Women and Spirituality: The Goddess Trilogy
This is a 166 minute set of three DVD’s written and directed by the illustrious Donna Read.
Before I get into the films, I want to introduce Read.
I had no idea how influential she was until I read up on her just now. She has been making films for decades, and is a very important part of both the women’s movement, and goddess veneration.
Her filmograhpy is listed here: Donna Read
I am positively blown away by this woman’s illustrious career and contribution to indigenous and neo Pagan topics as well as women’s issues. The respect I feel for our elders who opened dialogue about the feminine aspect of the divine decades ago during a time when our shop keepers still got harassed on the streets is so deep I can never fully express it.
I will review each film separately. While I have much respect for both the film maker and her team and these projects, I would not choose these to represent Paganism or goddess spirituality because they have some facts wrong, and rely very heavily on a theory I personally find faulty. Read on.
DVD 1: Goddess Remembered
This explores modern goddess worship, highlighted by a dynamic, diverse group of women gathering to celebrate moons, Sabbats, quarter days and cross quarter days. They discussed wanting to be in tune with the seasons, and be ecologically aware. Then the DVD explored caves from over 25,000 years ago, and goddess images found within. Stylized art and dance is shown, depicting what some believe ancient goddess worshipers did. They also discuss the damage mankind has done to the earth.
My criticism of this one is that I have always disliked a theory presented here, which was first dreamed up by Marija Gimbutas.
Gimbutas had at one time been a respected archaeologist, as well as a UCLA professor, but her Goddess Theory earned her a fall from popularity and made many stop respecting her so much. Her theory was that human beings in parts of Europe were once peaceful goddess worshipers, but the Indo Europeans swooped in and fixed all that. She was mortified by the amount of weaponry that was found in sites from Indo Europeans, and drew the conclusion they had to have been brutal, violent people, and it was due partially to them being patriarchal. On the other hand, she found over 500 images of the large females with exaggerated sexual organs, and what she viewed as no weapons for the people existing before Indo Europeans. These two things combined lead her to the theory stated above, and to be honest with you, although I am Wiccan, I am one of the people who finds her theory to be complete poppycock. There is no proof either population was more or less peaceful, and no proof whatsoever either was patriarchal or matriarchal.
Just because you have wooden stakes and stone arrowheads and spear points because metal smithing has not been discovered yet does not make you more peaceful than people with metal swords.
I, furthermore, consider it racist to attach an unprovable claim an entire culture of people were violent. Violence is a human problem, and no one race of people are more or less violent than the others.
Furthermore, there was absolutely no proof those images were religious items. Am I the only one who finds it ridiculous how nearly everything an archaeological dig turns up has “religious significance”? It makes me wonder if thousands of years from now, they will dig into the layer we leave behind and believe we worshiped plastic.
Watching this, knowing how much The Goddess Theory influenced it was very difficult for me. I kept saying “Bullshit” aloud.
However, I cannot discount the good The Goddess Theory did during the 60, 70’s, and 80’s when women were working very hard to gain more rights. The concept of female divinity was a breath of fresh air to women living in a culture where “a woman’s place was in the home” and women were forced to be moms and wives whether they wanted to or not.
If nothing else, this film is a testament of the theory’s contribution to the revolution society underwent, which helped women. Even to this day, I hear men say “Everything was fine until feminists came along and ruined everything.”
The empowerment many women felt seeing the ancient sculptures and cravings of what many believe to be goddesses acted almost as a standard many women rallied behind, and some took that as evidence those WERE images of powerful Mother Goddesses, and she had been rediscovered.
Furthermore, some of us can’t get skinny no matter how hard we try. The idea that a plus sized female deity was venerated has helped fuel body positivity in modern times, and the statement by many that “All bodies are beautiful.”
DVD 2: The Burning Times
This one has more facts in it although it has a major issue as well. The film starts again, speaking of goddess veneration, and this time speaks of how the goddesses of Europe were first replaced by Roman goddesses, and later as saints, and the mother goddess became Mary, Mother of Christ. It goes into the Inquisition’s role in the Witch Trials, and elaborates how financially profitable it was, and how women, specifically, were targeted. Unfortunately, the film assumes a Witch was also equated with holy people from Pagan Europe and places like Africa and South America. I am very surprised by this because the Malleus Maleficarum (MM) is spoken about by an expert. That book was a Witch Hunters manual, and covered how to pick out a so called Witch, how to torture and question her, and how to sentence the accused up to death. While it is pointed out by the time of this books publishing, women had become the main suspects, and all the reasons why women were accused, it fails to point out the specific things the manuals looked for. Not worship of other gods, or herbal healing, but malevolent things done in honor of the devil and to harm other people is what the book and others like it were specifically seeking. The numbers of those killed was also misrepresented. A speaker claims millions, up to nine million were killed, but meticulous records were kept during trials, and the experts who examined them put the number at no more than 100,000. To me, ONE death is too many, but nine million is significantly more than 100,000.
DVD 3: Full Circle
This is done over multiple continents, and many individuals and groups are interviewed. Trips to museums where goddess images are seen are shown as well. They spoke with Solitary practitioners, as well as Priestesses, healers, and groups to give a portrait of what they call the fastest growing religious movement in the 21st century. They show these goddess worshipers as women who practice religion not in temples, but in one another’s homes, around the table. It is stated that although this religion is quickly growing, it’s still not organized with a central leader or hierarchy. Some are very involved with conservation of the earth, and others are very involved in empowering women and changing society for the better. Rituals including a Samhain one which is improperly called Halloween, and a Summer Solstice gathering are filmed.
It is said that feminine spirituality is about connection not only with the earth and the goddess, but also our bodies. It is pointed out the patriarchy, most especially during the Inquisition, alienated women from one another and taught us not to trust each other. Women’s spirituality is also said to be about reclaiming our relationships to other women, which are very powerful, and to trust one another once more.
All in all, this is a good set of films, but they have some of the facts wrong. It is very important to get it right, most especially when representing members of minority religions. The modern myths we believe hold us back from really understanding what all has gone on, and continues to happen. Belief does not create, nor does it equal reality. These are OKAY films, but I really wish researchers would do better when representing us, and ancient Pagans.
So, basically, this is worth watching to see what other people do, and how they feel about goddess spirituality, but check the facts and don’t believe everything you hear while watching.
Happy Viewing, and Blessed Be!
About the Author:
Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.
A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.
Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!
Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.
All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, and is still studying for Third Degree, making it to Second Degree thus far.
She is a gifted tarot reader, spellworker, teacher, and was even a resident Witch at a Westerville place dubbed The Parlor for a time.
Aside from her magical practice, she is a crocheter, beader, painter, and a good cook. She has been a clown and children’s entertainer, a Nursing Home Activities Professional, a Cavern Tour Guide, a Retail Cashier, and a reader in local shops. Her college degree is a BA in English Writing. She tried her hand at both singing and playing bagpipes, and…well…let’s just say her gifts lie elsewhere! She loves gardening, reading, antiques, time with friends and soul kin, and lots and lots of glorious color bedecking her small home!
On the encouragement of a loved one several years back, she searched for a publication to write for, and is right at home at PaganPagesOrg.
She is currently residing in Central Ohio with her husband, and furbabies.
Saoirse can be contacted at [email protected].