The Goddess Remembered Essay, Research Paper
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
This film speaks of many argumentive topics such as; Satellite photographs that have recently shown that the Neolithic monoliths of the Goddess (such as Stonehenge) that “all stand on energy lines, which criss-cross the earth.”, The belief that the [allegedly] Goddess-worshipping Old Europe was an egalitarian, woman-centered society. It was cooperative, non-hierarchal, and non-violent.The women in the film also stronly believe that 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. Perhaps the statement, “We know that women developed agriculture, and the domestication of animals.” was one of the most disturbing remarks made in the film. To me, the understanding that “only recently, in the past 6,000 years, has the woman’s perspective been ignored”, is something that nobody can say with any certainty.
Some of the more factual issues discussed in the film include “Venus Figures”. They were first called “Venus” figures by the Marquis de Vibraye in the 1860’s and the term has subsequently been used to represent all ancient depiction’s of (usually corpulent) women. These figurines are quite similar despite a wide geographical spread, footless and faceless with swollen breasts, buttocks and/or abdomens. They were made from a variety of materials including clay, ivory and stone. Traditionally they are seen as the representation of the earth mother, a hypothesis which cannot be proved or disproved. They may have been symbols of fertility but it is again impossible to state this categorically.
I found that one of the more interesting topics was that of “The Day of The Dead”. This is an ancient festivity that has been much transformed through the years, but which was intended in prehispanic Mexico to celebrate children and the dead. Hence, the best way to describe this Mexican holiday is to say that it is a time when Mexican families remember their dead, and the continuity of life. The original celebration can be traced to the festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli ritually presided by the goddess Mictecacihuatl (”Lady of the Dead”), and dedicated to children and the dead. The rituals during this month also featured a festivity dedicated to the major Aztec war deity, Huitzilopochtli (”Sinister Hummingbird”). In the Aztec calendar, this ritual fell roughly at the end of the Gregorian month of July and the beginning of August, but in the postconquest era it was moved by Spanish priests so that it coincided with the Christian holiday of All Hallows Eve (in Spanish: “D a de Todos Santos,”) in a vain effort to transform this from a “profane” to a Christian celebration. The result is that Mexicans now celebrate the day of the dead during the first two days of November, rather than at the beginning of summer, but remember the dead they still do, and the modern festivity is characterized by the traditional Mexican blend of ancient aboriginal and introduced Christian features.
Another interesting discussion was that of the Snake Goddess. It is uncertain whether this statue represents a priestess or the goddess herself. Her powerful, trance-like gaze may denote a priestess during a ritual. The original, dating about 1700 BCE, is made of faience, 11 5/8 inches and is now in the Archaeological Museum at Heraklion, Crete. She was found in a hiding place beneath the floor of the Palace of Knossos where she lay for 3400 years.Minoan culture has left us a rich variety of artifacts, yet very little is known of life in Minoan Crete except by inference from art and architecture. They possessed a well-developed written language, unfortunately their texts remain undeciphered. They built large palaces, but no fortifications, and militaristic subjects are lacking in their art. Instead of the depictions of warriors and armed deities common in the art of the Greeks who invaded and replaced them around 1400 BCE, we find images like the Snake Goddess statue. Here was a culture uninvolved in warfare; and, judging from the many frescos and statues which have survived, they were much involved in ritual, celebration, and the beauty of life.
This poetic documentary is a salute to 35 000 years of “pre-history,” to the values of ancestors only recently remembered, and to the goddess-worshipping religions of the ancient past. Goddess Remembered features discussions among such well-know scholars as Merlin Stone, Carol Christ, Luisah Teish, Starhawk, Charlene Spretnak, and Jean Bolen, who link the loss of goddess-centered societies with today’s environmental crisis. They propose a return to the belief in an interconnected life system, with respect for the earth and the female, as fundamental to our survival. As an average student, I can only sit and respect the words that they have to offer. This was the perfect example of a film signifying diversity of beliefs in our culture.