Monica Sjöö, God Giving Birth, 1968 Museum Anna Nordlander © The Estate of Monica Sjöö. Photo: Krister Hägglund / Skellefteå museum

From “Through Time and Space: The Ancient Sisterhoods Spoke to Me”

God Giving Birth, 1968

Monica Sjöö

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Narrator: This painting was based on the natural home birth of my second son, Toivo in 1961, a birth that I experienced as a first initiation to the Great Mother who is both imminent and transcendent, both dark and light. For the first time I experienced the enormous power of my woman’s body, both painful and cosmic and I “saw” in my mind’s eye great luminous masses of blackness and masses of radiant light coming and going. The Goddess of the Universe in her pure energy body. This birth changed my life and set me questioning the patriarchal culture we live in and its religions that deny the life-creating powers of the mothers and of the Greater Mother.
In ancient matrifocal cultures during the Neolithic, women gave birth in the sacred precincts of the Great Goddess where they were attended by shaman priestesses who were midwives, herbal healers and astrologers.
Birth was a sacrament and Vicki Noble once wrote that the original shaman is the birthing woman as she flies between the worlds bringing the spirits of the ancestors back into this realm, risking their own lives whilst doing so. We are spirit embodied.
I had given birth to my first son in a hospital in Stockholm and it had been a disaster for both of us. This home-birth, without medical and technical interventions, opened me up to the powers of the Great Mother.
I wanted to create a painting that would express my emerging religious belief in the Great Mother as the Matrix of cosmic creation. I didn’t want Her to be a white woman. As a result of this work I was nearly taken to Court and my painting was censured many times during the ’70s and ’80s. It was considered “ugly”, “obscene” and “blasphemous”. A modern day witch-hunt was carried out against me and my work. In 1968 there was also no women’s arts movement or a Goddess movement and I felt totally alone. I had a sense though that ancient women, who coincide with us in another time-space, were communicating with and through me. I was their medium and gateway into this world.
Without the sense of being one in a long line of women active and surviving through the millennia, I would probably have gone out of my mind with anger and loneliness as well as grief at what we women of today have lost.



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