1st Edition

Sheela-na-gigs Unravelling an Enigma

By Barbara Freitag Copyright 2004
    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    230 Pages
    by Routledge

    Here Barbara Freitag examines all the literature on the subject since their discovery 160 years ago, highlighting the inconsistencies of the various interpretations in regard to origin, function and name. By considering the Sheela-na-gigs in their medieval social context, she suggests that they were folk deities with particular responsibility for assistance in childbirth.

    This fascinating survey sheds new light on a controversial phenomenon, and also contains a complete catalogue of all known Sheela-na-gigs, including hitherto unrecorded or unpublished figures.


    Acknowledgements List of abbreviations INTRODUCTION CHAPTER I: The Sheela-na-gig Phenomenon 1. Special identifying Features, distinctive Gestures and Classification 2. The Problem of Dating CHAPER II: Sheelas and Academic Research 1. Scholarly Discovery and first Speculations during the nineteenth Century a. Ireland b. England, Scotland and Wales 2. Twentieth century Theories a. A Norse Fertility Goddess b. A divine Patron of Women c. A Pagan Symbol of Fertility d. A Celtic Goddess e. A Christian Warning of Sin f. A Mater Ecclesia CHAPTER III: The Problem of the Name 1. Sheela-na-gig ^DDS The Sculpture 2. Sheela na gigg ^DDS The Dance 3. Sheelanagig ^DDS The Ship 4. A new Look at the Name a. 'Sheelagh (i. e. Ireland)' b. Sheila ^DDS Saint Patrick's stormy Wife c. gig ^DDS A Woman's Privities CHAPTER IV: Sheelas, Birth, Death and Medieval Rural Traditions 1. The Hazards of Medieval Motherhood 2. Women's Helpers during Labour a. Stones b. Girdles c. Charms d. Midwives 3. Sheelas and Folk Religion a. Folk Deities assisting at Birth b. The continuous Cycle of Life and Death 4. The Christian Church and Folk Religion 5. Sheela Precursers and similar Figures CONCLUSION SHEELA-Na-Gig Catalogue 1. Ireland 2. England 3. Scotland 4. Wales 5. Sheela-na-gigs arranged by Counties Notes Bibliography Index


    Lecturer in Intercultural Studies in the school of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies, Dublin City University.