Who is Sheela Na Gig?

Recently I’ve been thinking about the goddess pendants I’m being inspired to manifest in the light of the Me Too movement.

I’m extremely interested in one particular goddess, as she is very much associated with my homeland, Ireland. Her name is Sheela-na-gig, and if you have’nt heard of her yet, now is the time to do some research, because she is one of our national goddess`s  who has survived from ancient times in her true and original form and in all her magnificent glory.. ..what a miracle !

Sheila-na-gig is the name given to the many female figurines found as artifacts mainly in Ireland yet also in England, Scotland and Germany, in general, the area that has long been under Celtic influence. These Sheelas are mostly cut from stone, and show a boney old hag, squatting or standing, legs spread, exhibiting her very large vulva. These women or deities are by most standards quite unpleasant to look at, resembling as they do underfed, half-dead skeletal creatures or half-smiling demons. What makes these figures especially interesting is the fact that most of them were found embedded (and some still are) in the walls of early monasteries and village churches, and were often placed over doorways and entrances.

The name Sheela-na-gig, or (Sile ni ghig in Gaelic) has always been a considerable puzzle to etymologists, but some intuitive investigation as to “her” purpose and meaning certainly gives us some food for thought.  In Mesopotamia, at the temple of Erech, the term “nu-gug” was used to designate the women who held the office of sacred harlot. “Gig”, “gigee” and “gee” are words which are still used in Irish slang today, to refer to a woman`s genitals and are related to the Irish ‘jig’, which in turn comes from the French “gigue” which in pre-christian times was an orgiastic dance.

The word “gyg” is Norse for giantess, in other words a supernatural female. Look at the various relatives of the Irish name Sheila meaning “a girl.”  We find that Sheila as well as being a woman’s name, means femininity, a female but also a special kind of woman: a wise woman, a spiritual woman.  Shee means “fairy” or “spirit” or “other worldly” and the older form Sidhe correctly pronounced “Shee-uh” means “fairy woman”.  Some suggest that these Sheela`s  are a pre-Celtic version of the Oriental sacred prostitutes, and that they were “imported” from the Mesopotamian region.

Alternate spellings: Sheela-na-gig, Sheela-no-gig, Sheelanagyg, Irish Síle na gCíoch “Sheila of the Breasts”

Being of pre-christian origin, our Sheela earned herself a somewhat seedy and derogatory reputation among our christian puritans, who, obviously horrified by her bold display of body parts, deemed her a powerful reminder to the congregation of the unholy power of women and the sins of the flesh, .but we know 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 the world, from the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages. Often found placed over doorways “she” is the Goddess of the sacred entrance, the passageway to the womb, and the place of darkness which holds the mysteries of gestation, renewal and rebirth. In ancient Ireland, passage graves were also built in the shape of the Goddess, with the passage the vagina, and the tomb chamber itself representing Her uterus. “The tomb” and “the womb” were thus equated, celebrating and ensuring regeneration and continuity after death.

Sheila-na-gig figures closely resembled the yonic statues of Kali which still appear at the doorways of Hindu temples, where visitors lick a finger and touch the yoni “for luck.” Some of the older figures have deep holes worn in their yonis from much touching. As mentioned before, Celts generally protected doorways and entrances with some type of female-genital fetish, which is why they later settled on the horseshoe, the classic Omega-sign of Kali the Hindu enchantress in India, where it represents the feminine cosmos within which Shiva ever performed his creative sexual dance.

The protruding ribcage on many examples of the Sheila-na-gig imitates the figures of Kali in her aspect as the death-goddess Kalika, who is evidently remembered in Ireland as the Caillech, the Irish crone or hag, thought to have been a goddess who married a series of husbands and passed from youth to old age more than once, and who was also the Creatress and gave birth to all the races of men.. She still survives today as a lively figure in modern Irish folklore, as the creator and devourer of the world, a symbol of the great mother in continuous cycles of life, death and rebirth.

Now there`s some food for thought !

What a wonderous world. The goddess lives, as nourishment and sanctuary for all women everywhere. May you find her now, and may “shee” remind you constantly of your real and true value, your sacredness and your strength.

Peace and Love now