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The Sheelnagig

Diarmuid Kilmartin & Jeremy Schewe
The yoni of the Great Mother calls her lovers home.

A sheelnagig (Irish:
Síle na gcíoch) is a stone carving, typically on the keystone over the entrance to a church or chapel. Most of them were carved from the 11th century onwards by the Normans in France and later in the 12th century in Ireland, Wales, and England. Sheelnagig's can be found all over Ireland, most typically on abandoned churches, and frequently carved from the IRish red sandstone. Síle na gcíoch, meaning "Julia of the breasts". And while breasts are not typically even hinted at in the sculptures, the aggrandized vulva's, similar to a Brigid's cross, are believed to be a type of apotropaic magic, for warding off malevolent spirits, attracting good ones, and blessing those who cross the threshold into the inner sanctum.

Come, meet the Great Mother in her most delicate of initiations to the seeker.
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The Sheelnagig

First published by Inchanted Journeys Press in 2017 in Ports of Entry

“Are you serious? You want me to go in there?”

The gnome nodded somberly, the whites of his eyes showed more than they had in the past five weeks of our travel. Surely this was the wrong place. There was no fanfare of trumpets, or host of elven guards standing at attention. There was not even a properly laid trail. I had been seeking admittance into the halls of Fionbar for almost twelve years. And here before me, according to my well-fed, overly paid guide stood the lofty gates themselves.

I looked down at my forearms. Shredded and bloodied by briar and wild rose. My silk robes were all in tatters. Even my beard was riddled with forest refuse and the workings of untold legions of spiders. Forlorn, exhausted, and physically taxed reigned over my awareness, not the magic of a powerful, yet illusive being with which I sought an audience. If anything, I was stripped of all things decent before taking audience with the King of the Fae.  


The so-called door before me appeared little more than a moss covered granite glacial stone nestled on the earth, deep in a beech and hazel forest; a boulder in fact, no more descript than any other in the forest. Well, perhaps a little different. I could just make out some carvings along the northern edge. They almost appeared as ogham scrawling, but not quite.

I stoop forward to touch the carvings, when my guide cleared his throat, “I expect I will be taking what is owed. A deal is a deal, and it is settled now. So, if ye don’t mind the payment as agreed, I’d be likin’ to make me way home back to the misses.”

Right, I thought. He fears this place and wants to move on, or he has swindled me in a most excellent fashion and seeks to make his escape. Yet, I could smell the fear on him like a bull smells it from fifty meters away on a rover from who ends up his paddock.  

"Well, so be it. Pay the wee man his wages and let him be on his way," thought I.

After he was paid in due and on his way, I turned my attention back to the theoretical gateway.  

Hmmmmm.......a puzzle it seemed.

Tracing my finger through the moist moss, it almost felt as if the boulder was warm. Deeper into the moss my finger probed, for it seemed there is an opening of sorts, yet I could not see it. The moss enveloped my hand and the boulder tremored.  


I parted the moss and found that the stone is truly more than it seems. Layers of stone overlapped and met in flowing folds, and I could slowly explore deeper if I was ever so gentle. If I moved too fast, the stone would grow hard and refuse my explorations, but if I moved slowly, the stone became soft and pliable, drawing me deeper in.


I sank my nose into the moss and took in a deep breath. There is nothing in the world like the fresh aroma of the pure green oxygen hiding amongst the twining of moist moss. Opening my mouth, I gave back my spent breath that the moss could flourish. I moved my nose and mouth from one new moist spot to another, breathing in this gift while I explored the deepening cleft within the stone itself.

As I exchange my breath with the moss on the outside, more and more of body was being drawn slowly into the crevice until I was inside, completely, the moss closing around my head. The stone enveloping me trembled. And though my eyes could not see, somehow my mind and the feeling of the rolling voluptuous stone all around me, I could discern the shapes, variations, and undulations of this world I was being drawn into.  

Deeper I went.

Deeper went I, until I could hardly breathe, being squeezed between two walls that rarely host visitors.

Deeper went I, until I could not control my course any further excluding forward. Deeper went I, until discerning the boundaries between myself and the undulating and endless cavern was no longer possible.

Deeper went I, until I could go no further.

There were no more layers of soft and warm stone to push gently aside, and yet I had the sense not only of an infinitesimal depth beyond, but as if I were being keenly observed and watched.

Clarification: I was being used to open a portal between the worlds.  

I heard piercing laughter crack open the layers behind me; stone grinding on stone. The earth was shaking with laughter and a moan heard within my inner ear, sent ripples and quivers up and down my spine. I was pressed against still softer surfaces and my feet found a warm river pouring over them in the darkness as I was pulled into oblivion.


Interested in the upcoming fae writing retreat in Scotland with Jeremy and Steve Blamires? Contact us!  We will see you in Scotland...

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