Monica with Personal Postscript
and one of Monica's favourite songs -
deeply sad and sorry to have to report the death of my friend Monica
Sjöö. Monica had been suffering from cancer for the last few years.
She died on the 8th of August 2005 in her home in Bristol, UK, in the
presence of her son Toivo and a few of her many loving friends.
was born in Sweden and was an internationally renowned visionary
artist and writer. She spend most of her adult life living and working
in Britain. In the 1960's she became one of the pioneers of the
feminist movement, as well as a major instigator of the revival of the
world-wide ancient religion of the Goddess.
Through her extraordinary paintings Monica became an initiator of
Goddess art. First of all through her now famous work "God giving
birth" (1968) and from then onwards through the prolific creation
of many works of astonishing and often radiating beauty. These were
inspired by her own visions, the landscapes of Mother Earth and by
ancient sacred sites, temples and relics left to us by early
also led the way as a pioneer in woman studies and Goddess studies in
particular. Her passionate commitment to the Goddess in all her many
manifestations led to an immense scholarship.
As a result she wrote "The Great Cosmic Mother, rediscovering the
religion of the Earth". This work was revised, updated and
partnership with American poet/feminist Barbara Mor and became a
classic and highly influential book on the subject.
Monica's other published books are: "New Age and Armageddon"
(now reprinted in a revised edition as "Return of the Dark/Light
Mother") and "The Norse Goddess". In addition she
wrote countless pamphlets, articles and poems for various magazines.
Monica Sjöö's important contribution to waking us all up to the
dangerous imbalance in our patriarchal culture was not limited to art
and scholarship, but also extended to very practical activism in many
areas, including sexism, racism, the peace movement and environmental
In 2005 it is difficult to recall just how revolutionary and
ground-breaking the feelings, ideas and actions of this self-taught
artist and thinker were in the 1960's. Few people blink an eyelid
these days when they hear words such as "Goddess",
"Pagan", "earth-centered religion" and so on. But
we should remember that Monica closely escaped being prosecuted for
obscenity and blasphemy several times just for exhibiting her radical painting
"God giving birth", inspired by the home-birth of her son
Toivo. In those days God was still supposed to be exclusively white, male and living in heaven.
Monica helped us to see that this blinkered view did not always poison
humanity's relationship with divine intelligence, the source of our
In doing so she also made an immeasurable contribution to enabling
women to lift themselves up from being second-class citizens and
inferior beings. We are valuable individuals able to partake in the
creation and nurturing of life by the grace and power of our female
body, mind and spirit.
During her life "Monica Sjöö" never became the household name she
deserved to be. The narrow world of the art establishment has so far
been too blind to recognise the beauty and importance of her work.
Monica was maybe too much of a radical and anarchist for them and
anyhow, she was too busy creating and researching to have the time or
interest to promote herself as a career painter or as a commercial
Nevertheless, she has been an immense inspiration to a multitude of
other avant-garde thinkers and artists. In a world where we are
increasingly becoming aware of the insensitive and ruthless way we
have treated Mother Earth, this influence will continue to be felt.
If the human race survives the arms race and if the chaos resulting
from global warming, the looming energy and resource crisis will not
completely devastate our society, she will, I believe, one day be remembered as
one of the great creative visionaries of our time and one of its most
writer/tree woman/environmental activist
the above obituary for the Eco-Pagan community and my
felt that for that purpose it was more important to
write about Monica, rather my own memories of her. For
this website however, I like to add a few notes
of a more personal nature.
We met in 1982 in Brawdy Women's Peace Camp and had a
very close intimate friendship for several years,
which included memorable and treasured times together
at Greenham Common Peace Camp, visiting 'Sacred
Sites', including sleeping on several occasions on
Silbury Hill, celebrating the Seasonal Festivals,
going on that magic walk with about 80 other
wild women to "liberate Stonehenge" on the
Beltane eclipse of the Full moon in 1985, and many
other unforgettable actions, rituals and events.
