Category Archives: Sila na Gigs

Wide open – and witnessed

As little girls we are told to keep our legs together. For a woman, “she spreads her legs for anyone” is an insult of the highest order. The power of the wide open vulva is deeply threatening to the very fabric of civilisation.

My four-year-old daughter loves to show us her vulva. Spreading it wide. “Your yoni’s smiling and talking to us!” I say. So proud that she’s proud and comfortable in her body. Her seven-year-old brother says “yueuch, that’s disgusting!”

And that’s pretty much how it continues. We learn to feel shame for this part of ourselves. To shut it away, not show it off. Whereas boys take great pride in pulling their penises out in public and drawing them on schoolbooks and road signs.

Wide open. It is a feeling of vulnerability. And power. Both together. Flashing our genital essence to the world. Look, this is what I am. This is what I can do.

For most women the first time they experience being wide open – and witnessed – is in the process of birth. At this time there is no room for prudity, shame or secrecy. Suddenly this hidden recess, deep, dark and private, stretched wide open to become a portal between two worlds. As a woman’s whole yoni opens so do her eyes, her throat, her heart, her whole soul to allow the birthing process to happen.

sheela na gig

Sila na Gig on a church in Kilpeck, Herefordshire

The only exception to this taboo, in the whole of Western art, that I know of, is the Síla na Gig, (pronounced Shee-la na gig). Found in the eaves of British and Irish churches, I first learned about them from Ina May Gaskin (check out her interview, here, where she discusses their function and purpose.) There she stands, vulva wide open and proud.

My greatest hope for women is that we be safe enough, feel safe enough, to be wide open and witnessed: lovingly held, tenderly treated, standing in our power and vulnerability.

I loved this poem by Brid Wildearth, which she posted recently and wanted to share it, and her artwork, with you all.

SHADOWS OF AN ANCIENT GODDESS

An ancient woman squats
above an old church door.
She holds her vulva open,
impossible to ignore.

Weird witch Síla na Gig,
powerful, daring and rude,
I wish I dared sit on a church wall
wicked and wanton and nude!

Eerie faerie Síla na Gig,
bathing your quim in the sun,
your holy hole outrageously obvious,
your mouth fixed in a mocking grin,

you might as well be shouting
to pilgrims rich and poor:
“I am your mother, your sister, your wife,
your daughter, your lover, your whore.”

Orgasmic dancing Síla na Gig,
are you just prehistoric pornography?
Or do you have something to say
to the twenty first century?

“I will not collude in your big cover up.
I will not clothe myself in your shame.
Uncensored and open and honest and proud,
I show the world who I am and why I came.”

Why do you sit on a church wall?
Why do you show us your cunt?
Why did the stonemason carve you?
And what exactly is it that you want?

“I was here before the church was
and I’ll be here long after it’s gone.
I honour the place of original magic
the place from which we all come

I open the gate between worlds
the doorway to life and to death
this gesture is just as important
as any gesture to pray or to bless

I am your ancestral goddess.
I am swollen and violated and raped.
This is the result of your violence.
I will not disappear without trace.

By Brid Wildearth

By Brid Wildearth

When you seek to disempower me,
you invade me against my will
you build churches over my temples and groves
and convince my children that I am evil.

Remember where you originate.
Remember your spiritual roots.
Remember that god is a woman as well.
Remember deep, radical truths.

Womanhood is as sacred

as any church or holy place.
We give birth, we give pleasure and we give love,
we give comfort and healing and peace.”

sheela na gig earthenware

 

wyldearth

Brid Wildearth blogs at www.moondrummer.blogspot.com, where this post first appeared. She says:

I identify as a witch in solidarity with the nine million wimmin accused of witchcraft during the burning times. I have been moon drumming for two years with wimmin all over the world. We channel moonlight to heal ourselves, our loved ones and the earth. I was drawn on to study Síla na Gigs, goddess figurines found on medieval churches who display their genitalia.I felt addicted to painting and sculpting them. I did not fully understand why. Women in pottery classes who saw me sculpting their open vulvas would giggle uncontrollably. I felt their discomfort and I allowed myself to be silenced yet again…. And later I noticed that displaying an open vulva is the exact opposite to sewing one up [as is done in female genital mutilation]. I invoke this ancient goddess to help me in my desire to help end this subjugation of women, within the context of world wide misogyny and rape. After years of copying ancient sculptures, my hands created my own original Síla na Gig.”

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