Filmmaker Donna Reed directed the 1989 documentary-format film The Goddess Remembered, with sponsorship from the National Film Board of Canada. It is currently used as a major educational resource in many universities' Womens Studies classes, appearing on numerous syllabi. Recently it was shown in evening prime time over KQED-TV, the major Public Broadcasting System station in the San Francisco Bay area, during Pledge Week as part of a program of "womens spirituality."
That the film is filled with blatant nonsense seems not to trouble in the slightest those who use it in their classes, the Public Broadcasting System, nor the taxpayers of Canada, who have ample reason to be upset seeing their tax money being misused to present such shamelessly misleading propaganda. The following represents my own meager effort to counterbalance the misrepresentation therein contained:
Satellite photographs have recently shown that the Neolithic monoliths of the Goddess (such as Stonehenge) "all stand on energy lines, which criss-cross the earth."Reply:
This claim is blatant pseudo-science. There are no such things as "energy lines" that allegedly cross the the earth.
Furthermore, scholars now dispute the identification of neolithic megaliths with any so-called "Goddess" worship. "By the 1950s, prehistorians had achieved agreement upon the question of their origins [European megaliths]. They were described as being the result of an idea brought up from more advanced Mediterranean civilizations, together with the cult of a Great Goddess or Earth Mother. Both parts of this concept were shattered at the end of the 1960s, the notion of the Goddess in circumstances which will be described later, and the belief in a Mediterranean origin by the discovery of faults in the Carbon 14 dating process" ["The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles" by Ronald Hutton (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), p. 19]. Thus the claim linking neolithic megaliths to "the Goddess" is at least twenty-five years out of date.
The [allegedly] Goddess-worshipping Old Europe was an egalitarian, woman-centered society. It was cooperative, non-hierarchal, and non-violent.Reply:
"David Anthony, an assistant professor of anthropology at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., whose area of research also coincides closely with Dr. [Marija] Gimbutas's [the main proponent of "Goddess" claims], said that contrary to her claims, the cultures of Old Europe built fortified sites that indicate the presence of warfare. 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, he said. These were "important and impressive societies," he said, but rather than Dr. Gimbutas' "Walt Disney version" they were "extremely foreign to anything we're familiar with"..." [from "Idyllic Theory of Goddess Creates Storm" by Peter Steinfels (New York Times, Feb. 13, 1990)].
"Excellent published reports on Lengyel and Tiszapolgar cemeteries allow inferences to be made about differences based on sex and age in Middle Neolithic society... the burials indicate that fighting, hunting, and trading were male activities, for men were buried with flint tools, weapons, animal bones, and copper tools. The control of exchange activities by males is suggested by the association of products made of nonlocal raw material. Males were buried with copper and obsidian. 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 certain ornaments such as beads are found with females. It should be noted that no domesticated or wild animals are associated with female burials.... Site locations, the presence of fortifications, and weapons suggest that there was more warfare occurring in the Middle Neolithic than during the Early Neolithic. The cause of increased warfare might have been increasing competition among various communities over land and other resources" [European Prehistory by Sarunas Milisauskas (Academic Press, 1978) p.172-3,177].
For 25,000 years, our ancestors worshipped the Goddess, and found power in her cooperative, as opposed to competitive, ways. The Goddess' eyes are still to be seen in many representations along the Mediterranean, such as on fishing boats on Malta.Reply:
"It was the world of late nineteenth and early twentieth- century scholarship which extended the idea into principle that prehistoric peoples had believed in such a universal deity [Goddess]. Once this decision had been taken, evidence was easily produced to substantiate it, by the simple device of treating any female representations from the Old and New Stone Ages as images of this being ... During the mid- twentieth century, scholars such as Professor [Glyn] Daniel and the equally celebrated O.G.S. Crawford extended the Goddess' range by accepting that any representation of a human being in the Stone Ages, if not firmly identified as male, could be accepted as her images. Even a face, or a pair of eyes, were interpreted in this way. Because spirals could be thought of as symbols of eyes, they also formed part of the Goddess' iconography, as did circles, cups, and pits. In the mind of a historian of art like Michael Dames, the process reached the point at which a hole in a stone signified her presence. Mr. Dames was doing no more than summing up a century of orthodox scholarship when he proclaimed that 'Great Goddess and Neolithic go together as naturally as mother and child'.
"As a matter of fact, when Dames published those words in 1976, they were about seven years out of date. In 1968 and 1969 two prehistorians directed criticisms at this whole edifice of accepted scholarly belief which brought it all down for ever. One was Peter Ucko, in his monograph Anthropomorphic Figurines of Predynastic Egypt and Neolithic Crete .... Professor Ucko reminded readers that a large minority of Neolithic figurines were male or asexual, that few if any statuettes had signs of majesty or supernatural power, and that few of them had accentuated sexual characteristics (the 'pubic triangles' on many of them could be loincloths). He warned against glib interpretations of the gestures portrayed upon figures; thus, early Egyptian figurines of women holding their breasts had been taken as 'obviously' significant of maternity or fertility, but the Pyramid Texts had revealed that in Egypt this was the female sign of grief.... all over the globe clay models very similar to those of the Neolithic are made as children's dolls. Just as in the modern West, most are intended for girls and are themselves female. Another widespread use of such figures is in sympathetic magic ... there was absolutely no need to interpret them everywhere as the same female or male deity.
