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From The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, by Barbara Walker

Carved representation of a naked woman squatting with her knees
apart, displaying her vulva, shown as a vesica piscis or double-
pointed oval. Sometimes the figure presented the vesica with both
hands or drew it open with one. Sheila-na-gig figures appeared all
over old Irish churches before the 16th century. Many were still in
place during the 19th century, but Victorian prudery defaced or
destroyed large numbers of them. Some have been found buried near the
churches they once embellished.

Sheila-na-gig figures closely resembled the yonic statues of Kali
which still appear at the doorways of Hindu temples, where visitors
lick a finger and touch the yoni "for luck." Some of the older
figures have deep holes worn in their yonis from much touching.

The protruding ribcage on many examples of the sheila-na-gig imitates
the figures of Kali as the death-goddess, Kalika, evidently
remembered in Ireland as the Caillech or "Old Woman," who was also
the Creatress and gave birth to all the races of men. Celts generally
protected doorways with some female-genital fetish, which is why they
settled on the horseshoe, classic Omega-sign of the Kalika. In India
it stood for the feminine cosmos within which Shiva ever performed
his creative sexual dance, although he was assimilated to the Kalika
and given her title of Destroyer.

Derivation of the term sheila-na-gig is obscure. It meant something
like "vulva-woman." Gig or giggie meant female genitals and may have
been related to the Irish "jig," from French gigue, in pre-Christian
times an orgiastic dance. In ancient Erech a gig seems to have been a
holy yoni; the sacred harlots of the temple were known as nu-gig.

And check out this image....

What's up with all those teeth in yer vag??

from The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker

"Toothed vagina," the classic symbol of men's fear of sex, expressing
the unconscious belief that a woman may eat or castrate her partner
during intercourse. Frued said, "Probably no male human being is
spared the terrifying shock of threatened castration at the sight of
female genitals." But he had the reason wrong. The real reason for
this "terrifying shock" is a mouth-symbolism, now recognized
universally in myth and fantasy: "It is well-known in psychiatry that
both males and females fantasize as a mouth the female's entranceway
to the vagina."

The more patriarchal the society, the more fear seems to be aroused
by the fantasy. Men of Malekula, having overthrown their
matriarchate, were haunted by a yonic spirit called "that which draws
us to It so that It may devour us." The Yanomamo said one of the
first beings on earth was a woman whose vagina became a toothed mouth
and bit off her consort's penis. Chinese patriarchs said women's
genitals were not only gateways to immortality but also "executioners
of men." Moslem aphorisms said: "Three things are insatiable: the
desert, the grave, and a woman's vulva." Polynesians said the savior-
god Maui tried to find eternal life by crawling into the mouth (or
vagina) of his mother Hina, in effect trying to return to the womb of
the Creatress; but she bit him in two and killed him.

Stories of the devouring Mother are ubiquitous in myths, representing
the death-fear which the male psyche often transformed into a sex-
fear. Ancient writings describe the male sexual function not
as "taking" or "posessing" the female, but rather "being taken"
or "putting forth." Ejaculation was viewed as a loss of a man's vital
force, which was "eaten" by a woman. The Greek sema ir "semen: meant
both "seed" and "food." Sexual "consummation" was the same
as "consuming" (the male). Many savages still have the same imagery.
The Yanomamo word for pregnant also means satiated or full-fed;
and "to eat" is the same as "to copulate."

Distinction between mouths and female genitals was blurred by the
Greek idea of the laminae -- lustful she-demons, born of the Libyan
snake-goddess Lamia. Their name meant either "lecherous vaginas"
or "gluttonous gullets." Lamia was a Greek name for the divine female
serpent called Kundalini in India, Uraeus or Per-Uatchet in Egypt,
and Lamashtu in Babylon. Her Babylonian consort was Pazuzu, he of the
serpent penis. Lamia's legend, with its notion that males are born to
be eaten, led to Pliny's report on the sexual lives of snakes which
was widely believed throughout Europe even up to the 20th century: a
male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head into her
mouth and allowing himself to be eaten.

