Sheila – na – Gig

Picture by Katheryn Price Theatana

Sheila – na – Gig
By Priestess Evelyne Adler

Sheila-Na-Gig (SHEE-luh-nah-GIG)

The word "gyg" is Norse for giantess, in other words, a supernatural or deified female, while "Sheila" is a woman's name, or used as a word for "girl".

A Celtic Goddess.  A Goddess of fertility who once appeared on curches all over Ireland and England. Sheila-Na-Gig is a carving of a naked woman squatting with her knees apart, exposing invitingly her enormous vulva in a triangular pattern.
A divine feminine image that has been a source of controversy.  There is little known about this mysterious figure beyond that her blatantly sexual images has been found carved on stone thresholds, usually at sacred sites or other places of worship. On her stick figure like face is a faint smile, one which is serene and almost knowingly complacent. Many of these Sheila carvings were used by nuns to adorn the doors of Irish convents. When renderings were discovered by horrified churchmen, many of them were taken away and destroyed. In the late nineteenth century, archaeologists found a pile of them buried neat the ruins of an old Irish convent. Original shields to protect and ward off evil, were labeled obscene in later more prudish times, the carvings were destroyed or defaced, only to be buried were they once sanctified.
Image from


The true meaning of the Sheila, and the impact she had on modern women’s lives, is probably even more complex. In her physical form she represents the insatiable, devouring power long attributed to the feminine sex organs, an image potent enough to have caused many men – and women – to fear and oppress this Goddess and her sisters, and to take out that fear on women throughout the ages. This fearful image is one of the reasons why many of the old Goddesses, Celtic and otherwise, have been diabolized and recreated into vampire demons, ugly hags, and evil faeries. Somehow they seemed less threatening in this form than when they were worshiped as deities and creators.

Alternate spellings: Sheela-na-gig, Sheela-no-gig, Sheelanagyg, Irish Síle na gCíoch "Sheila of the Breasts"

Vulva of the Day: Hestia Home Schools

Her Magic

The meaning behind the Sheila-na-Gig has been argued to be one of blessing and protection, though it is more likely that she offers an invitation into the feminine mysteries. The triangular pattern of her vulva evokes the sacred number three of the Triple Goddess of the Celtics; Maiden, Mother, Crone in one who represents the full cycle of birth, death, and regeneration. In this aspect, the Sheila-na-Gig symbolizes an open gateway to the Otherworld for those brave enough to accept invitation into her mysteries. It may be that worshippers reverently touched the carving of her open vulva when entering the temple of worship.

Yet, this devouring female who could not control her bodily urges was such an inspiration for terror that it can reasonably be cited as the primary reason why so many of today’s woman literally starve themselves to gain the approval of men. Making themselves appear weak, small, and childlike, devoid of normal human appetites, makes them less threatening and less Goddess-like. With the diminishing of that status, the power of creation inherent in deities also vanished, leaving in its path a feminine figure with no procreative powers, one that serves no purpose beyond that of servant and sex object. Today’s magical women must never forget that will becomes reality; with this desire to appear less powerful came the true loss of power, and its allowed women to come more easily under the domination of men.

The Sheila-na-Gig is not hungry to devour just for the fun of it, nor to satisfy some insatiable physical appetite. In keeping with the eternal cycles of birth, death and regeneration, the creator must devour in order to offer us rebirth. This rebirth is not just physical but can be a spiritual rebirth as well, an invitation into the greater mysteries of our gender. Therefore the Sheila is in truth offering us a gift, a positive manifestation of the never-ending cycle of existence.

Healing Spell

In honoring the mysterious Sheila of thresholds and women’s mysteries – Sisters, allow yourself to open and heal:

Under the protection of a Sacred Full Moon night, bath yourself with warm water. Mix some healing herbs into the bath water. Such as Chamomile, Vervain and Lavender.

Either outside with a lit candle or inside your home – find a private quiet space.

Chant three times or as many times as you like:

Oh, Mothers, We are Calling, Your Daughters need Healing,
Oh Mothers, We are Calling, Your Daughters need Healing,
Power, Power, Your Love is Our Power,
Power, Power, Our Love is Our Power.

Divination -Rune

The Runes are an instrument for learning the will of the Divine/Spirit in our lives, a means of listening to that part of ourselves that knows everything we need to know for our lives now. A method of guidance and self-counseling, the Runes assist us to navigate unfamiliar waters.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.  ~ Marcel Proust

As you hold the bag of runes in your hands. Breath, relax and open your mind.

Say, “Guide me into myself, Guide me through to the Otherworld. Lift the Veil and let me in Sheila-na-Gig. Help me give birth to myself again.”

Take a Rune out from within the bag. Listen, learn and let your eyes be open.

Thank you Blessed Sister.

Blessed be.

1.    Wicca ~ A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
2.    Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance by John M. Riddle
3.    Sabbats ~ A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy
4.    365 Goddess ~ A daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the Goddess by Patricia Telesco
5.    Celtic Women’s Spirituality ~ Accessing the Cauldron of Life by Edain McCoy
6.    The Witch’s Magical Handbook by Gavin Frost and Yvonne Frost
7.    Shamanism ~ Working with Moon Medicine by Dolfyn
8.    The Once and Future Goddess by Elinor W. Gadon
9.    The Book of Runes by Ralph H. Blum
10.   Ireland by Catharina Day
11.   The Celtics: The People Who Came Out of the Darkness by Gerhard Herm
12.   Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers by Miranda Green
13.   The Sacred Cauldron by Tadhg MacCrossan

Copyright September 2005

This page is the intellectual and creative property of Evelyne Adler - Wild Woman.