Transcript of Disc II, Chapter IX: Commentary
© 2013 Max Dashu


La Tolita, Ecuador
What I’ve tried to do here is to open up a view of the cultural treasures that have been obscured and denied,

Willowby, western Illinois [Cahokian sculpture]
because they are female, Indigenous, non-Christian—not European.

Cherson, Crimea
Cultural gatekeepers screen out certain kinds of images and information, often unconsciously.

Chuvash, upper Volga, Eurasia [reconstruction from ancient woman's burial]
Their omission of women has a tremendous impact. Even when significant evidence of female shamans exists in archaeology,

Teotihuacan, Mexico
the habitual focus on males acts as a filter that screens them from view.

Tioua, Sahara
There is also a marked screening-out geographically, the omission of entire regions outside the centers of political power,

Hueco Tanks, western Texas
and exclusion of non-dominant peoples and cultures.

Jalisco, Mexico
The form of this video was dictated by what I was able to find.

Isis ceremony at Ariccia, Italy
Its chapters took shape according to recurring themes and patterns.

Kalyvia, Crete
This is not a final analysis but a starting point, for a mosaic that can be arranged in countless ways.

Chinese bronze
It’s a process of re-collecting, comparison, connecting.

Sans Arc Lakota [Ledger Art from early reservation era]
Many realities remain to be brushed in and fleshed out.

Awatowi, Room 788, New Mexico
We’re approaching a planetary web of history and heritages, of meaning and power.

Mixtec codex, southern Mexico
Much more remains to be known, and told, and shown.

Las Moriscas rock paintings, Spain
Most of the ancient legacies have no written record to explain it.

Afa, Algeria
Some is so ancient that the culture that created it no longer exists.

Mpongweni, South Africa
There are lots of question marks, but

Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California
as we’ve seen, some recurring commonalities. Sometimes I found images but no information;

Dama de Cao (with serpent mural from her temple complex)
in many other cases, written information but no images. That’s why I created pictures for this video, attempting to visualize these cultural worlds.

Kimberley mountains, northwestern Australia
The great majority of these images are not widely available or published in studies of world religion.

Pajaraca, Spain
Some cultures created images of drummers or dancers; others did not.

South African rock mural
Rock art is notoriously difficult to interpret with any degree of certainty.

Surutakh-Khaya, Siberia
Is it meant to depict a divinity, spirit, ancestor, or a medicine person?

Bir Hima, Asir, Arabia
Can we even be sure of its gender, or is it still being presumed as masculine

Val Camonica, Italy
according to cultural biases that see men as the human archetype and women a secondary and special case?

Makabusa, Zimbabwe
And there are gender-variant, same-sex-loving, and transgender identities to consider.

Acaaju, Abkhazia
The most difficult of these to locate in history are those born into the female sex, like the Acaaju of Abkhazia. [my digital composite visualizing an Acaaju, who to my knowledge no longer exist. Andrejs Johanssens' observed that “her change of sex was fictive and temporary, that is to say, limited to the execution of the prophecy…” See link for more.]

Pecos River, Texas
As scholars began paying attention to these issues, some noticed that a lot of rock art does not show sex at all—neither breasts nor penis.

Lena River petroglyphs, northeast Asia
This ambiguity may mean that sex was not an important consideration in those depictions.

A masculine default has prevailed, assuming that males are depicted unless vulva or breasts are clearly shown

Malappasdraai 2
—and even that is not enough in some cases. I’ve seen them breezily ignored.

Southeastern Utah canyon
Patriarchal assumptions about what “female” should look like

Utah vulva petroglyph
contradict the reality of these Utah petroglyphs, with husky, broad-bodied women.

Hittite relief at processional avenue of Karkemish [Syria/Turkey border]
Significant female images get much less attention than they should. [These priestesses bear rattles or possibly herbal bundles in ceremonies to the goddess Kubaba.]

Zombepata Cave, Sipololo, Zimbawe
I could only find one photo, and very little discussion, of the mural of a woman dancing with staff and ritual regalia at Zombepata cave, Zimbabwe. But ritual scenes with men are analyzed at length.

Prospect Farm, Zimbabwe
The assumption of male primacy has been pervasive. Mircea Eliade theorized shamanism as the invention of male hunters, that opened up to women only during its decadence.

Buryat Shaman in ectasy
But this flew in the face of his own evidence, which showed women all over the place, including as First Shamans

Gender Variant Healers
It also showed a sizable number of the male sex as female-gendered shamans, with women’s dress, speech, gestures, work, and sometimes even pendants symbolizing breasts. [Hupa nation, northwest California, at right; no identification given for the Plains nation person at left.]

Chukchi woman, northeast Siberia
Eliade was aware of the Chukchi proverb, "Woman is by nature a shaman," but he simply couldn’t bring himself to believe it. He wasn’t alone; the presumption of male primacy dies hard.

