Perhaps you’re wondering exactly who Sheela Na Gig is. Well it’s not a person; it’s the name given to a peculiarly British type of sculpture, beginning in the 11th Century and lasting about 200 years. A Sheela Na Gig is a carved image of a woman with highly exaggerated vulva, and clitoris in particular.
These incredible sculptures are found exclusively around churches, and their origins and meanings are something of a mystery. There are 101 known examples in Ireland and around 40 in England, and they sometimes appear on their sides, as though incorporated from earlier architecture, and almost always above a door or window.
They are considered to be less aesthetically pleasing than other contemporary religious sculptures, which has lead to speculation that they are designed to imply that female lust, female sexual pleasure and female sexuality are somehow hideous and “sinfully corrupting”.