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“Goddess Remembered” – A Film Reflection

Goddess Remembered,” Part of the Series, “Women in Spirituality” © 1989, National Film Board of Canada Produced by: Margaret Pettigrew Directed by: Donna Read Distributed by: Wellspring Media, Inc.

Wow, those hairstyles and puffy sleeves! The 80’s – gotta love ’em. Look at the difference 20 years makes in social customs. Now, think what 2,000 years can mean, and 20,000 years, and back even further. This documentary pays homage to the goddess-worshipping religions of the ancient past. With its dinner-party format, I was expecting Judy Chicago to make an appearance. It would have been great to see each woman – Starhawk, Merlin Stone, Jean Bolen and others – sitting at the place setting of a goddess. Back in 1979, Chicago had depicted place settings for 39 mythical and historical famous women throughout history. By 1989, “The Dinner Party” had been up and running for a decade. It seems like a serious omission to me, although I did appreciate the goddess statue as a focal point on the table.

The dinner party theme of “Goddess Remembered” seemed fitting as it’s been women who have historically grown, gathered, prepared and shared food, particularly in a social setting. (I don’t see why it could not have been both men and women who domesticated animals.) The viewer could see that these particular women are all highly intelligent “heavy-weights” in the goddess stratosphere. And they have not been lounging around for the last 20 years.

Jean Shinoda Bolen is the woman who said how when she was giving birth she felt linked in time horizontally to every woman who ever was, and that “nothing had prepared me for this. It hurt!” Bolen is an author, a Jungian analyst and an activist. She has written many books with which feminists would be familiar, including Crossing to Avalon: A Woman‘s Quest for the Sacred Feminine, Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes for Women and The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and the World. Her Millionth Circle, she explains, is a tool she uses as “an advocate for women‘s circles with a sacred center as the means to reach a critical mass-tipping point to bring women‘s wisdom into the world.”

Starhawk is also an author of many works that celebrate the Goddess movement including her latest, The Earth Path, which speaks about the root of our environmental destructiveness, and tells readers how to reconnect with the Earth. She describes herself as “a peace, environmental and global justice activist and trainer, a permaculture designer and teacher, a Pagan and Witch.” Interestingly enough, she and Donna Read, the director of “Goddess Remembered,” have co-produced a documentary on the life of archaeologist, Marija Gimbutas, called “Signs Out of Time.”

Merlin Stone, a sculptor and art history professor, grew interested in archaeology while studying ancient art. In 1976 she wrote a book called When God Was A Woman which delves into matriarchal and matrilineal societal structures that were suppressed by Judaism and Christianity. Her other book, Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood, (1990) is a collection of stories, myths and prayers about the goddess. Oh to be a fly on the wall at a gathering of such powerful women. I would have liked to see the name and title of each woman, every time she appeared on the screen; this would have been a good way for viewers to familiarize themselves with who these women are, but credits were not forthcoming until the end of the film, which struck me as weird.

The women and Olympia Dukakis, the film’s narrator, discussed many diverse and interesting points. They spoke of how the serpent was a symbol of healing and prophecy. They spoke of Malta, the Greek island that is the oldest known repository of the goddess culture. The people of Malta are now predominantly Catholic.

The women all seemed to share the viewpoint of Luisa Teish who said she had rejected the notion of the “Great Bearded White Man in the Sky.” She laughed, “I hung with Mary!” Later on she also said something meaningful for all women: “I am an ancestress of tomorrow.”

Crete was mentioned as a place where the people had studied astronomy, mapping the stars and keeping records. Women there could be sea captains and chariot drivers, if they so desired. The creation of art was highly esteemed, and in this peaceful society, no evidence had been found of male/female inequality. No personal mark was ever found on a piece of art. Minoan Crete is the place where the worship of the goddess was intact for the longest period of time.