We had a lot of laughs, shared deep emotions and also
argued a lot. I was profoundly touched by the immense
beauty and depth of Monica's art. But personally I
have always longed for a human culture on Earth beyond
patriarchy or matriarchy, a culture where we all look
out for each other, where all beings and creatures are
valued because each and every single one of us has a
unique consciousness. A culture where every square
foot of our Earth is sacred, not just the Sacred
Personally I believe that a change of consciousness of
this nature is the most feasible
way to achieve damage limitation now all nearly 7
billion of us and countless other creatures are standing on the edge of the abyss!
The first step in that much needed change of consciousness is to
let go of all concepts involving "us and
To Monica that sounded as if I was dangerously
infected by "New Age ideas"!
Nevertheless she remained a loyal friend over the
years, kept me up to date with her many Goddess
activities and always send me her beautiful
Nature photos and postcards from pilgrimages and
Monica's son Toivo, his longstanding partner Annie and
their children came to live for for several years on
our land here in Southwest Wales and we all became
good friends too. This situation, together with the
fact that Monica's best friend Pamela Thomas, who is
also a valued friend of mine, lives nearby in Wales,
meant that I had the pleasure of seeing more of Monica
(since she had moved back from Wales to Bristol) than
I might otherwise have done with both of us having
busy lives. It also gave me the privilege of gaining a
much wider appreciation of different facets
of her being.
In Bristol she lived very simply. She had a very small
apartment rented from the housing association. There
were 2 rooms, the largest no bigger than 12ft x 8 ft
with a small kitchen and bathroom. Absolutely all
available wall space was taken up with bookshelves and
an amazing collection of postcards, photos and images
from all over the world, even in the kitchen, bathroom
and narrow corridor. A number of her paintings were
stored against the walls of that corridor as well,
leaving no more than 1½ft to pass. Monica
did not have a studio, but her kind friend Dale
a room available in her house so Monica could work on
on her large paintings.
honest remembrance of Monica would be complete without
mentioning that she was often quite difficult and
'argumentative', including with her nearest and dearest. Her friend
Pat only had to slightly allude to this trait, in her
tribute to Monica during the funeral ceremony, to
produce an involuntary wave of affectionate laughter amongst all of
It's easy to see how her strong personality and huge Viking-woman
aura and abrupt remarks could make her quite
intimidating to people who were unaware that she had a
big soft heart. She also had a surprising insecurity
behind that commanding presence. No matter how gruff
she was, when I looked in her eyes I could see the
small girl she once was, urgently hoping for
reassurance, acceptance and stability, something her
childhood was sadly lacking and which was maybe
re-enforced by her many activities on the fringe of
I also feel that Monica was so intensely passionate about her art, her
spirituality and her politics that it was often genuinely
difficult for her to appreciate the value of the
heartfelt opinions of other good people, including her
family and close friends.
Add to that the heartbreaking tragedy of the premature
death of two of her sons, which naturally became woven
into her spirituality, art, and politics and one can
begin to see why it was so hard for close
friends and family to express an opinion,
which would not fit easily into her worldview. More
often than not she might take it as a personal
affront. So like many of
her other friends I mostly gave up, as I did not like
to upset her and we talked instead of the many issues
we had in common. Luckily there were many.
her concept of the biosphere changing into a
said all the above I feel that I should give two
I bravely suggested a few times that her prolific
output of writing might be enormously aided by
replacing her trusty typewriter with a word processor.
Both to save herself work and retyping, as well as the
editors of the magazines she wrote for. She would
never give me a half a chance to explain why her
typescripts full of handwritten scribbled corrections
would be difficult to transfer to the computers that
are now inevitably used to produce the magazines she
Instead she would berate me, say that her
typewriter worked perfectly and start on a
heartfelt speech about how our biosphere is changing
into a technosphere.
Of course I too am only too well aware that the basis
of our culture's lifestyle is fundamentally completely
mad and unrealistic. We cannot continue to destroy and
deplete the ecological community, which sustains us
and of which we are an interactive part. We cannot continue too
greedily steal from our brothers and sisters, whilst
ignoring the tragedies we are causing. It does not
only cause much unnecessary grief, but it diminishes
us as the ones who commit this crime as well! The
great question is how to bring these changes about?
