Jewelry and Replicas
|Lifting the Veil|
Dr Theresa Oakley
British Archaeological Report
|Limited academic study of some of the Sheela na Gigs in Ireland and the UK|
Lifting the Veil is a detailed and very much academic study of some of the Irish and UK figures. The study seems to have been limited to those figures that Dr Oakley has personally visited. While this is laudable it also drastically limits the scope of the book omitting many figures which have been previously published.
The book includes analysis of the features of sheela na gigs and in an attempt to define what is and is not a sheela. There is also some nice peripheral research into related topics such as Baubo figures. Dr Oakley includes a detailed section detailing and criticising some of the existing writing on sheelas. She includes a possible new figure at Rye.
She leans to the birthing figure theory in some places citing Studland in Dorset as one example, however I feel this is very much an interpretation of the figure rather than an established fact. She also suggests that the Llandrindod and a number of other figures have Irish influence or may in fact be Irish. Admittedly she only suggests this tentatively but I find it hard to agree when there are a number of perfectly reasonable local sources for the figure which do not need Irish involvement.
Dr Oakley also includes a brief analysis/criticism of websites on sheela na gigs including this one. Unfortunately she states that the public decides what appears on The Sheela Na Gig Project pages. I would like to state here that this has never been the case. We take leads from the public and investigate them. If we published everything we are sent then we would have everything from worn bits of stone to abstract oval sculpture.
All in all another welcome, if limited, addition to the writing on Sheelas but one to buy only if you are willing to wade through the dense academic language. The cost of the book at 48 pounds Stirling inevitably means that this will probably only be found on university bookshelves.
|Sheela Na Gigs Unravelling
Dr Barbara Freitag
|An excellent book which expands our knowledge of these figures.
Buy this book
A welcome addition to the corpus of books on Sheela na gigs. Firstly let me say that this book is a fascinating and thoroughly well researched book with much new information on etymology of the name "sheela na gig" and a discussion on the British ship "sheelanagig" from the 1700's. Dr Freitag also comes up with a good deal of new folklore surrounding the figures. The book proposes fertility function for figures and tries to, unsuccessfully in my opinion, connect the figures with "birthing stones". The author adopts an at times vehement anti "Images of Lust" stance which is fine, however I felt the arguments put forward in Images of Lust were dismissed a little too glibly. The gazetteer lists a number of new figures some of which are welcome additions. However some figures listed I felt were dubious and stretched the definition of a sheela na gig more than a little. Despite the listing of new figures a number of well known and unequivocal sheelas are missing from the gazetteer. The Ely figure (now figures) and the Rochester (not certain but in most literature on sheelas) figure are two examples from the U.K. Despite these criticisms please don't let me put you off buying this book. It's right up there with The Witch on the Wall and Images of Lust as a serious and scholarly study of sheela na gigs and contributes greatly to what is known about these figures. If your interested in sheela na gigs it's a must have.
ISBN: 87 423 01823
|The Witch on the Wall
serious study of Sheela na
This is the standard work on Sheelas which is now unfortunately out of print and almost impossible to get hold of. Interestingly Andersen sits firmly on the fence with regards to the origin of sheelas. However the author did believe that the further research needed to be done on the continent. Somewhat dated now due to the expansion of research on sheelas by Weir, Jerman and Freitag this still remains a classic of sheela/exhibitionist literature.Previous reports of a reprint of this classic have unfortunately did not come to pass.
2nd Edition Cover
1st Edition Alternate cover
1st Edition Cover (1986 Batsford)
|Images of Lust
Anthony Weir and James Jerman
Images Of Lust is available at Amazon
An academic view of Sheelas and other exhibitionist figures in general. Describes Sheelas as medieval morality figures. Informative and authoritative it's unfortunately marred by minor inaccuracies (e.g. See the Margam figure for an example) which seem to be endemic with books on sheela na gigs. Nevertheless it does put forward the most convincing and least esoteric theory for the origin of sheelas. It also address the lack of study shown to male figures. If you are convinced that Sheelas represent a Celtic goddess then the chances are you will hate this book as it firmly puts that theory to bed. If you are interested in a reasonable theory for the origin of these figures then this is the book for you.
This book has been recently re-published so
getting hold of a copy should not prove to much of a problem. If you
can't get The Witch on the Wall then get
this book. Anthony Weir's website can be found here
|Satan in the
|Anthony Weir also has an expanded version of his website Satan in the Groin on CD. You can buy the CD directly from the author here.|
|The Divine Hag of the Christian Celts
Jack Roberts and Joanne McMahon
Published in May 2001 by Mercier Press this is a new book by Jack Roberts.
An interesting read it proposes that not all figures are warnings against lust which is the major premise of Images of Lust. The book includes a useful gazetteer section but does include some figures which are dubious to say the least (Abson is a good example). The book is marred by some very bad editing which should have been picked up at the proof reading stage. The author names several figures as uniquely (sic) lying on their side. Another annoying point is that the South Tawton figure is said to be in South Taunton which is misleading. Minor gripes aside the book is extremely readable and is a useful addition to the subject.
Sacred Whore: Sheela Goddess of the Celts
|This is one of
the few books to be published about sheela na gigs in recent years.
