"Sheelahs" or "Sheela-na-gigs" are stone carvings of that always show an old woman (sometimes described as a hag or crone), often with her legs open and exposing her gaping vagina and are always on ancient Christian churches and abbeys (for some reason most commonly found on the South wall ) located in Ireland, Wales, England and throughout the British Isles.
To quote from Tara's Sheela Na Gig Website (go visit, she's got loads of info and great pictures),
"Sheela-na-gigs are female exhibitionist carvings found on walls, abbeys, convents, churches, pillars and other structures in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, as well as in other parts of Europe. They come in many different shapes and sizes, but all share the same characteristic of a prominent and often enlarged genitals, often held open by the figure's hands. Most date from the middle ages."
The Sheela Na Gig Project website goes into even more detail. It's attempting to gather and print information about Sheela Na Gigs in the UK claiming that they are often overlooked. They describe a Sheila Na Gig as
"Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman churches. They consist of an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva, a fairly strange thing to find on a church."
In Ireland, the day following St Patrick's Day is dedicated to Sheelah-Na-Gig, Goddess of Fertility. Some say she was Patrick's wife (but the Catholic Church would surely not allow this), some say his mother.
Sheelah is an old Irish term for a slovenly or muddling woman, particularly an old one. In Australia, with its very Irish background, the term "sheila" is still common (though culturally self-conscious, ie, rarely used these days except jocularly and somewhat mockingly of old Aussie manners) slang for "woman". Perhaps the day after St Patrick's obtained the name without any reference to the calendar of saints.
Maybe one day I'll go overseas and do a "Sheela Na Gig" tour. I'd love to but it would take a lot of time and no small amount of money. The number of "Sheelas" is growing every day with more and more being found. Ireland's Síle na Gigh.org site looks like a good one to base the first leg of the tour on. Ah,one of these days!!
Do a little research of your own. See what you think.