"The second attack was made by Andrew Fleming, in an article in the periodical World Archaeology uncompromis- ingly entitled 'The Myth of the Mother Goddess.' He pointed out the simple fact that there was absolutely no proof that spirals, circles, and dots were symbols for eyes, that eyes, faces, and genderless figures were symbols of a female or that female figures were symbols of a goddess. This blew to pieces the accepted chain of goddess-related imagery from Anatolia round the coasts to Scandinavia. He was helped by the revolution in the carbon-dating process, which disproved the associated belief that megalithic architecture had traveled from the Levant with the cult of the Great Mother...
"There was no answer possible to Ucko and Fleming, and during the 1970s the scepticism which they embodied proceeded to erode more of the Mother Goddess's reputed range. Ruth Whitehouse ['Megaliths of the Central Mediterranean' in Renfrew, The Megalithic Monuments of Western Europe] considered the statue pillars of Italy, Sardinia, and Corsica, which had been treated as part of the deity's iconography, and found that only a few had any female characteristics; many, indeed, carried weapons. Even Malta, long considered one of the most obvious centres of Neolithic goddess worship, fell before David Trump ['Megalithic Architecture in Malta' in Renfrew, op. cit.]. He pointed out that although some of the Maltese statuettes were certainly female, many of the large cult statues were kilted, flat-chested and generally androgynous..." [The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles by Ronald Hutton (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), p. 37-42].
"We know that women developed agriculture, and the domestication of animals."Reply:
We "know" no such thing. There is absolutely no evidence on which one could possibly base such a sweeping claim. As Milisauskas notes above, Neolithic burial data clearly associates domesticated animals with males. Claims of this type are based on nothing more substantial than theories about supposed "stages of history" developed and made popular during the nineteenth century by Johann Jakob Bachofen, Friedrich Engels, and Lewis H. Morgan, which were very influential in the early twentieth century. The idea of a vanished "matriarchal" or "woman-centered" stage of history became part of Marxist theory, and was widely taught. However, modern anthropology absolutely rejects the idea that civilization or history progresses in "stages" because the immense data now available from societies all around the world fails to support it.
Only recently, in the past 6,000 years, has the woman's perspective been ignored.Reply:
The social realities of 6,000 years ago belong to prehistory, and nobody can say with any certainty whose viewpoint was or was not ignored. In any case, during historical times the woman's perspective has not been "ignored", but was woven along with mens' into tradition, religion, morals, etc. A society's myths and morals reflect both womens and mens experiences and interests. In any case, the idea of a 'vanished, female-centered period of history' is a myth.
the Gnostic Gospels show that Goddess worship was once a part of Christianity.Reply:
They show no such thing. It is true that some Gnostic texts attribute feminine as well as masculine traits to the Deity, but there was never any worship of a "creator Goddess" within Gnosticism. It is commonly-taught that Gnostic sects were in some way more sympathetic to women than the orthodox church. However, this is not supported by the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts, which are now available in English. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Simon Peter says, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life." Jesus replies, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven" [Nag Hammadi Library in English (Harper & Row, 1981) p. 130]. The Gnostic "Sophia [Wisdom] of Jesus Christ" says "These are all perfect and good. Through these was revealed the defect in the female" [p.221]. In the Gnostic Dialogue of the Savior, Jesus directs his disciples to "Pray in the place where there is no woman," and urges that "the works of womanhood" be destroyed [p.237-8]. In several Gnostic works, God the Father is praised and celebrated as "thrice-male" [p.364,375,446]. Anyone who has been persuaded that Gnosticism was pro-feminist has been duped by political propaganda masquerading as scholarship.
"The [ancient] Greeks announced that history would now begin, and proceeded to obliterate, or pervert, the 25,000 years that had gone before." The social system changed from woman-centered to patriarchal. "There were pockets of female resistance that gave rise to legends of Amazons."Reply:
No evidence is given for the claim that the Greeks set out to "obliterate" or "pervert" history, probably because none exists. The Greeks inherited few if any historical records of earlier societies, and hence would be in no position to alter or abolish future knowledge of what had preceeded them, which is known primarily through the excavation of remains. There is no evidence that womens' roles in society were greatly different before the Greeks than afterward. All known human societies are patriarchal, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, Occam's Razor prohibits us from concluding that unknown societies (such as during the Neolithic) were otherwise. As for alleged "pockets of female resistance," there is no historical evidence to substantiate such claims. The Greeks also had legends of Centaurs, but nobody claims that this proves Centaurs really existed.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list; undoubtedly many other errors and misrepresentations escaped my layman's knowledge. If this is what the Goddess promoters claim to "remember," then they are clearly suffering from a case of False Memory Syndrome, seeming to remember events that never actually occurred. Camille Paglia wrote that "Our best women students are being force-fed an appalling diet of cant, drivel, and malarkey" [Sex, Art, and American Culture (Vintage, 1992) p. 243]. The widespread use of "educational" materials like "The Goddess Remembered" is the best illustration of Paglia's point.
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