This was not by request, I swear, though Debra and Hecate mentioned Her as favorites in comments to the last post. It was random, really! Well, for what 'random' is worth, ha.
Sheila-na-Gig is the anglicized version of the Irish Síle na gCíoch, and is the name given in modern times to the medieval figures of woman prominently displaying their vulvas. They are carved into stone, mostly in churches, though occasionally in castles, too; for the most part they are found in the British Isles, with the greatest number in Ireland.
Theories abound as to what the figures mean, some thinking they represent an allegory of lust to warn pious churchgoers; others place them in the catch-all category of fertility figures. In Pagan circles She is usually taken to be some sort of survival of the Earth Mother Who holds open the gate to life and death both, and She is often allied with the Crone.
The meaning of Her name (or title) is disputed, too: the Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (by James MacKillop) gives the meaning as 'Sheila (Caecilia) of the breasts' (I am assuming he means 'Sheila' is an Irish version of the name Caecilia); others point out that 'gig' (pronounced approximately 'ghee') is a slang term for women's genitalia.
I am more inclined to think of Her as a mother figure, or an apotropaic one, Who wards off evil by presenting the reality check of the source of life (and death), much like Baubo, Who relieved Demeter's sorrow when Kore was lost by lifting Her skirts and making dirty jokes (in Demeter's case the reminder was that the gate of death--Kore's abduction to the Underworld--is the same as that of life, and that Kore will give birth to a child in the Underworld. Yes, I've been reading Kerényi's Eleusis). I don't know, though; it is a rare Sheila figure that is depicted with hair, and on many of them the ribs are quite prominent. At the time, however, I drew Sheila-na-Gig as a young Mother, with abundant hair to represent fertility and power. I don't know if I would depict Her the same way now.
At any rate, the Crone, through Her experience, contains all stages of a woman's life within Her; She has been Maiden and Mother also, in the proper times. So I think for this week, which will be the first full week of blessed blessed spring in the north, we are to keep in mind the whole cycle, even as the daffodils begin to come out and the weather warms. Remember that last year's growth and decay have made this new beginning possible. If you are in the south, remember that this year's decay, the things that are beginning to die now, will make possible next year's spring; and also keep in mind that the dying is itself beautiful.
Celebrate your position in the cycle, not only nature's seasons but within the cycles of your life; appreciate where you are right now, but also take time this week to look at the whole. There is a lesson there, something valuable to be learned by stepping back for a moment to look at things from a larger perspective.
Let's see what She says:
Open wide! Ha!
You want everything to be pretty, don't you? Well it's not. I am a crone, surely as the sun sets and as winter comes. You don't know what to do with me, do you? You will follow me in time. Let's hope you figure it out by then.
For now? Rejoice in your health, in your youth, in your warding-off of the end times; admire the crocuses in the yard, the warm earth as you weed the garden. It will be cold soon enough.
That is not meant as warning, or to scare you; it is simply all one, and the distinctions do not, in the end, matter that much. It is like the difference between pink and light red. You may drive yourself crazy for now trying to differentiate the two, but it is in the end silly. Remember that.
It is all one. Everything contains its opposite. All coins have two sides that cannot be separated. The gate to life is the gate to death. It is only the direction traveled that is different, if it is. You forget now, but you have done it many times. So many times. You will remember. It is your birthright. Your deathright.
The Maiden is the Crone is the Mother. This is the truest thing there is.
What do you think of that?