The book looks at the figures from an historical and psychological
view and puts forward an Irish origin for the figures. While these
ideas are interesting the book
seems to suffer from the problem of stating theories as facts without
backing them up with evidence. It also lists a number of dubious
I can't honestly recommend this book. As the reviewer on Amazon says "the cover is by far the best part".
|The Sheela Na Gigs of Britain and
A comprehensive (especially for Ireland) and up to date the booklet and map are a useful addition to anyone wanting to find out more about sheelas. Stresses a Celtic origin for sheelas. Includes many sheelas not mentioned in Images of Lust. You can get hold of a copy of this excellent little booklet directly from the author at or via your local bookshop.
|An Illustrated Map of the Sheela Na
Gigs of Britain and Ireland (Map)
Jack Roberts and Joanne McMahon
An excellent map of the locations of Sheelas in Ireland and Britain with
some lovely illustrations of Sheelas. Includes many sheelas not
mentioned in Images of Lust
You can buy this map directly from the author or from your local bookshop
|Sheela-na-Gigs origins and functions
Eamon P Kelly
|Highly recommended. This slim book concentrates on Irish sheelas and suggests a origins and possible functions for them. Places the earliest Irish sheelas firmly in the 12th century as part of the influence of Romanesque art brought over in the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. Great if you intend going to Ireland to visit some of the figures.|
|Sheela Na Gig
|Highly recommended. Slim pamphlet published by the Fethard Historical society. Despite it's slim size this little booklet has a wealth of information on the etymology of the name "Sheela Na Gig" and goes into some detail about the ship "Sheelanagig". It also includes some rare information on folklore surrounding the figures. If you can get hold of it it's worth a read.|
The following books are not actually about sheelas but do contain information about specific sheelas
|The Herefordshire School
of Romanesque Sculpture
|Published by Logaston Press this book goes behind the sculptures on Romanesque buildings to find the people behind the work and the sources they used for inspiration such as the Bible and The Bestiary. The book makes a somewhat bizarre comparison between one of the corbels on Rock church with the Kilpeck sheela but other than that is an authoritative guide to the Herefordshire school of Romanesque Sculpture.|
|Romanesque Architecture And Sculpture in Wales|
Available on Amazon
|Published by Logaston Press this book is the first comprehensive study of Romanesque architecture and sculpture in Wales|
|The Visual Culture of
Wales : Medieval Vision
|Published by The University of Wales Press in 2003 this book is the third and final volume of the The Visual Culture of Wales series. This volume deals with medieval imagery in Wales and contains many examples of Welsh medieval church sculpture. The book mentions two previously unknown sheela figures in LLanon and Cynghordy in Mid and South West Wales. The book also lists a number of other odd romanesque figures.|
Middle Ages. Discovering the real medieval world
examination of the medieval world as shown by popular and medieval folk
art which has often been ignored by art historians. Sheelas get a
mention but the real eye opener in this book are some the lead pilgrim
badges from Holland which are oftentimes more shocking and sexually
bizarre than the comparatively tame sheela na gig figures. A real eye
opener of a book.
You can buy replicas of some of the Dutch figures here
Capall Bann Publishing
an exploration of archaic stone carved heads
found in the British Isles and their supposed antiquity. The book
argues against the age attributed to these figures, an argument which
can also be applied to sheela na gig figures. In fact the author
actually does this by devoting a few pages to sheela na gig figures. N.B.
The illustration titled the "A sheela-na-gig figure from
Ballyporty Castle in Ireland" is in fact the Easthorpe
|Roof Bosses in Medieval Churches : An Aspect of Gothic Sculpture||Published in 1948 this study of roof bosses in English Churches names a number of possible candidates for sheela na gig figures in Wells, Bristol and South Tawton. Unfortunately when visiting the figures the claims do not stand up and his interpretation of sheela na gig figures is loose to say the least. Andersen in the Witch On The Wall mentions his figures on his authority but it is not thought that he actually visited the figures himself.|
|Twilight of the Celtic
David Clarke with Andy Roberts
|Contains two chapters about Sheela na
gig's "The curse of the Sheelas" which discuses the
background for Sheelas and mentions the Croft On Tees
Chapter entitled "Freya" discusses the Pennington Sheela and
possible Scandinavian connections. The book is a little sensationalist
in tone but does include some useful information.
|Ghosts and Legends of the
|A guide to the local legends and folklore in the Peak District this book mentions the Haddon Hall, Darley Dale, Melbourne and Alderwasley figures.|
|A guide to the curiosities
of Kent this book mentions the Grain figure which we now know to be a
|The Haunted Landscape
|The haunted landscape is a very
interesting book about the folklore of Wiltshire. Notably it contains
information about the Stanton St.Quintin Sheela which I've not seen
published anywhere else. The book is available on Amazon
and you can also order it via your local
bookshop. Or via Katy's webpages
|A History of Easthorpe Essex
Anthony R. West
|Tells the story of the
history and buildings of the small village of Easthorpe in Essex in
great detail. The church there once housed a Sheela Na Gig which is
now in the Castle Museum in Colchester. Gives some background detail
for the sheela. I could not find a publisher for the book so I would
assume it is a private printing. Copies are available for sale at the
church in Easthorpe. As a side note, I tried getting in touch with the
author only to find that he had died, a pity because the book
is obviously a work of love and I would have liked to have
congratulated him on it.
|The Companion to the English Parish
|No specific information
about sheelas but very useful for decoding some of the architectural
terms used to locate sheelas.
|Sheela na gig pendants from Ragweed Forge||The image of the sheela obviously has an enduring appeal. I first came across a sheela pendant on street stall in Dublin unfortunately I have never seen it since. However Ragweed Forge do two sheela pendants for your delight and delectation|
|Sheela Items from Bandia from Bandia Publishing||Jack Roberts in addition to writing and researching Sheelas also has a number of sheela related items|
|Pewter Replicas||You can buy some of the Dutch lead badge figures here www.pewterreplicas.com|
|Ballybeg Village||A modern day interpretation of the sheela by Ed O'Riordan|
|Ama Menec Sheelas||http://www.amamenec-sculpture.co.uk/|
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