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"Goddess Remembered": A Case of 'False Memory Syndrome'

                                   Robert Sheaffer
                                   Box 10441
                                   San Jose, CA 95157 USA
                                   sheaffer en netcom.com
                                   December, 1993
  "The Goddess Remembered": A Case of "False Memory Syndrome".
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:
Claim:  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.
Claim:   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)
Claim:   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
        "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].
Claim:  "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.
Claim:  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.
Claim:  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 maker  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.
Claim:  "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.
        Robert Sheaffer - Scepticus Maximus - sheaffer en netcom.com
 Past Chairman, The Bay Area Skeptics - for whom I speak only when=
          "Envy is the cause of political division."
                  - Democritus,  460-370 BC.
                         (Fr. 295, ed. Diels, II, 195.)

--------------------------------------------------Falsa Memoria---------

Esto lo incluyo para todos los del PA ( y no estoy hablando de pol=EDtica
andaluza ).