tempus fugit

By ceridwen

Mediaeval yoga?

is one way of putting it.
This cheeky woman baring her all is a Sheela-na-gig, one of many such figures to be seen in churches all over Britain and (especially) Ireland. 
They' have often been concealed, removed, defaced or otherwise overlooked but thanks to a project that has set out to record them  all it has turned out there are many more of them that we knew.

This one from our county town of Haverfordwest was only discovered in  1994 when the remains of the town's  13thC. priory were being excavated. It's only just (finally) been placed on view in the local museum. Quite small and originally located high up between two stone columns in the cloisters it would have required a sharp monkish eye to make out the details of her anatomy - eroded away now but it's clear to see that she's  holding apart her legs to reveal her genitalia beneath a voluminous skirt. There are a number of hypotheses as to the purpose of these  exhibitionist females but warning against the sin of lust seems high on the list of probability.  They were depicted as rapacious hags rather than as alluring brides: in fact the sort of women whose sexual appetites were to be feared and avoided - old, ugly, fierce, rude and challenging. Possibly pagan.

As more and more Sheela-na-gigs have been resurrected women have reclaimed the images as emblems of female strength and power. The singer PJ (Polly) Harvey has written and sung her own tribute to the Sheela-na-gigs as they continue to mystify/attract/repel. 

 Making my own pilgrimage to view this one, not by a long chalk the most outrageous of the species, on Midsummer Day seemed appropriate somehow.

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