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> Being blissfully ignorant of the niceties and protocol regarding
> cross-posting, I herewith do it anyway. I'm not really sure how much
> subscriber overlap there is between the celtic-L and med -rel lists,
> Yesterday, I was showing my neighbor (a retired doctor) some prints of
> pics I
> had taken on my last Irish trip this past September. I showed him one
> was a closeup of figure-carving high up on the east window of Kilfenora
> Cathedral, Co. Clare, which showed a group of "dwarf clerics" (see p.6,
> Cunningham's "Burren Journey West" booklet, for a similar - but, of
> inferior photo of the same carvings). His first response upon seeing it
> "a fine example of priapism". I looked at it again, and, sure enough.
> could I have missed it?
> A few pictures earlier, I had been showing him the sheela-na-gig (various
> spellings allowed - "sheila" seems too Australian) over the doorway at
> Killinaboy, also Clare. I got to wondering if the priapismic clerics were
> considered, at the time, as a male equivalent of the sheela, i.e., a
> fertility symbol?
Hmm, I've not seen any illustrations of what you describe, but I'd
like to know what kind of response you get from the celtic-l crowd, some of
whom have a particular interest in ecclesiastical art. Anyway, your
description reminds me of figures from an earlier period: the so-called
genii cucullati or "hooded demigods." These are figures that sometimes
accompany goddesses in Romano-Celtic sculpture and carvings or appear on
their own. They may appear singly or in threes, be half the size of the
goddess or full-size, and they wear hooded cloaks which sometimes are open
in front to reveal the family jewels. Opinion varies as to their exact
function, but obviously they are associated with fertility in some way. It
has also been suggested that they acted as psychopomps, or that they
represent the pilgrims seeking favors from the goddess. They make me think
of the "strawboys" that still may appear at County Clare weddings to bring
fertility to the newly married couple, or the "biddy boys" who may accompany
the figurine of Brigit that in some communities is carried from house to
house at Imbolc.
> Are there other, similar carvings of clerics "exposing
> themselves" in other stonework of the period? I can see that I have many
> hundreds of prints to re-examine now.
The same thought occurred to me! I don't recall seeing any, but, as
you've demonstrated, it's possible to miss them.
It would also be interesting to note whether sheelas and these wee
guys appear on the same buildings.