s a Pom too. Mad about music he is. And writes sci-fi novels amongst other things.  PJ is known as a vocalist and guitarist – and turns out she sings a song about Sheela Na Gig – here’s some of the lyrics:

I’ve been trying to show you over and over
Look at these, my child-bearing hips
Look at these, my ruby red ruby lips
Look at these   my work strong arms and
You’ve got to see my bottle full of char
I lay it all at your feet
You turn around and say back to me, “he said”
Sheela-na-gig, Sheela-na-gig, You exhibitionist….

So just what is a Sheela Na Gig? She is a carving of a woman with exposed and/or exaggerated genitalia, usually found on religious buildings. Most of these figures can be found in Ireland although they can be found  in the UK, France, Spain,Portugal, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Denmark and in the former Czech republic. More are turning up all the time. Well, I never…

I got to wondering where the Aussie slang word for woman came from – sheila. Turns out it has its origins in Ireland. I just knew it!

Like the Venus of Willendorf, there is a mixed range of beliefs about exactly what the Sheela represents. The0ries range from representation of female lust, corruption, sinfulness, or fertility and mother goddess.

Turns out there is a veritable plethora of Fertility deities – Wikipedia has an alphabetical list of them – too numerous to count.

©  Raili Tanska

Steps for Peace
“Earth rejoices our words, breathing and peaceful steps. Let every breath, every word and every step make the mother earth proud of us.” 
― Amit Ray
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15 thoughts on “Sheela Na Gig

    1. The world is so full of all sorts of fascinating things. I wonder how a conversation with one of these little darlings would go? I think you should try it and see what words of wisdom they have to share 🙂

  1. Well I never, as they say.. Just shows you Raili what a bit of researching can do, I had never come across these goddess either and putting the slag for woman.. Sheila for Sheela, now makes perfect sense.. 🙂
    We live and we learn.. 🙂 and I never tire of learning something new so Thank you xx ❤

  2. I nearly mentioned Sheela-na-gig to you when we were talking about Venus of Willendorf. I’d never heard of her until about 8 years ago when someone asked me to create one for him (which I did in a virtual context).
    Now, coincidently, I came across this a couple of weeks ago: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/513420931/siofra-fairy-sheela-na-gig-birthing?ref=shop_home_feat_1
    It was originally carved into an avocado stone. Worth checking out her blog – there’s some beautiful work in there.

  3. My sweetheart and I saw this a few years ago at Kilpeck Church, Herefordshire on the edge of the English / Welsh border. The cutest dog and rabbit are part of the same series – those ones are surprisingly modern-looking. It’s very unusual for these to be preserved, but it is in a rural location, which perhaps helps. We’ve seen a good many church carvings that have been defaced by censors over the years, often of green men or similar.

  4. Well checked out Raili. Fascinating isn’t it? There is some conjecture as to the true meaning of the figurines. They were probably fertility symbols but who knows?

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