Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4348
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Kelly , Eamonn.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Sheela-na-gigs: Symbol and Meaning in Transition [Thirtieth International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 4-7, 1995. Thirtieth Symposium on the Sources of Anglo- Saxon Culture, co- sponsered by the Institute and CEMERS, Binghamton University. Session 92].
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 28, 3 (Spring 1995):
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Art History- Sculpture Ireland Obscenity Sheela-Na-Gigs, Carved Figures of Naked Females That Emphasize the Genitals Women in Art
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 12- 13- 14- 15- 16
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  • Abstract: Sheela-na-gigs are grotesque carvings of naked females which posture in such a manner so as to display and emphasize the genitalia. The name "sheela-na-gig" is a local name for a carving on the wall of Kiltinane Church, Co. Tipperary, recorded in 1840. The name comes from the Irish language, although its meaning is uncertain. The most likely interpretations are "Sighe na gCioch" meaning "the old hag of the breasts" or "Sile-ina-Giob" meaning "Sheela (a name for an old woman) on her hunkers." No tradition or folklore has been recorded in Ire- land which provides any useful insight into their origin and function. Most of the modem popu- lar beliefs concerning them are of very recent vintage, reflecting human preoccupations during the latter half of the twentieth century rather than those of medieval Ireland which produced them. This paper focuses on the meaning and function of "Sheela-na-gigs" within the historical and political context of Ireland between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries [Reproduced by permission of Robert Schicler, the “Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies” editor, and the editors of the “Old English Newsletter.”].
  • Author's Affiliation: National Museum of Ireland
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1995.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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