Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reclaiming the Magic of the Vulva

Give me a topic and I’ll find a way to fit in a yoni! Actually it isn’t a hard ask to find the connection between Magic and the Vulva so when She de Montford asked me to write an article for her magazine Spellcraft I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that what I produced could pretty much serve as a ‘manifesto’ for my work with This article was first published in the summer edition of the ‘definitive guide to Magick in the Southern Hemisphere’....

I am a collector (and a purveyor) of Vulvic Art. My home is adorned with sumptuous silk and velvet vulva pillows, fluffy vulva purses, vulva pens, vulva jewellery and more. Some people are shocked when they see my collection, some are delighted but most ask “Why?”. I tell them that I believe the vulva is a wonderous and magical place, worthy of the utmost respect and the most beautiful artistic representations.

Anyone who has witnessed the natural entry of a child into this world would find it hard to deny the incredible qualities of the vulva. From a purely physical perspective her ability to stretch to accommodate the head of the newborn is nothing short of awe inspiring. Alas few of us have had the privilege to attend such a moving and fundamental event.

This was not always the case. Respect for the Vulva as the portal between the worlds was widespread in ancient times. And so was Vulvic Art.

Sheila na Gigs (or Sheelah-na-Gigs) are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Britain.

In the prestigious "Encyclopedia of Religion," (Eliade, Mircea. (Editor),1987) there are references to Sheila na Gigs

"The obvious life-giving and growth-promoting powers of the vulva and its secretions have given rise to a widespread use of representations of the female genitalia as apotropaic (intended to "ward off evil") devices. …. An apotropaic function seems to have prompted the placing of squatting female figures prominently exposing their open vulvas on the key of arches at church entrances in Ireland, Great Britain, and German Switzerland…. Most such figures were removed from churches in the nineteenth century.”

And a little farther down in the same article:

"A remarkable parallel to the Celtic Sheelagh-na-gig is found in the Palauan archipelago. The wooden figure of a nude woman, prominently exposing her vulva by sitting with legs wide apart and extended to either side of the body, is placed on the eastern gable of each village's chiefly meeting house. Such figures are called dilugai…These female figures protect the villagers' health and ward off all evil spirits as well. They are constructed by ritual specialists according to strict rules, which if broken would result in the specialist's as well as the chiefs death. It is not coincidental that each example of signs representing the female genitalia used as apotropaic devices are found on gates. The vulva is the primordial gate, the mysterious divide between nonlife and life" (Encyclopedia of Religion, article YONI, Vol.15, p.534).

I believe that much healing can be achieved through reclaiming the magic of the Vulva in our modern world. However, to do so we need first to inspect our current cultural attitudes to this most glorious and sacred part of the body.

Not only do we have no respectful representations of the Vulva, many of us are uncomfortable even talking about her. Last year the Weekend Australian ran an article about three US students who were suspended from high school for disobeying teachers and uttering the word “vagina” during a reading from the Eve Ensler’s ‘Vagina Monologues’.

In one research study, only 7% of respondents considered the vagina a body part that is freely mentionable (Allan & Burridge, 1991). Another survey found that 53% of women "felt some discomfort using the word vagina" (Bulletin, 1994, p. 10). And both women and gynecologists have been shown to rarely mention the word vagina (or even a synonym) during gynecological consultations (Weijts, Houtcoop, & Mullen, 1993).

And there are certainly plenty of synonyms to choose from! In my workshops I ask women to remember the name that they were given for their vulva as a child. I always hear something new. Rarely do I hear either vulva or vagina (which is technically the canal between the external genitalia, the vulva, and the womb). More distressing to me is that about one quarter of the woman were given no name at all to use. The area was just not mentioned. At all!

Why is this important? I believe that if women are uncomfortable with speaking about a part of their body which determines their femininity, which is a source of incredible creativity, pleasure and delight (the clitoris being the only body organ with the sole purpose of providing pleasure) and which is the gateway through which every one of us, in the normal run of things, enters this world, if we can’t name this part of us with ease and consider it with comfort then there is a dangerous void in our sense of ourselves as women.

And if we can’t talk about it then we cannot be given important information regarding our genital health. Woman of all ages can benefit from exercising the pelvic floor. In fact one source suggests that pelvic floor squeezes (or kegels) are the single most important exercise for a woman’s long term emotional and physical health. But most of us do not even hear about the possibility until we are pregnant (if then.) Kegels can be done anywhere, any time. Apart from being pleasurable for many woman (especially the more you practice!) kegeling increases blood flow and muscle tone, enhances sexual pleasure and reduces the likelihood of incontinence after childbirth.

I suggest that it is of the utmost importance to investigate and work towards healing any disempowering attitudes we have had foisted onto us about our most glorious and sacred feminine parts. By doing so women will feel better about themselves, boost their self-esteem, reduce depression and increase respect for the feminine in our society.

There are three simple steps we can take to start to reclaim the magic of the vulva:

Luscious yOni pendant available from
1. We can use vulvic imagery as a powerful talisman. This need not be overt. The mandorla and even the V, or the cleft V are time honoured symbols for the vulva and can easily be incorporated into jewellery, art or even scribbles on a post-it note!

2. We can practice using her name. It may take time to become comfortable but it is unlikely to happen unless we start.

3. And thirdly, if we were lucky enough to be born in a woman’s body, we can kegel. Anywhere, any time! And while that enigmatic Mona Lisa smile creeps over our faces we can affirm the wonder and the power of feminine nature.

Visit to see some of Laura-Doe's vulvic art collection and for her squeeze along song to get you kegeling and for more information about pelvic floor exercise. Laura-Doe also runs workshops for women through the yOniversity® and provides comic info/entertainment on all things vulvic using her comic cabaret characters from Vaudeville of the Vulva. Please use the comments area to get in touch if you'd like to host a workshop or talk further about a performance.


Max Dashu said...

Beautiful post. I'm going to link it on my Sacra Vulva page, along with other articles. Check it out: visual evidence that people around the world regarded the vulva as sacred!

The new Sacra Vulva poster: sculptures around the world celebrate female genitalia as powerful, vital, joyous, and sacred:

Cunctipotence! an old word that means "all-powerful" (Latin conjunctus + potencia, power joined together). We're repurposing it for Yoni Power...

Max Dashu (a woman)

Margaret Haugen-Juniper said...

Wonderful post. Thank you for honouring the vulva and vagina as the beautiful and sacred part of the body that they are.

I have created three vulva paintings in my life, and I intend to make many, many more!