Roman priestess
So we have to cut through masculinizing barriers in many, even most, written sources. [The Roman state formally barred women from officiating in many temples, but they retained this right in some, and especially in the Women's Mysteries]

Witch with dragons
What those sources obscure, and what we need to understand, is how a demonization of the pagan witch, and deeply misogynist projections of evil... [this illuminated French manuscript depicts a story in which a man killing his wife and children is blamed on an evil witch - the woman with the cute dragons.]

Derneburg witch hunt broadside
... were forged into the reigning ideology of the European witch hunts. And how torture trials violated women through sexualized torture and forced pornographic confessions.

Female devil, Germany
How the folk goddesses of Europe were redefined as “devils” and counterposed to the doctrinal, exclusively masculine god.

Notre Dame de Paris
European Christian diabolism pictured its devils as bestialized Africans, Jews, Muslims: Othered peoples.

They defined Indigenous religions as “devil worship,” a dogma that Europeans leveraged to colonize the Americas, Africa, and the Pacific islands [engraving by Bernard Picart, 1727; note that the central "demon" is portrayed as intersex]

Vieja Hechicera
The demonizing of medicine people through European witch-hunt ideologies destroyed priceless reservoirs of culture. [this post-conquest Mexican codex describes the medicine woman as vieja hechicera, "old sorceress"]

These persecutions were grounded in ideologies of providential conquest and religious supercession.

Carlisle Indian Boarding School, 1888
which were used to justify genocide, and cultural genocide; to suppress language, ceremony, and the transmission of knowledge.

London 1850
Another layer is the scientistic racism that wants to quantify and stack cultures into higher and lower levels of civilization. [Or, to overlay functionalist and psychologizing reductions of spiritual traditions.]

Rolling Scroll
[Voiceover] These ancient ways are commonly disparaged by negative and defamatory terminology. Behind these words are traumatic histories of conquest, oppression, subordination, humiliation, desecration; the barring of women from religious leadership; the destruction of age-old sanctuaries; persecutions, burnings, enslavements, torture. This is how many cultures lost their ancient birthright. This is how women’s colonization was deepened, how the Americas were taken, Africa enslaved, and the world subjugated.

Text of rolling scroll
“women’s cult”  “primitive rites” “pagan superstition” “devil-worship” “unbelievers” “heathen”  “infidels” “kaffirs” “heretics”“wicked witch” “witch doctors” “demonic sorcery” “native jugglers” “uncivilized tribes”
as opposed to the prestige of  “The Scriptures” “Great Religions” “The Prophets” “The Saints” “The Classics” “The Canon” “Western Civilization”

Uinta region, Utah
This video is a collage of aspects of the cultural record that have been systematically marginalized and passed over.

Nazca, southern Peru
Aboriginal religions—or better said, spiritual philosophies— are still slighted in compendia of world religion, art, and knowledge.

Pawnee Ghost Dance robe
Foregrounding women is still not a priority, and that goes triple for Indigenous women.

Ghost Dance, South Dakota (painted buffalo robe)
But Indigenous voices interpreting their own histories and heritages are making themselves heard, and shedding light on all this.

Moche Huachumera from Huaca Bandera, north Peru
These are images and stories that have been withheld from us: ignored, misdirected, buried.

Early bronze age seal from eastern Iran
Some are covered by layer upon layer, old repressions lying beneath centuries of colonizations.

Zar regalia, Nubia/Egypt
There’s no room to cover all these conquests and resistances,

the spiritual ways demonized by outsiders

Noce Strega (walnut tree of the witches, Italy)
the outlawed sacraments of Nature that people had to keep hidden,

Witch burning, Zurich, 1533
or lost entirely, under repression over the course of centuries. But that’s a subject for other videos.

Olga, shaman and village chief of the Evenki
One more thing. I’ve used the word “shaman,” which comes from the Evenk and related Tungusic languages. Russian ethnographers and European anthropologists began to use the word beyond its original ethnic context,

Hungarian healer rubs a serpent stone
since analogous names had been either demonized or excised from most European languages during the centuries of religious persecution in Christian Europe.

Scrolling Text voiceover
The broader use of “shamanism” for spiritual practices involving transformed consciousness has been controversial, as using a culturally specific word. I agree that it is better to use each people's own names when discussing those traditions, and do this where possible. But those authentic names are not always available to us. Also, we need some way to talk about the trans-cultural patterns, to compare these spiritual ways that have been so important to human experience all over the world. Until someone comes up with better language to do this, I say shaman along with a broad range of names such as medicine woman, seeress, dreamer, oracle, healer, wisewoman, and priestess.

Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico [Spiral petroglyph]

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