If there are devotees of the Dark Goddess on your Yuletide gift list, Starr Goode’s gorgeous book, Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power, may be the best gift you could choose for them.
Goode’s connection to the Sheela is profound. Equal parts scholastic study, visual feast, & ardent devotional, this book will take the reader along on the author’s epic journey into the Mysteries of the Sheela na gig. As Goode explains thoroughly, there are no written primary source documents illuminating the origins & purposes of the Sheelas that survive today. Scholars and thea/ologians argue about the truth behind Her presence, but no one can yet definitively declare Her history and meaning. However, that does not mean one cannot still study that history as one way of connecting deeply with Her Mysteries today.
Reminiscent of her work on the cable TV series, The Goddess in Art, Goode provides her readers a great deal of well-researched and thoroughly documented material with which to learn about the architectural, artistic, historical, and folkloric background of the medieval Sheelas of the British Isles. Her impeccable scholarship gives one deeper insight into this “visual antinomy of the forces of destruction and creation… a manifestation of the Dark Goddess with the power to renew.” (89). After grounding readers in the background knowledge of the medieval Sheelas, Goode takes us on an epic mythological journey, tracing potential Dark Goddess connections back through human history almost as if we are traveling deep within the Sheela, Herself, down all the way into the caves of our Paleolithic ancestresses.
Goode balances this scholastic study with an intimate window into her personal Sheela pilgrimages. Bringing the read with her on her travels, we join Goode as she lives the magic of the Sheela in her narrative and photos, traversing winding roads, chasing reports of relocated Sheelas, and even dodging the occasional bull in a pasture to catch a glimpse of Her. My favorite passages in this section of the book are about the Kiltinan Church Sheela na gig, a unique figure with such importance to Her local community that when She was stolen in 1990, the theft was discovered almost immediately and a reward was offered for any information leading to Her return. By sharing these journeys with us, Goode helps the Sheelas of Ireland, England, and Wales to come alive for us.
Part III explores cross-cultural images of the Dark Goddess that can be visually linked to the power of the Sheela na gig. From east to west, north to south, Goode explores what she calls “the power of display” wielded by ancient Goddess and modern woman, alike. The closing chapters of this section powerfully illustrate the persistent relevance of the Sheela’s Mysteries to the resurgence of the Sacred Feminine and our continued quest for sovereignty by collecting together modern works of art and poetry that are deeply inspired by the Sheela.
This is a substantial book, in content and size and one that you must hold in your hands to fully appreciate. Even though it is also available in Kindle format, I recommend a good ole’ fashioned hardback copy for this one. It’s worth the few extra dollars’ investment because there is so much to work with here in not only the written material, but also the plethora of images and a wonderful bibliography that both invite further scholastic and devotional exploration.
Sheela na gig: The Dark Goddess of Sacred Power by Starr Goode is available via Inner Traditions, a Vermont publisher committed to ecological sustainability, for almost the same price as Amazon. So, should you decide to purchase this book for yourself or as a gift, please consider buying it from them. For more on Starr Goode’s work, including The Goddess in Art series, you can visit her website here.
Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon. During 2018, she will be presenting at the SOA’s annual online conference, AvaCon, as a part of Land, Sea, Sky Travel’s “A Year With Our Gods” online conference series, & at the third annual Ninefold Festival in the Colorado Springs area. Kate’s work is published in Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd and The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context.