The Llanon Sheela na gig


The Llanon Sheela Na Gig


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This figure is reported in The Visual Culture of Wales and Archaelogia Cambrensis 2001 as being a sheela na gig. The figure originally comes from Capel Non (Non's Chapel) in Llanon near Aberystwyth in Ceredigion. Many place names in Wales begin with Llan which does not really have a direct equivalent in English. Llan can mean religious enclosure, church, parish or even village. Probably the safest translation in this case is that of "Non's Church", St. Non being the mother of St. David the patron saint of Wales. When the chapel was demolished it was moved to a local pub then to Aberystwyth library and now resides in the Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth in the Bowen Gallery.

The carving was originally thought to be of St. Non holding the infant St David (Dewi sant). As you can see from the photograph the stone is very worn but there seems to be little suggestion of a baby figure. At first glance there is very little to see on the carving due to the weathering. The photo has had it's shadows boosted to bring out what little details remain. In reality there is very little to see on the real carving. There appears to be a faint remnant of the facial features with two high set eyes, small nose and what could have been a large gaping mouth. Some caution must be applied here as these features may just be a side affect of the weathering and may not allude to the original features of the carving. The right arm of the figure hangs loosely by it's side while the left appears to be gesturing to the lower stomach area or genitals. The bottom of the carving is very confused the left leg appears to be attached to the body whereas the right leg appears to be detached with the hand of the right arm resting on it. The genitals, if they are genitals appear to be hanging down between the legs, however the "genitals" may be the right leg and the other leg something else. 

The figure does have some features which would indicate that it is possibly an exhibitionist figure and I can see why this figure has been newly classified as a sheela. However the figure has no tradition of being "rude" rather it was recorded as a figure of St Non holding the baby St David. This and the fact it is very weathered means we can't be a 100% sure what it originally was meant to represent..


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