|home | exhibitions | interviews | features | profiles | webprojects | archive|
Breaking the Tabu - doing the unthinkable
Monica Sjoo (1938-2005) was a painter, writer and feminist activist.
I have not been involved in anything quite
so empowering with other women since taking part in the
During our "brainstorming" meeting held in
Bristol on 10th Jan I had mentioned that during 20 years or so
During that January meeting the idea was born that "the beginning of the End of Patriarchy" is to be celebrated this summer at Silbury during the Lammas full moon ...& I had the words "bringing the crop circles into the cities" come into my mind. Did I mean that we, as the Dongas tribe are doing now at Twyford Down, must act or speak for the Fairies or Spirits of Nature — who are attempting to communicate with us I believe - or are the Ancestors... disrupting the traffic encircling the roundabouts singing and dancing? Much can be done if we listen to Earth as she speaks to us in our dreams.
The reason I had never acted on my
fantasies of denouncing the church fathers is because if I had gone
into a cathedral years ago & on my own I would probably have been
certified as a mad "woman". But...it seemed that my dream fired women's imagination. I both wanted it
to happen AND I was frightened that
it would actually become reality as I knew that no way could I keep away
if women decided to go through
with it. So... during the long months of planning and organising our Ama
Mawu conference I felt nervous &
Our may weekend gathering finally happened.
On the saturday that we had given over to all day workshop on racism in
its many forms, I gave a workshop called “How Racism distorts Westem
spirituality and values", which is a mega-subject & I had spent weeks
preparing for it. So by the time saturday evening arrived (& our social
with local singers & musicians Rita Lynch & Invisible voice) I was very
tired & unable to really take part in the discussion a group of women
were holding about...doing an action next morning at the cathedral!
I live presently only a few minutes walk from the Cathedral & no way do I want to draw attention to myself in this area or to be arrested.
By 10am I was at college Green by the Cathedral hoping in a way that no-one would actually turn up. But ...no such luck. Some 15 women or so arrived & after centring ourselves, making a circle on the Green & asking for protection ...we walked into the cathedral without any second thoughts. I was scared, so were we all, I’m sure...after all one simply doesn't interrupt a church service in full swing! We walked in virtually unnoticed & no-one realised what was happening until we were actually lined up in front of the altar in the bright lights & facing the astonished congregation. The bishop and his assistants had to stop what they were doing & he zoomed in on me because as the oldest of the women he thought I was “the leader". I had placed myself in the centre as I was carrying the placard & I wanted it to be seen. Considering that during the early 70's I was several times nearly taken to court for “obscenity and blasphemy” for “God giving Birth" (always initiated by rightwing christians) it was very significant to me that I confronted the bishop with that painting ...which I consider sacred & of the Goddess who gives birth to the universe out of Her dark & bleeding womb. He attempted to take it from me & informed me that he was holding a service & that the cathedral is his at which I answered that the cathedrals are built on ancient sacred sites of the Goddess & that we were holding a service of our own. In the meantime a deaconess asked the bishop whether the police were to be called but he didn't want a scandal or media his church. I told him that we wanted to sing a song when he asked me how long we would be there. So...there we were in this great light, congregation in the darkness, candles burning, men in white frocks...singing all the verses of 'Burning Times', again led by Al & Rachel who know the text and melody, very powerfully & accompanied by a few drums. I have amazing visual images of us there...the butterﬂy wings painted around Rachel's eyes ﬂuttering & taking off...especially when seeing her, as we were leaving the cathedral, leaning on the pulpit declaring the glad tidings of the End of Patriarchy to the congregation. We had indeed served notice to the Godfather & his henchmen that their time is nigh.
As I was leaving an old man, an usher by
the door, wagged a finger at me & said: “you are old enough to
Ann Morgan, from Glastonbury, had been sitting meanwhile in the congregation taking notes & she heard the bishop afterwards saying that we had adopted some decadent Jungian ideas about male & female principles ...that we had been a kind of “commercial break" & now the service would return to its message of male power and hierarchy.
We however felt immensely empowered & like
we had broken the sound or mind barrier of some sort ...something had
happened on cosmic proportions. When we retumed to the conference women
Published originally in 'From the Flames' 10 (summer 1993)