Spirit in the Stone

“Salmon Man” on beach at Quadra Island – drawing by Hilary Stewart

I am slowly savoring Spirit in the Stone by Joy Inglis, a book that was recommended to me by reader Irene from Manitoba and which I recently found in our local library. The back cover describes it best:

Mysterious and impressive, the art of the petroglyph has intrigued people around the world. Petroglyphs played an important part in the rituals and ceremonies of Shamanism – the religion of many early cultures. The rock carvings of the west coast of North America are related in style and content to the rock art of the Far East and to the cave paintings of Europe.

Spirit in the Stone offers a worldwide background for rock carvings in art and religion, with a practical focus on the petroglyphs of Quadra Island, British Columbia. The 11 petroglyph sites (more than 100 carved boulders – ed.) on the island are described, with detailed maps and directions for finding them. West-coast rock art was often connected to the life-cycle of the salmon, the basic resource of coastal peoples, and this book discusses the probable meanings and uses of the awe-inspiring petroglyphs.

The wonderfully evocative drawings by Hilary Stewart, and the Foreword by native Elder Ellen White, will help everyone understand these treasures, and to appreciate the silent magic of ancient rock art.

Joy Inglis, an anthropologist, has worked for 20 years with the Kwagiulth people of Quadra Island, studying the locations and traditional functions of west-coast petroglyphs.

Reading this well-researched and rich little book made me recall a question from Beth in a comment some time ago: “why do you like rock art?” I couldn’t seem to find a satisfactory answer then, though obviously I was attracted to these beautiful, mysterious and very ancient art works with a mysterious feeling of connection between artists over vast periods of time. But I could not quite articulate a deeper reason. Reading this book clarified for me how the Shamanic spirit instilled into the rock art is what makes them even more compelling for me.

Spirit in the Stone, by Joy Inglis, was published by Horsdal and Shubart, in 1998, with 111 pages. ISBN 0920663583. It seems to be out of print now as I’ve only found two used copies on the web, one hugely and perhaps incorrectly overpriced and one Down Under. I’ll keep looking, for I want a copy for myself, as much as I want to go to Quadra Island.

And, here’s a book review.

August 31, 2005 in Books, Canada and BC, Rock Art & Archaeology by Marja-Leena