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The Callanish Dance: the cycle of the year celebrated in the sacred landscape of the Western Isles.
Jill Smith. 
Capall Bann 2000. Pb. £9.95.

Regular readers of Wood and Water will know Jill Smith as both writer and artist. They will also be aware of her interest in the stone circle at Callanish on the isle of Lewis in the Hebrides (see my review of another of her books, Mother of the Isles).

Following visits to Callanish in the early 80s, she moved to Lewis in 1986 and lived there for ten years. During that time she visited the circle in all seasons and in many different weathers, and it was a great influence on her life.

This book records her feelings about Callanish and the surrounding landscape, together with details of her life on Lewis. I find this mix of the spiritual and the physical in its everyday aspects particularly rewarding. I feel, as she does, that sacred sites are best visited as an integral part of one's daily life, and not on a rushed visit. As she says, "Sites need time — time to just be with them in stillness, with no expectation, not imposing anything of one's own on them, but sitting and listening and waiting to see if they have anything to tell." (p. 67.) She also refers to some people who were at Callanish at the lunar standstill who were "trying loudly to keep to some event schedule that was going awry" and comments that "You don't have to do anything, you don't have to add anything." (p. 110.)

I was interested, too, in the details of her earlier life. I had not realised that she had had an earlier career as a very different kind of artist, involved in creating ceremonial and ritual theatre for public performance.
The book contains ten of her drawings, mostly showing aspects of Callanish in different seasons, and with a fine colour cover.

Wood and Water 71, Summer 2000
© Daniel Cohen


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