The Golden Age of Greece marked the beginning of men’s power and the end of women‘s. The warrior cults came into the forefront then and thereafter, rampaging the Earth and exploiting her treasures. Greece once had gorgeous stands of trees and vegetation. These were chopped down to produce warships, and when the trees go down; the sand takes over. The place once known as Eden is now a dry and desolate land.

The claim that Old Europe was woman-centered, cooperative and non-violent seems to be a bone of contention (the self-proclaimed feminist Cynthia Eller, among many others, makes a case against it).

Following is a recent critique of “Goddess Remembered” that I found on the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com):

Unsubstantiated claims abound…, 10 May 2007

Author: thorn101 from United States – (Charles Sheaffer) This film is filled with blatant nonsense and pseudo-scientific drivel. Various claims are made in the film which have no scientific or archaeological basis, and are merely assumptions or the result of faulty logic (and wishful thinking).

Claims like (allegedly) Goddess-worshiping Old Europe was an egalitarian, woman-centered society. It was cooperative, non-hierarchical, and non-violent. This is not true, many fortified prehistoric settlements have been found in Europe indicating the presence of warfare.

David Anthony, an assistant professor of anthropology at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., said that there is also evidence of weapons, including some used as symbols of status, and of human sacrifice, hierarchy, and social inequality. There is also no evidence that women played the central role, in either the social structure or the religion of Old Europe.

Lengyel and Tiszapolgar cemeteries indicate that fighting, hunting, and trading were male activities, because men were buried with flint tools, weapons, animal bones, and copper tools. Pottery was probably made by females and used mainly by them in domestic activities. This is reflected by finds of pottery with female remains. Also no domesticated or wild animals are associated with female burials.

Claims that satellite photographs have shown that the Neolithic monoliths of the Goddess “all stand on energy lines, which criss-cross the earth” is pure pseudo-science. There are no such things as “energy lines” that cross the earth. Also scholars are now disputing the identification of neolithic megaliths with any so-called “Goddess” worship.

The film contains many more such unsubstantiated claims.

Overall this is a nice flick to watch on an all girls night sleepover party whilst honoring your inner goddess with vast amounts of chocolate. The reality is that this mockumentary has no place in women studies, anthropology or archaeology, and I am appalled to still see it being taken so seriously.

Interesting, eh? It brings to mind an old Shakespearian quote, “The man protests too much.” I know that neither he nor I were around 20,000 years or so ago, so I believe his argument is moot.

I would say that the main theme of “Goddess Remembered” is how women and nature are one. “As a species, we don’t stand apart from nature,” is something that Charlene Spretnak said, and I believe she is right. It really comes down to this equation:

Women = Nature (illustrated by caves, snakes, water, etc.) Man vs. Nature (which pits Man against Woman)

Until Man honors and respects Nature and thus, Woman, our downward spiral toward oblivion via war and the destruction of the Earth, will carry us all down that swift and vengeful river together. And that would indeed by the end of His- and Her-story.

Patty Mooney has been writing since the age of 16. Her favorite topics include women‘s issues, homelessness, homeless veterans, the arts, cinema, biographies, nature and video production. Her work has appeared in many publications around the world, including the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Reader, Create Magazine, Post Magazine, Women‘s Sports & Fitness, Yoga Journal and others. You can read her blog, “A Diary Left Open” at http://www.sandiegovideoproduction.blogspot.com Her business site is http://www.crystalpyramid.com

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An absorbing view of the culture, religious beliefs, symbolism and mythology of the prehistoric, pre-patriarchal cultures of Old Europe, who revered and celebrated the Great Goddess of Life, Death, and Regeneration in all her many forms, of plants, of stone, of animals and humans, by the scholar who has made the exploration of these cultures her life work…. The program is produced by William Free, producer of the acclaimed television series with Joseph Campbell, “Transformations of Myth through Time.” On Gimbutas: Marija Gimbutas was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of “Old Europe“, a term she introduced. Her works published between 1946 and 1971 introduced new views by combining traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological interpretation.

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