'The system' has such huge momentum, and it is hard
to steer it in a different direction! It is
frightening how much our urbanised society is totally
dependant on fossil fuels and technology and how hard
it is to even get us humans beings seriously motivated
to use our incredible creativity to explore the many
ways open to us to live sustainable and beautiful
lives before our plastic credit card house inevitably
never owned a car. Once when we were driving along
in my car on the way back from buying our groceries
we had to wait a long time to be able to cross a busy
dual carriage way. As we watched endless cars and
lorries buzzing by, Monica started to talk about cars
being patriarchal death machines ruining the Earth,
and so on. The way we produce, use and abuse cars
makes that statement only too true and it is all the more painful
because Monica's son, 15 year old Leifi was killed by
a car whilst crossing the road. All I could think of
to say therefore was: "How does that make you
feel about sitting here with me in a car and about me
owning a car and driving it?"
"That's different of course!", she answered
immediately and authoritatively. "You need a car
here in rural West Wales and anyway - you only drive
second-hand vans, which you also use to
transport friends and their gear when needed."
physics string theory?
It was a typical response from Monica: Loyal to
her friends and firmly believing that we may make use of these technological creations, as
long as it was necessary and in the cause of a
"good" purpose (please see my comment on
"good and evil" below) . This may not be a 'logical'
or 'rational' answer nor solve the huge problem caused
by our love for the comforts of private car use. I
mention this conversation here, because I believe' that it is
important to remind ourselves (especially for the
purpose of approaching her writing and art) that
Monica was one of these rare special human beings in
Western 'Culture' (see
was entirely and un-apologetically comfortable with
going beyond rationality and logic to access and
describe/depict different modes of human knowledge.
In this context it may also be of interest to mention that Annie (Monica's
daughter-in-love, mother of her grandchildren
and my co-builder of this website) has been visited
twice recently by Monica in her dreams (December
2005). Annie saw and heard Monica was in the
form of unusually life-like appearances in
comparison with her 'normal' dreams. Her partner Toivo
(Monica's son), who is no doubt used to reports of
such apparitions from his Mum, responded laconically
to the news: "I wondered when she would contact
I myself was wondering if she would ever send us a
message during Monica's funeral in August. My thoughts
wandered off whilst we were slowly chanting Naomi
Little Bear Moreno's "Old and strong, she goes on
and on. You can't kill the Spirit. It's like an
mountain", as Monica's cardboard coffin was
disappearing into the furnace room at the Crematorium.
I remembered that after hearing one of her stories
about her dead son Leifi appearing to her, I was
sitting alone, miserable and dejected, in my living
room on the birthday of my own son who died. I
desperately wished that I would be able to receive
signs and messages too. I longed to have confirmation
that a spark of his consciousness still exists
somewhere in this great Universe of ours. I spoke up
loud: "If it is possible for you to communicate,
please give me a sign right now!" No sooner had I
spoken these words or the B string of the guitar
hanging on the wall spontaneously broke with a noisy
twang!! And instantly the thought came into my mind
"B (of B string) stands for Birthday - he
has send me a sign!"
So as I remembered this, by miraculous coincidence a string on the harp standing on the
stage-type space of the Crematorium (to be played
later in finale to the ceremony) snapped with
another loud bang!
Was it a sign from Monica's or an event caused by the
energy of grief and longing to hear that she was
alright somehow? I can't be rationally sure of course,
but the event was very comforting to my heart
intelligence. Later on, as we all gathered in
Linda-Lee's house, I asked Anne-Marie, the harpist, if
it is usual for strings to break spontaneously like
that? And was it a B string or a D (for Death) string?
