Friday, August 17, 2007

Sheela-na-gig


I'm reading two books right now. One of them I requested from the library. We're talking about going to Ireland next year so I was going through the catalogue and found this book by Maureen Concannon:

When I went to the library to pick that one up, I stumbled upon this book on the new release shelf:

At first, one might not think that these two books have much in common but I began reading both of them the same day and they relate so well. Both are about the power of women and how women's voices and contributions, feminine energy, have been suppressed throughout history. The Sacred Whore is written by a Jungian psychotherapist who believes the image of Sheela na gig is needed by people today to bring back the sacred divine and help balance the masculine energy which dominates the world. Sheela na gig can help us tap into the awareness of the birth/death/rebirth cycle through the various images of the Sheela as maiden/mother/hag. I learned a great deal about the history of Irish spirituality (and it's almost total suppression by the Catholic church).

Judy Chicago is an artist. I'd read about her works but I've never seen any of them, although I really would love to. I've been reading about "The Dinner Party" for years and had seen one or two pictures but had no idea how beautiful and awesomely detailed and full of life it is. "The Dinner Party" is an art instillation; it's huge. It's a giant triangular table with place settings for strong women (and goddesses) from the beginning of human time. Each place setting is unique to the woman. Each plate is ceramic and hand made and painted with colors and symbols representing her. The table runners are all hand-embroidered, again with much symbolism, and are breathtaking. Judy Chicago's thing is to take crafts associated with women and discounted as women's work which she uses to make beautiful works of art. Beading, embroidery, tapestries. Her work speaks to my eyes, heart, soul and mind (and hands-I know I'd want to touch it, if I ever got to see it).

In the book The Dinner Party, the author spends two pages telling about each place setting and the woman honored by it but then spends a couple of pages writing about other women who did the same kind of work or embodied the same attitudes or had the same kind of awareness as the woman on the place setting at roughly the same time in history but in various places around the world. This book is a fabulous text for women's history (I'm thinking about maybe creating a class for teens and adults based on this book. We'd study art, women's history, geography, world history. We'd make our own ways of honoring women we admire by creating our own works of art).
God is not male nor female but is both and all. We are all made in God's image. A great deal of my understanding and awareness of God comes from the transformation I experienced when I gave birth to my sons and the powerful joy and love I feel for and about them. Being a mother forms and informs my awareness of the Divine more than any other aspect of my life. When I read books like these, they bring that awareness to the fore of my mind.
Because I believe we are all made in God's image, I believe that we each carry our own, intimate, personal awareness of God and I believe that God made it that way. God is not one thing to all people; God is most any loving thing we need God to be. God is a birthing mother and a loving, strong and gentle father. God is the love that unites us all and the energy that gives life to everything in the universe. God is grace.
PJ Harvey is a songwriter and musician who has writes songs with powerful female imagery. She also totally rocks. Here's the lyrics to her song Sheela na gig with a link to a video on youtube:
been trying to show you over and over
look at these, my child-bearing hips
look at these, my ruby-red ruby lips
look at these, my work strong-arms
you've got to see my bottle full of charm
lay it all at your feet
you turn around and say back to me
he said
sheela-na-gig, sheela-na-gig, you exhibitionist,
sheela-na-gig, sheela-na-gig, you exhibitionist
gonna wash that man right out of my hair
just like the first time he said he didn't care
gonna wash that man right out of my hair
heard it before, no more
he said,
sheela-na-gig, sheela-na-gig, you exhibitionist,
sheela-na-gig, sheela-na-gig, you exhibitionist
put money in your idle hole,
put money in your idle hole
he said "wash your breasts, i don't want to be unclean"
he said "please take those dirty pillows away from me"

2 comments:

Hazel said...

Incredible post! I am reallyu interested in women's literature and found myself here while doing some searches of my own.

(I think PJ rocks too btw. :) )

But mostly I had to write to say THANK YOU for introducing me to the Dinner Part Art instillation, it is incredible!

Fabulous blog you have here.

Friendly Mama said...

Hazel,
I'd love to see the Dinner Party. One day I'll make a trip to Brooklyn so I can experience it in real life.
Thanks for the kind words! It's always good to make new friends.
Mary Linda