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Ahh Frank ... I linked the wrong webpage! :)

Should have been this link - Theories.

What is a Sheela Na Gig?

A Sheela Na Gig is a carving of a woman with exposed and/or exaggerated genitalia, usually found on religious buildings.  Bearing this in mind, before we go onto to discuss the characteristics of a Sheela Na Gig, I will ask you a question. Which of the above is a Sheela Na Gig? If you think the last image is a sheela then top marks and go to the top of the class. However the truth of the matter is that at one time or another all of the above figures have been called Sheela Na Gigs. The first figure at Llanbadarn Fawr in Mid Wales is broken at the waist and lacks the exposed genitalia which would fit the definition. It is however referred to as a sheela in the church guide. A couple touring Ireland asked to see the Sheela Na Gigs housed in the Irish National Museum in Dublin. They had been touring the country looking at the figures however they were shocked to the core when they saw the figures in the basement. What they had actually been looking at on their travels were heads similar to the second figure from Kilpeck. The third figure is the male figure at Painswick. This and another figure from Margam have been referred to as Sheela Na Gigs even by people in academia. The truth of the matter is that male figures have no generic name like the female figures. Other examples of non sheela figures being called sheelas include hands in lap figures and monstrous exhibitionists. Ultimately though a Sheela Na Gig is a female exhibitionist figure although the name seems to be increasingly used for any sexual or anomalous figure on a church.

Sheela Na Gigs Myths

Centaurs, lions and cats heads are also fairly common motifs on Romanesque churches but no one suggests that they are connected. It would be safer to say that sheelas are the counterpart of the phallic males figures found in the same context. There is a theory that some of the missing corbels at Kilpeck, which were destroyed during the Victorian period, held phallic figures. Studland in Dorset holds both a damaged megaphallic male and a megavulvic female and St John in Devizes has a corbel which consists of a sheela na gig along side a masturbating male figure.  In addition to this many of the green men we see in churches today come from a much later period than the Romanesque.

Corbels at Colsterworth

Some phallic corbels were disfigured or destroyed during the Victorian Period.

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by Oui on Tue Apr 23rd, 2019 at 08:45:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's curious that so many of these supposedly sexualised images lack breasts. There are wholly modern remakes which don't, but if you look at the originals the carvers almost always forgot to include them, for some reason.

This makes the accepted explanation unlikely IMO. Compare e.g. with the Venus of Willendorf and any number of prehistoric and modern statues.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Apr 23rd, 2019 at 08:55:39 PM EST
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Although According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the name "Sheela na Gig" is derived from the Irish, Síle na gcíoch, meaning "Julia of the breasts". I haven't done a count or a survey of all the extant figurines and their attributes...

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 23rd, 2019 at 09:08:07 PM EST
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Good point. Also note dislocated hands and pairs of arms. Water | spout | pain | miracle double entendres [Jokes: 1655]. Ima go with symbolic parturition. The message is consistent with dogmatic exhortations and um universal um vestigial neolithic um mystification of birth.

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by Cat on Wed Apr 24th, 2019 at 05:05:09 PM EST
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