She is a professional harpist and answered that this
sort of incident never really happens, apart from
maybe the unlikely event of the instrument being
exposed to extreme temperatures. And it was another B
It also like to say here that it maybe helps in
understanding Monica's writings that she believed
fervently in the presence of good and evil energies or
forces, who have a life of their own and can be
self-perpetuating. This was the topic of another
longstanding and ongoing debate between us two,
because I believe that nothing is good or bad by
nature and the best definition I've been able to find
to describe 'evil' is that it is something that occurs
'in the wrong quantity' and/or 'at the wrong time'
and/or 'in the wrong place'. Think for instance of such
things as 'water', 'fire', 'sexual energy' and so
This is also an another example of a difference in
approach, where Monica was concerned that I was
infected with the "New Age bug"!
It occurs to me as I type this heading, that the
words 'memory', 'member' and 'remembering'
are likely to be derived of the Anglo-Scandinavian
root 'mem', meaning 'mam' or 'mother'......
Amongst the many memories that never fails to make
me smile are the many books you brought, to Annie,
Toivo and myself, for us to read. Virtually all of of
them had been edited by you by crossing out every
single patriarchal word in them and adding a
replacement written in the margin. Like this:
he - s/he, mankind -
humanity, man - people, animal
kingdom - animal realm, and countless
Once I managed to replace a 'sexism' you had not
thought off, was whilst addressing a postcard.
I added "U.Q " and you asked what it stood
for. "United Queendom' of course.
But that was very much the exception. I owe to you the
blessing of a much enhanced awareness of all the many
subtle ways in which our language habitually expresses
deeply engrained prejudice.
Dear Monica, you have enriched my life enormously with
your presence in it. I thank you from the bottom of my
heart for your friendship, our love and our arguments!
I very much hope that this Memorial website we have made, to share you with our sisters and brothers
out there on the world wide web, would have received
I am alas no artist, nor a professional
web builder, but I have worked on this project with
great love. It helped me to give form to my sorrow
about your death and to lay
all the troublesome aspects of our friendship to rest.
I will plant a tree for you on the Midwinter Solstice
on my hill here in Wales, next to the 3 trees (2 Yews
and a Gingko) we planted one day many years ago for
our dead children. We buried whatever tokens we had of
their wonderful physical company at the roots of these
trees. I choose some photos and parted with a lock of
hair I had kept of my own lovely boy.
We sang that day, standing there on the hill,
singing from the very roots of our being to our
beloved children. And it was one of the occasions when
I felt most at one with you.
We liked singing when we were together somewhere out
in the open. It brought us in harmony with each other
and allowed us to tune into the land and soil/soul.
Your favourites usually were:
● The "Ancestor
song" from "Sweet honey in the rock".
● The "Invocation to the Animal Spirits" to
connect with them and aid us in our work,
"Burning Times" to remember the Old People
(the text of which I have added to your article
on singing this song with other women in Bristol
"Voice of Hathor, I am all that is
and shall be".
kan seg-la för-u-tan vind?", a beautiful little Swedish
folksong, which sings about the sadness of having to
part from good friends.
It was a delightful surprise when we
discovered one day that we had both learned this song
in our childhood. You in Sweden. Me in the
I will add the Swedish and English text below, as well
as the tune manuscript (sorry, some of the sticks on the notes
are missing and I don't know how to correct that) as a
small token of my feelings and many treasured memories.
imperfect Earthly love to you dear girl, Anna xxx
kan seg-la för-u-tan vind?
Vem kan ro u-tan a-ror?
Vem kan skil-jas fran van-nen sin,
För-u-tan att fal-la ta-rar?
Jag kan seg-la
Jag kan ro u-tan a-ror
Men ej kan skil-jas fran van-nen sin,
För-u-tan att fal-la ta-rar?
can sail away without wind?
Who without oars can go rowing?
Who can separate from dear friends,
Without some tears a-flowing?
I can sail away without wind
I without oars can go rowing
But I can't separate from dear friends
Without my tears a-flowing.
I can never use this expression without
remembering (with a smile!) a famous Gandhi anecdote:
Gandhi was asked during
a visit to Britain what he thought of "Western
Culture". He answered with warm wit: "That seems like a