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Signs Out of Time

A video on the life and work of Marija Gimbutas
Reviewed by Leslene della Madre for Awakened Woman, an online 'zine

Several years ago, a Canadian filmmaker, Donna Read, completed a trilogy of films about women's spirituality -- Goddess Remembered, The Burning Times and Full Circle. These films are a must-see for anyone interested in herstorical perspectives. They are a combination of deep inspiration, painful reality about the women's holocaust during the witch-burning times and intelligent conversation about women's ways, herstory and spirituality. In my opinion, they should be in every history curriculum.

Donna Read collaborated with Starhawk in her most recent endeavor, Signs Out of Time, narrated by Olympia Dukakis. This video is a biographical glimpse of the Lithuanian-born, late, eminent archeologist, historian, scientist and linguist, Marija Gimbutas, whose work on Old European Neolithic cultures (6500-3500 BCE) will one day be seen as brilliant, when the current backlash against her washes away in the cleansing waters of time. Indeed, the current misaligning of her work can only be happening now because her work is threatening to the status quo of patriarchy -- that which insists on domination and power-over.

Marija Gimbutas, an expert on Bronze-age weaponry for many years, came to the conclusion that she no longer wanted to study implements of war. Ill with lymphoma, she felt her illness was related to the energy of the weapons she had been studying for so long. She changed the course of her work. She decided to find out, without preconceptions, what happened in Europe before the Bronze Age. She eventually named the area of her focused study -- southeastern Europe, Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy -- "Old Europe." She did not identify herself as a feminist when she set out on her exploration, yet she blazed a powerful feminist trail, literally unearthing the evidence of the Goddess of great and profound antiquity -- She who predates all world-religions and rests at the dawn of human emergence. From evidence of 3,000 sites and tens of thousands of sculptures and figurines, she pieced together the patterns of a primordial, self-generating female deity. The theme of unity of all life with nature was undeniable to her -- something we must surely remember lest we destroy ourselves at this juncture in our collective experience on this planet.

Sings Out of Time tells not only the story of her life; it also reveals Marija Gimbutas' theories of pre-Bronze Age cultures which she claims were characterized by peace, woman-honoring, Goddess-worshipping and egalitarianism -- civilizations that existed for thousands of years without war. For her claims about the Goddess and woman-centered cultures, she suffered ridicule by those who had previously held her in high esteem as long as she focused on weaponry research.

In her bold and courageous approach, using her intuition to read and see the legacy of the Goddess, Gimbutas invented her own field of study, archeomythology, to embrace her experience and vision. As her one-time colleague-turned opponent, Colin Renfrew, said in the video, "everything became the Goddess for Marija." Yes, exactly. Renfrew was saying this as a criticism, and followed it with a reference to her using a rather feminine way of looking at things. Yes, exactly. Not to his liking, however. It was a particularly poignant and rather humorous (though unintentional on Renfrew's part) moment in the video because it revealed the true essence of the patriarchal mind and its fear of women's ways of knowing.

The film chronicles her journey as a young woman and mother fleeing Soviet and Nazi invasions of her beloved Lithuania, eventually emigrating to the United States in 1949 with her husband and daughters. Marija candidly admits that her marriage was not a very good one. Though there is a very short piece with her daughters, I would have liked to have seen more of them and heard more from their perspective about their mother. It was not an easy life for them, and I think it would be valuable to know more about their feelings and experiences as children of a well-known figure such as their mother was. There are also interviews with scholars, feminists and colleagues who have all been profoundly influenced by her extraordinary work.

If you are interested in learning about the truth of human origins and culture, this video essentially sets the record straight, since what we have been taught as history is criminally negligent of the truth. Not only does it show us about the life and work of a remarkable woman, it also encourages us to see that what Marija Gimbutas uncovered in her work is exactly the medicine we need for the deeply woeful and sorrowful times in which we live. Knowing that we have the cellular memory of peaceful, woman-honoring cultures from our earliest ancestors in our bones gives us the wisdom to know what we must do to change the world.
Thank you, Marija.

Review by Frodo Okulam, Portland State University Film Department
We live in a time when the resurgence of the Goddess is apparent everywhere you turn. In art, history, spirituality, in the branching backwaters of popular culture, she emerges, powerful and transforming. None too soon, it seems to me, as the resilience of life on Earth is being tested as never before, and we stand in need of reconnection with her living being. But is the Goddess "real”? I don’t mean real as an archetype, or really experienced today, but real in her place in history, or rather prehistory, back at the dawn of time. Because if she really was there, she can be here again. This is the vital question the film answers so powerfully.

