Saturday, 23 August 2014

St. Nino is a Feminist

Cool dark interior offers
Icons, golden, watchful, green eyed and glinting steal
Flickering candle light, move
Watching eyes
into hidden guilty corners.
From the sea we had come. Had
Bathed in her glorious waters
Sung our songs to her,
Soaked the golden light from her and
Legs covered, shoulders, breasts,
Heads, we held water and bags as
Damp parts of our private
Memories  evaporated.
Unseen cradled breasts, swim suit crotches
Hidden under layered clothing steamed.
The gaoler,
His black beard,
Black dress, sandals padding against ancient Catholic stone floors
dark triumphant roaming eye
Approved by watching
Asked us to leave.
‘It is not allowed to enter this sacred space to or from bathing’ he said.
‘Do you think St Nino did this? Think carefully’
My quick tongued companion replied,
‘Do you think St. George drove a jeep?’
…and St. Nino smiled, bowed to the wisdom of women, and sang her song to the water.

My companion and I were walking back from the shore line to our apartment after a really wonderful  and relaxing day. We saw a Church that had been originally been built as a Catholic one and were curious to see what it was like in side. The rebuke by the priest is what happened within 2 minutes of us going in.  The priest spoke to my companion in Georgian and I could tell  she was furious. I was oblivious to the details until she  explained what had happened but felt surprisingly unsurprised. Knowing what I know about how the Georgian orthodox church oppress their women and use their own saints against them I was more curious to see what would happen next. I had actually gone in to see if I could find an icon of St. Nino. I had been walking around whilst this confrontation between the priest and my friend had been going on and had not spotted her, my favourite feminist saint. Probably, I thought she had been put into a dark corner somewhere. 
‘Do you want to leave?’ I asked my friend when she told me what had happened?
‘Absolutely not’ she replied.
I was overjoyed. At last, someone other than my self  was prepared to take on and confront, first hand,  the absurdities of the Georgian church. Her response about the jeep had been inspirational and had, in one foul swoop exposed the hypocrisies of the church and the men who run it. Typically, the priests answer had been, ‘Only God can Judge me’ when she had challenged him.
I felt perplexed by my own responses because, far from wanting to wade in and fight the good female fight something, apart from the language barrier, stopped me. My friend, determined to educate the priest about how wrong he was about St. Nino and what he was insinuating about us, went back to speak with him.
I watched their hushed and heated exchanges and  felt a tingling of realisation. My Georgian friend was a feminist. As was St. Nino. I smiled.

I was standing just inside the door and watched a gaggle of brown skinned girls, all legs and big teeth group in front of the outer gate under the shade of an oak tree. Giggling and bouncing against one another in their eagerness to be seen to do the right thing, they crossed themselves quickly and sped off heels kicking up black sand from the sea. I removed my head scarf, took a swig of water from my bottle and, completely satisfied, left the gloomy darkness and returned to the sunshine outside.


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