Dec 1, 2011
Sheela-na-gigs: naughty women bare all in church
Sheela-na-gigs are most common in Ireland, but many have been found in England and, to a lesser extent, on the Continent. Nobody is quite sure of their date since the churches they're in span several centuries and sometimes the sculptures appear to have been reused from earlier buildings. Nobody is even sure what the name means, although an 18th century ship in the Royal Navy bore that name and in the ship's listing the name is explained as a "female sprite".
Some researchers claim they're pagan survivals like the Green Man, but like with that mysterious figure there's no solid evidence. Others claim it's a fertility symbol or even a Christian warning against the sinfulness of lust in general or women in particular.
Nobody knows, which makes it really fun to speculate!