"We can dream of a culture of harmony and peace, in balance with Nature, but has there ever been one?” the narrator of Signs Out of Time asks. "Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas said yes.” This is the story of how she arrived at that conclusion. Through interviews, archival film and photographs, animation, visual and audio narrative, the story of Gimbutas and her research is told here for a new generation.

Excavating in Yugoslavia, Greece, and Italy from 1967-1980, Gimbutas discovered at least 500 sculptures dating from 6500 BCE to 3500 BCE. She personally "proved by spade,” as she puts it in the film, that "the primordial deity for our ancestors was female: a self-generating Goddess, Giver of Life, Wielder of Death, and Regeneratrix. She was the unity of all life in Nature. She is the metaphor of the living Earth.” In all of the Neolithic, Gimbutas says, the cultures were peaceful. There is no depiction of warfare or single combat anywhere in the archeological record of this age.

Needless to say, this theory was controversial. One of the hidden delights of this film is an interview with Gimbutas’ colleague and later critic, Colin Renfrew. It is so much fun to watch him dig himself a rhetorical hole and then fall in it! Fitting, perhaps, for an archaeologist! In contrast, the esteem of people like cosmologist Brian Swimme for Gimbutas comes across clearly. Swimme says he doubted at first: he could not imagine a time that was free from war. But then he examined what she said, and "it was a deeply religious experience.” Interviews with Carol Christ, Elinor Gadon, Charlene Spretnak, and more enrich the film.

The highlight, though, are the interviews with Gimbutas herself. She glows with intelligence, warmth, and enthusiasm, bringing her love for the living Goddess clearly to light. When she was a child in Lithuania, she says, "women and men were kissing Earth in the morning… You must respect Earth.” Gimbutas’ life story is powerful, from her beginnings studying folksongs in Lithuania to her escape with her "baby in one arm, dissertation in the other;” from her cool reception at Harvard in the 1950s where she was allowed to research, but was barred from many campus facilities, to her emergence as the preeminent authority on Old Europe in the United States during her years as professor at UCLA.

Gimbutas was embraced by the feminist movement and criticized roundly by her colleagues for her sweeping theories about the language of the Goddess she decoded in prehistoric signs and symbols. Her background in ethnography and her grounding in the culture of Lithuania allowed her to see things scholars with less breadth of experience did not see. Even in her high school years, as she collected over 5,000 folksongs, she says "I started to understand what is the ancient song. You sang while you did everything, and your song was the Earth.”

Marija Gimbutas brought that ancient song into our modern world, and transcribed it in her books for all of us to learn. This film does for Gimbutas’ books what Peter Jackson’s does for the Lord of the Rings. Gimbutas’ work shines in a new light through the work of Donna Read and Starhawk. Signs Out of Time will grab your heart. Its message will change the world.

The Byrne Report 1-25-06

Sonoma county, CA journalist Peter Byrne's column "Killer Regeneratrix" addresses feminism in the modern age and the need for a resurgence of activism in the femnist movement, while holding up the often overlooked work of Marija Gimbutas as a model for what did once exist and perhaps can be possible again. Included is a paragraph asessing Signs Out of Time.

Testimonials from people who've seen Signs Out Of Time

January 4, 2005

A big thank you to those of you who were able to attend and support last nights screening of Signs Out Of Time. I saw many familiar faces in the fully packed audience and later spoke to many old friends. It was an unforgettable evening of dialogue and opinion ranging from the
hierarchal scientific attitude, (archeologist and social anthropologist) to the creative feminist visionary . Many women spoke to the profound effect of Marija's work as creating meaning in their, and their childrens lives. One had tears in her eyes.

-Ann-Rosemary Conway, Dreamhill Studio, Victoria, BC

MARIJA August 25,2004

I sit and watch their faces: Halina from Poland who lived in Germany, Canada, Belgium, Paris, Chicago, Italy, Gary-Indiana; Danielle born in Quebec who lived near the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and was too frightened to go out after dark; Margaret who grew up in Verdun and has danced in Mexico and still hears the celtic songs from Ireland stirring her heart. They are watching Marija via DVD. Marija Gimbutas, the archeologist who dug in the dirt of Europe and discovered thousands of figures of women made out of clay and metal. Marija whose synthestic vision of the world, knowing deeply that there was and could be a time when women lived in peace with men, men who didn't make plowhares into swords, who lived cooperatively and shared equally, the partnership model Riane Eisler popularized after Marija's death.

