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Sheela-na-gigs: The naked women adorning Britain's churches

For hundreds of years carvings of naked women have sat provocatively on churches across Britain. But who created them - and why?

[bbc.co.uk]

By Jnei8
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9 comments

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Likely they were meant to shock and shame, men for their sin of lust, that is the explanation my mother gave me, she was English.

HeathenFarmer Level 8 Feb 20, 2019
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I suppose this has already been considered, but I'm wondering if these stones were "recycled" from a pre-christian site? It was common all over the world to use cut stones from abandoned structures rather than quarry & cut/shape new stones. Obviously a huge labor saver...

Carin Level 8 Feb 19, 2019
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I like this explanation... "They were pagan goddess figures, emblematic of the Earth Goddess who births us and takes us back into her at death," she explains.

MrLink Level 8 Feb 19, 2019
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Great article! Thanks for posting!

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Good but caricature

bobwjr Level 8 Feb 19, 2019
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Interesting

LB67 Level 7 Feb 19, 2019
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Interesting..my 1st thought was a godess..

Charlene Level 9 Feb 19, 2019
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'gee' pronounced with a hard 'g' was a very common word for vagina when I was young. If I remember right, the French equivalent was trou, which basically meant hole and was how female captives were categorised. While it's accepted that these are fertility symbols, it's really curious how they ended up on Christian buildings and give them a Gothic look. One explanation is artistic license, deviously taking a shot at the large imposition of churches and cathedrals.

brentan Level 8 Feb 19, 2019

I'm not a great believer in the fertility symbol theory, largely because many of the sheela-na-gigs on churches appear to be of similar age to the buildings themselves and appear only in places colonised by the Normans - which suggests they were created specifically for the churches the Normans built.

There's a tradition going right back to Ancient Greece that female genitals have the power to scare off all sorts of things, from entire armies (Plutarch) to storms, bears, devils and demons. I think, therefore, it's more likely that they were intended to ward off evil.

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Interesting stuff, I'll be keeping an eye out for more of these smile001.gif

ipdg77 Level 8 Feb 19, 2019

There's actually one just a few miles from Ryde at Holy Cross Church in Binstead. It's not very well-preserved, which is a pity as it must have been quite an impressive example in former times. [sheelanagig.org]

@Jnei I'm away from the island at the moment but will check it out on my return, thx smile001.gif

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