Marja-Leena Rathje
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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.

Marja-Leena | 31/08/2005 | 23 comments
themes: Books, Canada and BC, Rock Art & Archaeology


You might also be interested in this book, if you haven't already read it: Faces in the Forest: First Nations Art Created on Living Trees, by Michael J. Blackstock, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001. It's also based in your region.

That sounds interesting - I will look for it. Makes me think of your bear blogs a bit, Dave!

Is there a word for a stone fancier/fanatic? You ought to be taxonomically defined!

Hehe, Anna, you may be right! I'm just a bit nuts, a crazy artist. :-)

Stone fancier? That would be a lithophile. If you like stone I recommend to you Stonexus magazine brought to you by the Stone Foundation. Nice on-line collections of writing and pictures.

You wouldn't have to poke me hard to get a few good stone art web addresses out of me either. Perhaps Artseed gallery is a good start. Sorry not to offer exact addresses!


Oh, lithophile sounds good! Thanks, Bill, for the tip to Stonexus magazine - lots of interesting reading there! Perhaps I should get into stone masonry or sculpture! Did you notice that I have done a large series of prints called Nexus (connections)?

Nexus (connections): no not yet!
Favorite titles of books I have not yet read:
Stone Mad--great first hand account of life in the stone trade.

Heart of Stone--Poems by Jimmie Durham Native American activist and conceptualist who likes to use stone.

I am particularly wild about the comtemporary Japanese carvers who must number in the thousands.
Well I musn't stick my head too far in that bag reconsidering all the interesting stone work that is out there.

Why of course you should carve stone!

Wow, thanks for all the links to keep me busy! Bill, are you a stone carver?

A some time carver am I.

Hope you don't mind my tapping at you a bit, but I did enjoy your mention of the the petroglyph scene. I image googled petroglyph and saw some dandies. The medium does seem printlike, scratching through the colored "rind" of the stone to unstrained material below. I do like the boulder ones that sieze up the skin and draw the whole umph of the stone into the graphic gesture. Working the "rind" is a whole segment of igneous, particularly basalt, stonework. The ancient glyphs play much more lighty and with greater resonant response than do moderns and their clunky machine polishers. How's that for a sweeping statement by a posuer assuming to have powerful knowledge! It's plenty to say that I did enjoy the tour.

Do you know about Mani stones? Prayer stones I guess. They are carved on flat portable stone and are perhaps of interest to one who works on sheet stock such as paper.

Thanks again and I do beg pardon for tumbling ignorantly and provokatively though shared space of cultural landscape! As one who is not a great doer, I tend to be a bodacious sayer and dilettante.

I'm very happy to have you here, Bill, and glad to hear about your appreciation for petroglyphs. Mani stones are new to me - that's a gorgeous image!

If you are interested in earlier posts on the subject, check under the theme 'rock art & archaeology' in the left bar here.

Thanks Marja-leena, very generous of you! As you can tell I am enjoying myself and made me right at home I have.

Yes there are many gorgeous images of Mani stones. Probably something to do with the magic of the Himalaya. is a wonderful site for the armchair traveler and lithophile. It has really informed me of the incredible stonework of that vast orogeny. Layered with the human stone edifices the effect is vertiginous and seeming soul deep! Time, man, nature, nothingness! All described in stone. Ahh! Ab Fab fotos at

Bill, the Himalayan site is gorgeous and I found photos of some of those Mani stones. Some seem to be wall paintings. The carved smaller stones remind me of carvings on gravestones.

Ah, I'm glad you've studied my prints! I really liked these stone carvers' works - it's interesting the similarities that you note. I think my work seems sculptural because I frequently deep etch my copperplates to the point that there are fragmented edges and holes. It is challenging to ink these rough plates full of deep cavities but I've mastered that. The plates themselves are beautiful, like relief sculpture. Somewhat like the Mani, but not stylized.


Went into the Metamorphoses Gallery. Wow!


