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Books and resources on Sheela Na Gigs

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.


ISBN: 0415345529

Sheela Na Gigs Unravelling an Enigma

Dr Barbara Freitag

This book is available from Amazon

 

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.

 

The Witch on the Wall

ISBN: 87 423 01823

The Witch on the Wall

JÝrgen Andersen

The first serious study of Sheela na Gigs

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.
Images of Lust Second Edition Cover (You can buy Images Of Lust at Amazon)  

2nd Edition Cover

1st Edition Alternate cover

Images of Lust First Edition Cover 

1st Edition Cover (1986 Batsford)

ISBN: 0415151562

Images of Lust
Anthony Weir and James Jerman


Images Of Lust is available at Amazon
Highly Recommended.

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 Groin (CD)

Anthony Weir

 

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 (Available at Amazon)

ISBN: 1856352943

The Divine Hag of the Christian Celts

Jack Roberts and Joanne McMahon

The Divine Hag of the Christian Celts is available at Amazon

Highly Recommended

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.

 

ISBN: 1903464528

 

The Sacred Whore: Sheela Goddess of the Celts  


Maureen Concannon

The Sacred Whore: Sheela Goddess of the Celts  is available at Amazon

 

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 "new" figures. 

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 Ireland The Sheela Na Gigs of Britain and Ireland (Booklet)
Jack Roberts
Highly recommended.
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 An Illustrated Map of the Sheela Na Gigs of Britain and Ireland (Map)
Jack Roberts and Joanne McMahon
Highly recommended. 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 (Not available through Amazon but still in print)

ISBN: 094617251X

 

Sheela-na-Gigs origins and functions

Eamon P Kelly

Out of print

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

James O'Connor

Published 1991

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

ISBN:1 873827 60 1

The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture

Malcom Thurlby

Logaston Press

Available on Amazon and from the publisher

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

Malcolm Thurlby

Logaston Press

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

ISBN:0-7083-1801-0

The Visual Culture of Wales : Medieval Vision

Peter Lord

Available on Amazon and from the publisher 

 

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.

ISBN: 0-7509-2685-6

The Secret Middle Ages. Discovering the real medieval world

Malcom Jones

Available on Amazon and from the publisher

An 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

ISBN: 189830771-7

Stony Gaze

John Billingsley

Capall Bann Publishing

Available on Amazon and from the publisher

Ostensibly 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 sheela

 

Roof Bosses in Medieval Churches : An Aspect of Gothic Sculpture

C.J.P Cave

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.
Twighlight of the Celtic Gods

ISBN: 0713725249

Twilight of the Celtic Gods

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 Sheela. Another 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 Peak Disctrict

ISBN:0711705550

 

Ghosts and Legends of the Peak District

David Clarke

A guide to the local legends and folklore in the Peak District this book mentions the Haddon Hall, Darley Dale, Melbourne and Alderwasley figures.
Hidden Kent

ISBN:1853062952

 

Hidden Kent

Alan Major

A guide to the curiosities of Kent this book mentions the Grain figure which we now know to be a beard puller.

 

The Haunted Landscape (Click here to go to Katy Jordan's website)

ISBN: 1903341086

The Haunted Landscape

Katy Jordan

Available on Amazon and from the author 

 

 

 

 

 

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

ISBN: 0951184407

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 Church

ISBN:0-75370-330-0

The Companion to the English Parish Church

Stephen Friar

No specific information about sheelas but very useful for decoding some of the architectural terms used to locate sheelas.

 

Academic Articles on Sheela na gigs Exhibitionist figures and other related subjects

 

Sheela na Gig Jewelry

 

Ragweed Forge Sheela Na Gig Pendants 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 
Bandia Publishing Sheela Na Gig Pendant

Bandia Publishing Sheela Na Gig Plaque

Sheela Items from Bandia from Bandia Publishing Jack Roberts in addition to writing and researching Sheelas also has a number of sheela related items

Click here to contact Bandia

Bandia Plaques
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 Menc Sheela
Ama Menec Sheelashttp://www.amamenec-sculpture.co.uk/
Ama Menec Sheela
1066 Sheela1066 Creationshttp://www.1066creations.co.uk/



 

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