Shelah-na-gigs or Sheela-na-gigs

From Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894

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Charms of a peculiar kind were employed to ward off evil. Of these—more potent than the feminine sign of the horseshoe over the threshold—was the celebrated Shelah-na-Gig. The writer, many years ago, was shown one of these strange figures in the reserved depositaries of the British Museum. It was the squatting figure of an exposed naked female, rudely sculptured, not unlike, except in size, the singular colossi under the Museum porch brought from Easter Isle. This figure was taken down from over the doorway of an ancient church in Ireland, and was, without doubt, a relic of pagan days, used during many Christian centuries to ward off evil from the incoming congregation. Another stood by the moat of Howth.

In the Stone Chips of E. T. Steven we have the following—"The horse-shoe is still the conventional figure for the Yoni in Hindoo temples, and although its original import was lost, until lately the horse-shoe was held to be a charm against witchcraft and the evil eye amongst ourselves, precisely as was the case with the more unmistakable Shelah-na-Gig at certain churches in Ireland."

The Dublin Museum contains an extraordinary bone-pin representing the Shelah-na-Gig, and evidently a charm to shield the wearer. It was found alongside a skull in a field. Wilde declared that a Roscommon child was taken from the grave to obtain its arms for charm purposes.

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