Sheela na gig

The dark Goddess of sacred power

Starr Goode

376 Pages, ISBN 978 1 62055 595 8     
Published by Inner Traditions, 2016     

For millennia, the human imagination has been devoted to the Goddess, so it is hardly a surprise to find images of supernatural females like Sheela na gigs adorning sacred and secular architecture throughout Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland. Appearing on rural churches, castles, bridges, holy wells, tombs, and standing stones, these powerful images of a figure fearlessly displaying her vulva embody the power of the Dark Goddess over the mysteries of sex, life, death, and rebirth.
Exploring the art and myth of the Sheela na gig from Celtic and Classical times back to Paleolithic cave art, Starr Goode shows how the Sheela embraces a conundrum of opposites: she clearly offers up her ripe sex yet emanates a repelling menace from the upper half of her hag-like body. Through her 25 years of research and more than 150 photographs, the author establishes how the Sheela is a goddess with the power to renew, a folk deity used to help women survive childbirth, and, as a guardian of doorways and castle walls, a liminal entity representing the gateway to the divine. She explains how these powerful images survived eradication during the rise of Christianity and retained their preeminent positions on sacred sites throughout the British Isles and Ireland.
The author provides in-depth accounts of the individual Sheelas she encountered during her years of travel, allowing readers to commune with these icons and feel the power they emanate. Exploring comparable figures such as Baubo, Medusa, the Neolithic Frog Goddess, and depictions of the vulva in cave art, she reveals the female sacred display to be a universal archetype, the most enduring image of creativity throughout history. She also illustrates how cultures from Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and Oceania possess similar images depicting goddesses parting their thighs to reveal sacred powers.
Explaining the role of the Sheela na gig in restoring the Divine Feminine, the author reveals the Sheela to be an icon that makes visible the cycles of birth, death, and regeneration that all humans experience. The figure of the Sheela is a necessary antidote to centuries of suppression of the primal power of women, of nature, and of the imagination.

Starr Goode, MA, teaches writing and literature at Santa Monica College. An award-winning writer, she has been profiled in the LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. She was the producer and moderator for the cable TV series The Goddess in Art, the episodes of which are now housed in the permanent collection of the Getty Museum as well as available on YouTube. She lives in Santa Monica, California.

(The text above comes from the flaps inside the book)