Sioux Indians told a tale similar to that of the Lamia. A beautiful
seductive woman accepted the love of a young warrior and united with
him inside a cloud. When the cloud lifted, the woman stood alone. The
man was a heap of bones being gnawed by snakes at her feet.

Mouth and vulva were equated in many Egyptian myths. Ma-Nu, the
western gate whereby the sun god daily re-entered his Mother, was
sometimes a "cleft" (yoni) and sometimes a "mouth." Priestesses of
Bast, representing the Goddess, drew up their skirts to display their
genitals during religious processions. To the Greeks, such a display
was frightening. Bellerophon fled in terror from Lycian women
advancing on him with genitals exposed, and even the sea god Poseidon
retreated, for fear they might swallow him.

According to Philostratus, magical women "by arousing sexual desire
seek to devour whom they wish." To the patriarchal Persians and
Moslems this seemed a distinct possibility. Viewing women's mouths as
either obscene, dangerous, or overly seductive, they insisted on
veiling them. Yet men's mouths, which look no different, were not
viewed as threatening.

"Mouth" comes from the same root as "mother" -- Anglo-Saxon muth,
also related to the Egyptian Goddess Mut. Vulvas have labiae, "lips,"
and many men have believed that behind the lips lie teeth. Christian
authorities of the Middle Ages taught that certain witches, with the
help of the moon and magic spells, could grow fangs in their vaginas.
They likened women's genitals to the "yawning" mouth of hell, though
this was hardly original; the underworld gate had always been the
yoni of Mother Hel. It has always "yawned" -- from Middle English
yonen, another derivatave of "yoni." A German vulgarity
meaning "cunt," Fotze in parts of Bavaria meant simply "mouth."

To Christian ascetics, Hell-mouth and the vagina drew upon the same
ancient symbolism. Both were equated with the womb-symbol of the
whale that swallowed Jonah; according to this "prophecy" the Hell-
mouth swallowed Christ (as Hina swallowed her son Maui) and kept him
for three days. Visionary trips to hell often read like "a
description of the experience of being born, but in reverse, as if
the child was being drawn into the womb and destroyed there, instead
of being formed and given life." St. Teresa of Avila said her vision
of a visit to hell was "an oppression, a suffocation, and an
affliction so agonizing, and accompanied by such a hopeless and
distressing misery that no words I could find would adequately
describe it. To say that it was as if my soul were being continuously
torn fro my body is as nothing."

The archetypal image of "devouring" female genitals seems undeniably
alive even in the modern world. "Males in our culture are so afraid
of direct contact with female genitalia, and are even afraid of
referring to these genitalia themselves; they largely displace their
feelings to the accessory sex organs -- the hips, legs, breasts,
buttocks, etc. -- and they give these accessory sex organs an
exaggerated interest and desirability." Even here, the male scholar
inexplicably "displaces" the words sex organ onto structures that
have nothing to do with sexual functioning.

Looking into, touching, entering the female orifice seems fraught
with hidden fears, signified by the confusion of sex with death in
overwhelming numbers of male minds and myths. Psychiatrists says sex
is perceived by the male unconscious as dying: "Every orgasm is a
little death: the death of the 'little man,' the penis." Here indeed
is the root of ascetic religions that equated the denial of death
with the denial of sex.

Moslems attributed all kinds of dread powers to a vulva. It
could "bite off" a man's eye-beam, resulting in blindness for any man
who looked into its cavity. A sultan of Damascus was said to have
lost his sight in this manner. Christian legend claimed he went to
Sardinia to be cured of his blindness by a miraculous idol of the
Virgin Mary -- who, being eternally virgin, had her door-mouth
permanently closed by a veil-hymen.

Apparently Freud was wrong in assuming that men's fear of female
genitals was based on the idea that the female had been castrated.
The fear was much less empathetic, and more personal: a fear of being
devoured, of experiencing the birth trauma in reverse. A Catholic
scholar's curious description of the Hell-mouh as a womb
inadvertently reveals this idea: "When we think of man entering hell
we think of him as establishing contact with the most intrinsic,
unified, ultimate and deepest level of the reality of the world."

"I'm just trying to evolve..." Back to Top

Last edited by monkey. Based on work by tiffany.  Page last modified on April 29, 2005

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