We sit and watch the interviews Riane did with Marija. We can hear her voice and her laughter as she recalls the happy moments of discovery in the midst of the absurd, like Harvard University giving her an office but never hiring her on staff. Halina recalls her mother still hanging on to life at 94 right now in Chicago, as a young housewife humming tunes similar to those now coming from the TV, the tunes to which the people are still dancing at times of harvest, celebrating the abundance of the earth.

I sit and work on my patchwork squares as different experts heads fill the screen to admire or criticize Marija's life work. I wonder who will care about my life's work, who will even know. Will anyone ever dig like Marija. What will remain?

Margaret remembers her Grandmother polishing the brass knocker on the door of her house every morning, really a pretext to stand out on the stoop and talk to neighbours. Margaret starts washing the dishes, the white with blue and bits of shocking pink, from our dinner while Marija's story unfolds, the images of women's breasts, stomachs, hips, vulvas move across the TV screen in this film made by Donna Read and Starhawk.

I  fold the bright pink napkins from our meal, in between working on my square, feeling the different fabrics under my hands and smile at the automatic sensual response of my body. I look down in my lap and see the featherstitch my great grandmother taught me when I was 3 years old growing across the square I am creating. I look up at the TV screen and see the featherstitch move across the pots and the statues of the goddess. I think of all of those who sent in money to make this film possible and feel grateful.

Danielle talks about the painting she has been dreaming, bigger than anything she has created to date. She is getting closer to starting this project. The TV is filled with people dancing, singing, the earth, the sky, men, women, children laughing and singing together.

I look at their faces, the faces on the TV screen, Marija's face laughing, Halina's face still beautiful with her lines, Danielle's beauty shining through her freckles, Margaret's framed with her luxurious hair, all full of hope.

Thank you Marija. Thank you Donna. Thanks to the goddess in us all.

--Rosemary S.

Dear Donna and Star,

How wonderful! Your film is so compelling, such a creative version of Marija's ideas, so visually rich and exciting, so accessible. I was thrilled to see footage of Marija and hear in her own words what she found.

I liked the connection you make with the digs, the artifacts, and the language of the goddess. I know your video will popularize Marija's startling revolution about our earliest cultures.

I hope it's shown on PBS and worldwide. I'd like to help you and CIIS promote the film and CIIS event in the Bay Area. You need two months or more to do this well.I have a decade of experience in public relations and twenty years as a journalist. I've pitched to the Bay Area and national media and organized ten large special events.

I'd start with a plan that you will need to sign off on before I begin. I'd focus on the press, radio and TV, and try to get interviews. Although, all of my work concerns fundraising now, for your project, I'm interested in getting the message out!


Thanks-you all at Belili Productions for the fantastic film Signs Out Of Time. We're using it as a tool here in Sarasota, FL to introduce people to, the magnificent Marija!!

Heidi Neale and Nick Manolukas
Authors of
2004 An Olympic Odyssey

Starhawk, Donna and Nash --

Greetings from soggy Vermont, where the snow's melting rapidly and the world is covered with slush!

I finally got to see Signs Out of Time earlier this week (I don't have a TV at home) and it is just fabulous! Beside the astounding imagery (it's very different to see so much of it all in one hour than to see just a few book illustrations at a time), I loved how the various themes kept spiraling around--the biographical, historical/scholarly and metaphysical dimensions seemed to keep circling with ever greater depth and illumination. Quite amazing -- thanks so much for this!

Hope to see all of you again very soon.



This is what I believed before I watched Signs Out of Time - peaceful living is possible, will come again and will be woman-inspired. The force that is "greater-than-I" must, by nature, be open, forgiving, fertile, inclusive, compassionate, respectful of the earth and all creatures - female. Careful listening, openness in observation, presence in relationship and the willingness to trust one's ability to synthesize theory, fact, feeling, myth and knowing require trust.

This is what I know after watching Signs Out of Time - Marija Gimbutas was blessed and her work inspired. We are closer than I dared to dream.

Thank you.
Joyce Thomas

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