Thanks, Bill, glad you like them.

Sorry to be so aggressive to establish what are most likely dubious possibilities, but, I will mention a sculpture symposium, stone carving to be exact coming in a week to somewhere perhaps near you, Thetis island. These affairs can offer an experience to the casual passerby similar to dropping by an "open studio" event. Friendly to the public, I am trying to say.

It's not Finland, but it's close and it is gorgeous, out of doors and with quite a bit of stone. I recommend taking the tour. Sorry!

No problem, Bill - thanks for the links. I'm sure I will enjoy them when I have a moment later. I know Michael Binkley's name and work.

Say, have you thought about writing a blog about sculpture since you have such an obvious passion for it? I'd be your first commenter!

Yes I have thought about writing a blog but I don't think I am self directed enough! I have a blog that a made about ten posts on this summer. One reader wrote to me via my e-mail informing me that he couldn't leave a comment. I have no idea! I left it at that since I had clicked the button turning comments on, but it was more complicated than that apparently. I also don't necessarily have enlightened commentary for my own part.

Does the Finnish language work in our Roman alphabet in such a way that if I knew the Finnish for "Stone" and "Sculpture" and "Carve" I could google them?

Oh! And thanks to our intercourse I know now about scenic Thetis Island near Victoria, where the carving symposium will be held! Pleasure is so often in the surprising and trivial.

And once again thanks for your good printmaking work. Your Metamorphoses have been burning in my dark mind throughout the day and I do appreciate the way they liven the place up!


You might also notice I have a little bit of trouble writting in a way that is intellegible and is a sure sign that I didn't go back for that third proof reading!

Finnish is Roman alphabet and has some umlauts. Stone=kivi, sculpture=veistos, sculpt or carve=veistää. You may find some sites in English. Good luck in your search.

Are you going to Thetis Island for the symposium? More subject matter for a blog, you know! Maybe you just need a bit more time and practise and good blogging software.

I just had a look at the Norwegian sculpture project and it's fabulous. Do you mind if I write a post about it, with a mention of your name?

Thank YOU for your generous imput and lovely comments on my work, Bill. And not to worry about typos - I do it often in comments, though I'm more careful in the posts.

Joy of Joys! I have entertained you a might bit. The Nordland art project is really a big as all outdoors. Locaction location location! I will try to quiese now having once pleased! Thank you for the embracing and encouraging comments! The lathered orange-pinks of inked architecture intensify into heatedness! Scalded copper plates cast shafts of pulpy light through openings left by the acid fire. A duality of lavender and umber slake and cool touching,
above and below,
their casings of debris
which hold fast
the wash of tinting!

No Thetis Island for me.
Check out Stone Arts of Alaska some time. I am landlocked and it is fun to read of the Pacific Coast and float planes and islands. The Stone Arts of Alaska guy used to offer stone finding cruises. One could eat fresh caught crabs after spending the day unearthing crazy colored boulders from pristine unpeopled isles. At the end of your vaction you have a pile of valuable stone to carve.

I am a little buzzed just to be talking with a Vancouver citizen!

Thanks for the Finnish lesson.

Oh do give me a mention when you publish on the Artscape Norlund, won't you!


He's our man! In the '80s, we lived on the property above which the precious "salmon man" petroglyph resides..........he revealed himself to us, and in turn, Joy and another friend, showed a group of us how we could capture the image in form of a rubbing (charcoal on cotton) so, today, we have two of these rubbings hanging above our computer in our cohousing apartment in north vancouver...So amazing to come across your blog, as we are heading to Quadra this week, and will revisit the being we call "Fish-aman" Fi-shaman--in honour of that power that the people of the time used to connect with the source that would in turn provide their food....We need to know from where our salmon will come as the years unfold. Incidentally, the drawing in Joy's book has emphasized the male anatomy far more distinctly than we recall the original! we'll be looking for a copy of the book when we're there.