Celticsprite’s Blog

Celtic Symbolism : The Sheela Na Gigs
July 28, 2010, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture

As posted on Love of the Goddess.All rights reserved by the author.

Sheela na gigs, are carvings of naked women exposing their vulva. These have been found mainly in the British Isles. Oddly enough, many of these old representations of Goddess are found on churches, and some castles.

There are many theories surrounding the meaning behind the sheela na gig, and the most popular is that she is a survivor of an ancient pagan Goddess. Usually, the sheela has been identified with the Celtic Goddess Callieach. This Goddess is known to be a “hag” like figure of Irish mythology.

The myth of the sheela says, that she appeared as a lustful hag, and most men refused her advances, except one. After this man slept with her, she turned into a beautiful maiden, and granted the man with royalty and blessed his reign. Before I went to Ireland, I complied a list of sheela na gigs in the places we were going to be visiting. Not knowing how hard or easy it would be to find them, I kept my hopes up. The first place I found one, was at the Hill of Tara.

When you arrive at the Hill of Tara, you have to pass through a small cemetery and old church before reaching the actual mounds of Tara. After we checked out the mounds, we walked back through the cemetery where I noticed a single standing stone. As I looked at it, I realized that there was a slightly faded carving at the bottom right corner. As I looked closer, it revealed itself to me, I had found my first sheela na gig! Very exciting indeed!

The other two sheela’s I found on our trip, were at the Rock of Cashel in the museum, and at the Clonmacnoise monastic site. If you set out to find them, you will, just keep looking and dont give up! It’s very reassuring that these little figures of an ancient Goddess still adorn the walls of churches and castles throughout the British Isles. For more information on Sheela na Gigs, check out : SheelaNaGig.org

A quote from Celtic Sprite:

The Encyclopedia of Religion, in its article on “ionization” (‘womb‘, ‘vagina’, ‘vulva’ or ‘belly’ in Sanskrit), notes the similarity between the location of many Sheelas on doors and windows and carved female figures wood on the doors of the houses of the chiefs (bai) in the archipelago paluano. Dilukai calls (or dilugai), Open legs typically appear, showing a large pubic area, black, triangular, with hands resting on thighs.

The article’s authors say:

These female figures protect the villagers’ health and protect them from all evil spirits. The ritual specialists built according to strict rules, which break down resulting in the death of the specialist and the head. It is no coincidence that each instance of symbols representing the female genitalia used as apotropaic resources are located on doors.

The vulva is the main door, the mysterious divide between life and nonlife.

There is some controversy regarding the source of these figures. One view, held by Anthony Weir and James Jerman, is that Sheelas were first carved in France and Spain in the eleventh century, the motif eventually reached Britain and Ireland in the twelfth century.

The work of Weir and Jerman was a continuation of the investigation initiated by Jørgen Andersen, who wrote The Witch on the Wall (1977), the first serious book on Sheela na Gigs.

Eamonn Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, draws attention in his book Sheela-na-Gigs: Origins and Functions of the distribution of Sheelas in Ireland to support Weir and Jerman theory: nearly all Sheelas preserved in situ are found in areas conquered by the Anglo-Norman (XII century), while the areas which remained “native Irish” just a few.

Weir and Jerman also argue in Images of Lust that their location in the churches and ugliness about medieval suggest that standards were used to represent female lust as hideous and sinfully corrupting.

Suggested Albums: Covalbú – "Mai" ("Mother")
July 19, 2010, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Reviews, Suggested Albums
“Mai” (“Mother”) is the debut album of the galician folk band COVALBLÚ , a mixture of folc, traditional music and fusion of styles, that is it COVALBLÚ who bursts onto the music scene today.
My harpist friend Clara Pino (ex-Sete Saias) is part of this group with this self-production, a recurrent phenomenon in the Galician Folc scene.

Songs sung with the voices of Clara and the cellist Abel Afonso in a modern musical concept that assumes, mostly, the authorship of songs, without neglecting traditional pieces, and a theme created for them by Rodrigo Romani ( former harpist of the Galician group “Milladoiro”).

COVALBLÚ arises in 2007 due to the interest of its five components for the traditional music of Galicia, and also as a result of the experience of its members in different former groups (Sete Saias, Faltriqueira, Fuxan os Ventos, Quempallou) and performances at major festivals such as those of Ortigueira or Lorient.

Recorded and mixed by Isaac Miller, produced by the same group, “Mai” is a masterpiece in the key of Folc. A true exercise in perfect balance for the musical benefit of the listener.

The five tools that make the group sound (Celtic harp, violin, classical guitar, cello and percussion), together with the two voices, are quite suitable for wrapping up the development of this proposal, layed upon basically on an acoustic basis.
In addition, music and art join forces in this work by the cover designed by renowned artist Xavier Maghallaes, which makes “Mother” a very complete musical work, with a rather interesting result.

Feel free to listen to some tracks from the album on their official website:

Celtic Symbolism : The Spiral
July 12, 2010, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture

As posted on Love of the Goddess, all rights reserved by the author.

The spiral is an ancient symbol that has been used since the beginning of time in many different cultures around the world. Different variations of the spiral, have been found in the British Isles, Europe, Scandinavia, Greece and even in the America’s.

The meaning of this ancient symbol has been up for debate, and while each definition is a little different, the core meaning of this symbol remains the same. Basically representing the spiral of life, the cycles of nature, the cycles of life, and so on.

The triple spiral pictured here, was found carved on the stones of Newgrange, a neolithic passage tomb in Ireland. This particular spiral is said to represent the threefold Goddess and the cycles of life. Another similar triple spiral called the triskele, was used in Europe as well as in the America’s by the Hopi Indians. This spiral represents the cycles of life within the three fold, or the three spheres of the material world, such as land, sky and sea.

While in Ireland, I got the pleasure of seeing these beautiful triple spirals carved on the walls of Newgrange. At the entrance to this massive passage tomb, lie three huge smoothed rocks, each of these have triple spirals carved all over them. Some of these carvings are starting to fade sadly. Inside the tomb, they are carved randomly throughout, there are not as many inside as there are on the rocks out front. I also saw some spirals carved in a few other ancient places throughout Ireland.

What I find most interesting about this sacred symbol, is that many different cultures around the world used it. How did all of these ancient cultures use an very similar symbol with almost the same meaning? Could it be possible that the Hopi Indians in North American came into contact with the neolitic Europeans? I would tend to think not, but anything is ultimately possible. I guess we will leave that up to the archaeologists and anthropologists among us to figure out.