In the early ’90s, there’s was a film series produced by the National Film Board of Canada about the relationship of women and spirituality from ancient times to the present. It’s a three-part hour-long film series that explores the history, perception, and sociology within the goddess movement. It discusses Wiccan practices, the European witch hunt in the 1800s and the loss of goddess-centric societies.
These films are easily found on the National Film Board of Canada website or Amazon Prime. Due to these films being documentaries, there will be no screenshots.
The narrator is the director Donna Read, a Canadian filmmaker from Montreal. She works as a documentarian and as a film editor. In 1993, Donna Read and her production team won the CableACE Award of International Documentary Special/Series for The Burning Times (1990), a SAGA Award for Special Contributions to Women’s History and Culture in 2016 and nominated for Outstanding Independent Documentary at Black Reel in 2018 for Yemanja Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil (2015).
Goddess Remembered (1989)
This documentary combines voice-over with new-age Celtic Middle Eastern-inspired music and interviews of scholars over B-roll scenery. The B-roll is mostly museum art and outdoor monuments like Stonehenge and Lascaux French caves.
The film goes back and forth from a group of women discussing women in religion like The Virgin Mary referred to as the Goddess Mary, environmental issues and the goddesses in other cultures. They interview everyday women about their opinions on modern life, the loss of goddess acknowledgement and their take on historical events. Only at the end of the film do we know their names and professions. It ranges from history, music-making, filmmaking, political activism and theology. Other interviews performed were of archeologists and cultural specialists discussing the outdoor monuments.
This documentary goes further into the influences of the female body in art and culture. They discuss the meaning of full-bodied women sculptures and spirals in the prehistoric period. The documentary explores the shift of governance from an egalitarian society to a war-dominated one.
The documentary focuses on Celtic, Saxon, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Aztec and Norman goddess cultures. There is some discussion about African culture but explored for two minutes. Even though they discuss western society goddess culture, it’s still limited to a full analysis with other cultures of North and South America, Caribbean culture and Asian culture.
Overall this documentary is not about one time period but jumps around decades before the 1800s. It’s not hard to follow the documentary, but the overall story could have been more intriguing and not too sombre in tone.
The Burning Times (1990)
This documentary is similar to Goddess Remembered in filming technique with the same voice-over artist with a sober mellow voice-over b roll scenery. This documentary has the same musician doing the intro music and different interviews with scholars and historians. The overlay of the voice-over with old paintings, outdoor scenery and B-rolls of a cameraman walking through a city is most of the documentary until the interviews with the scholars and historians happen. There are many filmed scenes of paintings from the Byzantine era of Christian imagery, black ink book illustrations and illuminated text imagery to help illustrate the past.
The film focuses on how the word “witch” has been used to suppress female healers, midwives, female gardeners, outcasts, the elderly, homeowners, rich women, and cultures and traditions. It discusses the hatred and control of women through witch-hunting to discrimination from men in power and the Catholic church.
The film is informative with experts of the eras, historians at universities and practicing Wiccans. Through the decades, the scholars analyze the portrayal of women versus the establishment of patriarchal society and the church. The documentary discusses the numerous accounts of public humiliation and torture used to “get confessions” from countryside women in the patriarchal society of France.
It also discusses how goddess worship drifted away from Christian society even though the documentary points out that The Virgin Mary is a Christian goddess as the Mother of God and Mother Jesus.
The overall tone of the female narrator with the soft music is mellow. The context of the documentary is dark about this semi-forgotten history 300 years ago. It points out that there is no official monument of the women killed during this era.
Full Circle (1993)
The final film of the trilogy is an environmental one with the same Celtic music and narrator. This film is about the future of the Earth from the female perspective with neo-Feminism and neo-Paganism.
The documentary explores the new growing religion of Wiccan and pagan culture by filmmaker filming a meet-up of people doing reclaiming ceremonies and interviewing past scholars from the other two documentaries. The film discusses pagan culture in more detail, the women deities (for example, sculptures of The Triple Goddess) in other cultures and the loss of Earth nurturing. The documentary grazes over the topic of new wave feminism that sounds similar to the goddess movement.
The word “churchology” is spoken often by the round table of women. It’s about how the church and colonialism destroyed pre-Christian religions for the growth of the church. The documentary briefly discusses the impact, from stereotyping European countryside pagan religions as devil worship to destroying indigenous cultures of the Americas.
The ending is of a woman dancing on top of a rock formation and shots of nature, like a rainbow, waterfall and a field in autumn. The film is a little repetitive without fully getting into the issues about the environment but discussing the same topics explored more in the other two documentaries.