Kl, and Indic kins such as Vajrayogin), and crouching and pulling apart the genitals (the “fish” figure from Lepenski Vir, figures from Western China, Irish Sheela na gigs, Indic Lajj Gaurs). The Kiltinan Sheela does both: she dances while pulling apart her vulva. In prehistory as well as in the modern era, piscine imagery is frequently connected with these figures.
In this book, we attempt to understand the nature and function of these female figures and their distribution across time and space. This magical display is a spiritual phenomenon. A major question to contemplate is in what manner these female figures—seated in deep display, or engaged in dance/trance—communicated with the divine. Did they travel deep within themselves (that is, doing a form of yoga) or did they mediate the human and spiritual realms (that is, enacting a form of shamanism)? In looking within or outside themselves, did they view deity as immanent or transcendent? Or is it possible that they were able to engage both forms of spiritual activity as the occasion required? Whatever form of spiritual engagement these female figures may have represented, the active power represented is that of the vulva.
The myths, folktales, and iconography represented here bespeak the erotic power of the female genitalia. The erotic represents the regeneration of life forces; it is power personified, whether it is used to bring rain, bring other sorts of fertility, or protect a structure from an enemy. The power is apotropaic, healing, and fructifying in both the physical and the supernatural realms, and it has been represented iconographically for millennia and in texts since the beginning of the historical age.
There are two contentious issues that we purposely avoid embroiling ourselves in. The first is that of diffusion versus in-dependent origination. It is obvious that there is tremendous similarity among many of the widely dispersed images and texts that