Is there a God?
It’s the proverbial question posed by our religious leaders, our teachers, our families, and our own searching psyches. But rarely do we pause to consider the origins of this quandary—one rooted in a male-dominated, westernized philosophical tradition. Did you ever wonder, for example, Is there a Goddess?
There is some controversy among archaeologists and historians of antiquity as to the extent to which ancient cultures worshipped goddesses, but many artifacts—particularly from Neolithic Europe—seem to suggest that there was such a time.
The most famous of these artifacts is the "Venus" or Goddess of Willendorf, a goddess figure found near Willendorf, Austria in 1908, and estimated to have been carved 22,000 to 30,000 years ago. The Goddess of Willendorf is a figurine with large breasts, and a large, though not pregnant, belly—prompting many to guess that women were worshipped in this ancient culture, and were perhaps even the leaders of a matriarchic Society.
Catal Hoyuk, a site in Turkey, also contains much evidence that points to the presence of a goddess-based or matriarchic culture. An altar and temple dating back to 7,000 B.C. was found filled with clay figurines of the Great Goddess, an idol, and wall paintings depicting goddess symbols. The cult of Magna Mater (Great Mother) supposedly originated in Catal Hoyuk 6,000 years ago.
Inspired by some of these findings, many theologians and feminists have attempted to reclaim the history of goddess worship. The leading pioneer of the so-called “Goddess Movement” is the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, who has spent thirty years pioneering the field of “archeomythology”—the intersection of archeology and mythology (folklore). More contemporary thinkers have taken Gimbutas’ work a step further, suggesting that perhaps the shift from goddess-based cultures to god-based cultures, or matriarchy to patriarchy, has also coincided with other significant shifts. Leonard Shlain, featured in the film, argues that pre-literate societies were mostly peaceful and mostly goddess-oriented, while the advent of the written word brought with it increasing violence, territoriality, and aggressive male leadership.
James DeMeo, another contemporary thinker, also links the transition from peaceful to violent cultures with the shift from matriarchy (which he calls matrism) to patriarchy (patrism), but adds another layer—environment influences. He argues that the world was swept from one paradigm to the next by shifting meteorological conditions (from wet to arid climates).
These theories (and so many others) are still very much up for debate, but there’s no question that our spiritual worship—just like our economic, political, and familial structures—are gendered. This film, in part, uses the lives and work of mother artists to question what it is that we value, and as such, what it is that we worship, in our contemporary society.
Further Resources: Starhawk: http://www.starhawk.org/
The Mama Gena School of the Womanly Arts: www.mamagenas.com
The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain (featured in the film)
Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence In the Deserts of the Old World by James DeMeo
The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas and Joseph Campbell
Beyond God the Father by Mary Daly
The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler (featured in the film)
Rebirth of the Goddess by Carol Christ Reinstating the Divine Woman in Judaism by Jenny Kien
Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions by David Kinsley
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