Happy 2019! I am so delighted to share this juicy podcast recorded with Starr Goode, author of Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power!
Starr’s book is a deep and powerful journey to the origins of Sheela na gig and what this Goddess means in modern day. Starr shares her beginnings with Sheela, including travels to Ireland and the British Isles to unearth her mysteries. We are all invited to reclaim this sacred Goddess who “sanctifies the vulva which is the quintessential image of creativity.”
The author provides meditations on the individual Sheelas she encountered during her 25 years of research, allowing readers to commune with these icons and feel the power they emanate. Exploring comparable figures such as Baubo, Medusa, the Neolithic Frog Goddess, and vulva depictions in cave art, she reveals the female sacred display to be a universal archetype, the most enduring image of creativity throughout history, and illustrates how cultures from Africa and Ecuador to India and Australia possess similar images depicting goddesses parting their thighs to reveal sacred powers. ~ Inner Traditions
I am especially excited to bring Starr and Sheela to you because of the love that our community has for Sheela AND Sheela is also my Goddess for 2019 from my New Year Goddess Reading! Check out the Facebook post about Sheela that went viral in October.
Listen to the Goddess Alive Radio Podcast now …
It is haunting to stand before the ruins of an Irish church and look up above the rounded doorway to discover the stone Sheela na gig half-hidden in a cartouche of ivy. She has reigned from her perch on the south wall for over eight hundred years, the guardian of the entrance and sovereign of all the land she surveys. Her inescapable presence overwhelmed me when at long last I finally made it to Ireland, to see before me what I had previously only read about.
The first time I saw an image of a Sheela was over twenty-five years ago. A friend showed me a photocopy of a book by a Danish art historian, Jørgen Andersen, titled The Witch on the Wall: Erotic Figures in Medieval Sculpture. She turned to a picture of the Kilpeck Sheela and said to me, “You’ll be interested in this.” From her copy of the book I made my own, and thus began a journey.
I was stunned by this image—clearly a female, yet clearly not human, displaying her large pudendum with no shame on a Christian church. How could this be? How could such a figure exist at such a time and in such a place? The medieval masons, the artists who created these sculptures, left no texts of explanation. Her image would have to carry me where no words could.
Over the ensuing years it was my sacred pleasure to make many voyages to the British Isles, and to Ireland, to see more of her kind. I used the taxonomy of all the known Sheelas in Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland from Andersenʼs research. This list was my guide to the Sheelas of those northern isles, as I searched for them on rural churches, through fields of grazing cattle, on remote islands, and in graveyards. A whole day could be spent tracking down one Sheela.
Nothing represents the necessity of reimagining the female in Western culture more than the startling Sheela na gig. The power of her image signifies a wholeness that can never be completely understood. But standing in the green countryside among the gray stones, meeting her in person, was a beginning.
~ Starr Goode – excerpt from Sheela na gig
Starr Goode, MA, teaches writing and literature at Santa Monica College. She is producer and moderator for the cable TV series The Goddess in Art (available on YouTube). An award-winning writer, she has been profiled for her work as a cultural commentator in such publications as the L.A. Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Yorker. Her previous work on the Sheelas was published in ReVision: A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation, the Irish Journal of Feminist Studies, the three-volume encyclopedia Goddesses in World Culture, and in About Place Journal. A recent book, The Art of Living: Falstaff, the Fool, and Dino, explores the power of wit and the importance of play. Her latest book, Sheela na gig, The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power, is published by Inner Traditions. Connect further on her website, StarrGoode.com.
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