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Reclaiming the Sheela-na-gigs: Goddess Imagery in Medieval Sculptures of lreland

Reclaiming the Sheela-na-gigs: Goddess Imagery in Medieval Sculptures of lreland

By Ann Pearson

Canadian Women’s Studies, Vol. 17:3 (1997)

Introduction: The small, sexually-specific stone carvings of female figures called sheela-na-gigs found on churches and Norman towers or castles in Ireland and Britain are an historical mystery that has been puzzled over and researched from seemingly every angle. Like women, the sheelas have both resisted being categorized and have suffered from the limitations that certain labels have placed on them. Irish art historians, primarily male, insist that the sheeh are a variant of the continental medieval grotesques designed to warn against the sins of the flesh. However, they fail to account for the fact that the sheelas are the only variety of erotic grotesque found extensively in Ireland and England.: 

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