Sheela-Na-Gigs: Unravelling an Enigma

Overview

"An air of mystery has surrounded the crude carvings of naked females, called Sheela-na-gigs, since their scholarly discovery some one hundred and sixty years ago. Especially puzzling is the fact that they occur predominantly in medieval religious buildings. High-minded clergymen have since defaced or destroyed many of these carvings, and for a long time archaeologists dismissed them as rude and repulsive." "Only in the less puritanical atmosphere of the past few decades have academics and artists turned their interest to Sheela-na-gigs. ...
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Overview

"An air of mystery has surrounded the crude carvings of naked females, called Sheela-na-gigs, since their scholarly discovery some one hundred and sixty years ago. Especially puzzling is the fact that they occur predominantly in medieval religious buildings. High-minded clergymen have since defaced or destroyed many of these carvings, and for a long time archaeologists dismissed them as rude and repulsive." "Only in the less puritanical atmosphere of the past few decades have academics and artists turned their interest to Sheela-na-gigs. Divergent views emerged: some see them as ancient goddesses, some as vestiges of a pagan cult, others as protective talismans or Christian warnings against lust. Here Barbara Freitag examines all the literature on the subject, highlighting the inconsistencies of the various interpretations with 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 survey sheds new light on this controversial phenomenon, and also contains a complete catalogue of all known carvings, including hitherto unrecorded or unpublished figures. It is the most comprehensive study of Sheela-na-gigs yet published.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415345521
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 11/1/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

1 The Sheela-na-gig phenomenon 3
2 Sheelas and academic research 16
3 The problem of the name 52
4 Sheelas, birth, death and medieval rural traditions 68
Sheela-na-gig catalogue 121
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