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"Goddess Remembered" – A Film Reflection
“The Goddess Remembers”, 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 80s – gotta love them. Look at the difference 20 years make in social customs. Now think what 2,000 years might mean, and 20,000 years, and even further. This documentary pays homage to the goddess-worshipping religions of the ancient past. With its dinner format, I expected Judy Chicago to make an appearance. It would have been great to see every woman – Starhawk, Merlin Stone, Jean Bolen and others – sitting in the place of a goddess. In 1979, Chicago had represented cutlery for 39 mythical and historic famous women throughout history. In 1989, “The Dinner Party” had been operational for a decade. Seems like a serious omission to me, though I enjoyed the goddess statue as the focal point on the table.
The dinner theme of “Goddess Remembered” seemed appropriate as these are women who have historically grown, gathered, prepared and shared food, especially in a social setting. (I don’t see why it wasn’t both men and women who domesticated the animals.) The viewer could see that these particular women are all highly intelligent “heavyweights” in the goddess stratosphere . And they haven’t been around for 20 years.
Jean Shinoda Bolen is the woman who said that when she gave birth, she felt bound horizontally in time to all the women who were there, and that “nothing prepared me for this. It hurt!” Bolen is an author, Jungian analyst and activist. She has written many books that feminists would be familiar with, 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 a means to reach a critical mass tipping point to bring the wisdom of women into the world. “.
Starhawk is also the author of numerous works that celebrate the goddess movement, including his latest, The Earth Path, which speaks to the root of our environmental destructiveness and teaches readers how to reconnect with the Earth. She describes herself as “an activist and trainer for peace, the environment and global justice, a permaculture designer and teacher, a pagan and a witch”. Interestingly, she and “Goddess Remembered” director Donna Read co-produced a documentary about the life of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, called “Signs Out of Time.”
Merlin Stone, sculptor and professor of art history, became interested in archeology while studying ancient art. In 1976, she wrote a book called When God Was a Woman which looks at the 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, each time she appeared on screen; it would have been a good way for viewers to get to know who these women are, but the credits didn’t come until the end of the movie, which I thought was weird.
The women and Olympia Dukakis, the film’s narrator, discussed many diverse and interesting points. They talked about how the serpent was a symbol of healing and prophecy. They spoke of Malta, the Greek island which is the oldest known repository of goddess culture. The people of Malta are now predominantly Catholic.
The women all seemed to share the view of Luisa Teish who said she had dismissed the notion of a ‘tall, bearded white man in the sky’. She laughed, “I hung out with Mary!” Later, she also said something meaningful for all women: “I am a grandmother of tomorrow.”
Crete was mentioned as a place where people had studied astronomy, charted the stars, and kept records. Women could be sea captains and charioteers there, if they so desired. Artistic creation was highly valued, and in this peaceful society, no evidence of gender inequality had been found. No personal mark has ever been found on any piece of art. Minoan Crete is where the worship of the goddess has been intact for the longest time.
Greece’s Golden Age marked the beginning of male power and the end of female power. The warrior cults then came to the fore, ransacking the Earth and exploiting its treasures. Greece once had magnificent stands of trees and vegetation. These were felled to produce warships, and when the trees fall; the sand takes over. The place once known as Eden is now a barren, desolate land.
The claim that old Europe was women-centered, cooperative, and non-violent seems like a bone of contention (self-proclaimed feminist Cynthia Eller, among many others, argues against it).
Here is a recent review of “Goddess Remembered” that I found on the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com):
Unsubstantiated claims abound…, May 10, 2007
Author: thorn101 from USA – (Charles Sheaffer)
This movie is filled with blatant nonsense and pseudo-scientific drivel. Various claims are made in the film that have no scientific or archaeological basis and are merely assumptions or the result of faulty logic (and wishful thinking).
Claims like (allegedly) Goddess worship Old Europe was an egalitarian and 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, assistant professor of anthropology at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, said there is also evidence of weapons, some of which are used as symbols of status, and of human sacrifice, hierarchy and social inequality. . Nor is there any evidence that women played the central role, either in the social structure or the religion of old Europe.
The Lengyel and Tiszapolgar cemeteries indicate that fighting, hunting, and trading were male activities, as men were buried with flint tools, weapons, animal bones, and copper tools. Pottery was probably made by women and used mainly by them in domestic activities. This is reflected in finds of pottery with female remains. Moreover, no domestic or wild animal is associated with the female burials.
Claims that satellite photographs have shown that the Neolithic Goddess Monoliths “all stand on lines of energy that criss-cross the earth” are pure pseudo-science. There are no “lines of energy” that cross the earth. Additionally, scholars now dispute the identification of Neolithic megaliths with any so-called “goddess” worship.
The film contains many other unsubstantiated claims.
All in all, it’s a great movie to watch on a girls sleepover while honoring your inner goddess with copious amounts of chocolate. The reality is that this mockumentary has no place in women’s studies, anthropology, or archeology, and I’m appalled to see it still taken seriously.
Interesting, huh? It’s reminiscent of an old Shakespearean quote, “Man protests too much.” I know neither he nor I were around 20,000 years ago, so I believe his argument is moot.
I would say that the main theme of “Goddess Remembered” is how women and nature become one. “As a species, we are not separate from nature,” Charlene Spretnak said, and I think she’s right. It really comes down to this equation:
Women = Nature (illustrated by caves, snakes, water, etc.)
Man versus nature (which pits man against woman)
Until man honors and respects nature and so woman, our downward spiral to oblivion through war and the destruction of the Earth, will take us all down this swift and vengeful river together. And that would indeed be at the end of his story and his story.
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