Là na Cailliche, 2014
Major site overhaul.
This is now the News page. I've added a new Index that includes a brief overview of what all is on this site (sort of the tl;dr version of the long article, with some new info), along with section links to particular parts of the article. I have a new Day of the Hag photo montage, and we will soon be releasing our lovely Latha na Cailliche video on our new Gaol Naofa YouTube Channel.
Most of the changes are live now, but bear with me while I update links and tweak the formatting. This site was initially created in the very early days of the web. So there's a lot to update.
22 February, 2014
Article updated, mostly in the section where I first wrote about the various possible meanings of "gig".
14 December, 2013
I just got a copy of a book that relies heavily on the work I published in 1998... without any credit, footnoting or mention. Oh. More to come on this... Sadly, it's not the first time this has happened to those of us who are researching in obscure areas. We've actually had to start anti-plagiarism groups for just this sort of thing.
News Alert, Spring, 2013
At some point I will be integrating these findings into the main article but, for now, check out what my dear friend and colleague, Annie, turned up: Sheelah's Day. Finally. Confirmation for why that dictionary fell open to that page years ago and led me to investigate the etymology of géag. While certainly look have gotten the idea from me (I first published the theory in 1998, and no one else mentioned it until well after my work was on the web), the other sources on this are over 100 years old. Yet Annie and I first heard of them last month. Sheelah's Day was not celebrated, or spoken of, where I grew up in the diaspora (Chicago and Boston), nor in Scotland that we know of. I've also asked among my contemporaries in various parts of Ireland, both Catholic, Protestant and polytheist, and none of them have heard of this either. So it looks like it was not a widely-known celebration and, like the Sheelas, we really can't be certain how old it is. But since it's clearly a variation on the tales of the Cailleach, and the Cailleachan, as beings who control the weather, I think the connection is clear.
Major Update, SamhainTide, 2012
It's been six years since my last update, and fourteen years since the first version of this article was published. In working with Síla daily (as she who opens the way to the spirit world), some of my conclusions have morphed a bit over the past twenty years. I now see her as most definitely a name of, and depiction of, the Cailleach as Creator. I came to this conclusion years ago, and had suspected it at the initial writing, but had not updated the article to state this more clearly. I believe that Síla is a depiction of the Hag in the act of creation. My theory is that the sheela figures depict the power of a woman to give birth to a child, and our oldest female ancestor who gave birth to many tribes of humans, and a Spirit Woman who creates features of the landscape (mountains, rivers, and perhaps the world itself). Check out the Cailleach tag on my blog, and the Gaol Naofa FAQ for more on her role as a Creator.
News from the front, ThornBlossom Moon, 2006
I have updated the etymology sections a bit, including some more Gaelic folklore on Géige as a Gruagach-type figure.
ThornBlossom Moon, 2005
Just added a few new links to the main article and the Links section.
Moon of the Big Green Leaves, 2004
Updated with Gay Cannon's photo of the Bronze Age proto-Sheela, and Shae Clancy's photo of the Boa Island figure (where you can see that people have been leaving her offerings). A few more etymological explorations, some footnotes on material found in waulking songs and Scottish harvest rituals, and a couple more things on Sheela and gynandry/gender-variance.
Read the article at http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/story.jsp?story=428311
And stay updated on the latest news
I've done some major revisions to Síla na Géige - Sheela na Gig and Sacred Space. The text is only changed in a few places, but I have substantially changed my views on some of the historical theories concerning the Sheelas. I have also added a couple more photos (real, historical Sheelas on standing stones!) and updated some links.
One of the fabulous things about the Internet, and this website, is that I'm now in touch with Sheela scholars from all over the world -- a gift I did not have when I wrote the original version of the article. Consequently, I'm now revising some of my theories. This is common in historical research, and readers may be glad to know that I am now questioning the possible biases of Ronald Hutton, who was a major source for my initial research. I now feel that Hutton has neglected key evidence. Whether this neglect is due to lack of awareness -- he, too, was dealing with a largely-unresearched area in writing about the Sheelas -- or due to the alleged anti-Pagan and anti-Woman agenda of which many feminist scholars have accused him, I cannot say. The problem may simply be that he tried to cover too much material at once, and so only skimmed the surface in some areas.
What I will say about all of us doing research in this area, is that up until very recently very little was written about the Sheelas, and almost none of it from a scholarly viewpoint. In the US you could find almost nothing on them. And what little material was available was often heavily biased towards romantic fantasies. So perhaps, in an effort to bring some balance to the debate, there was a tendency, on my part, and Hutton's, to swing too far to the contradictory and more conservative of archaeological theories.
But now things are different. We e-mail and e-publish our data, we share our experiences, images and theories. Research has speeded up to an astonishing degree. For those of us willing to be flexible and open-minded, to have courage, humility, compassion and the ability to ride the waves of change, it is truly an exciting time.
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