Encircling the Land With Sacred Dance

I first met Suzy Straw at the Gatekeeper Conference held at Compton Lacey in 1997 where Suzy introduced her idea of dancing around the British Zodiac. She had based her plan on the pencil-drawn Gypsy Switch map, which also inspired Jill Smith on her pilgrimage, as well as the British Landscape Zodiac map created by Peter Dawkins. I was inspired by her ideas and immediately joined in with her remarkable undertaking by becoming the local contact for Virgo and subsequently joining Suzy and Rosy Brennan at some other zodiac signs.

Suzy had chosen the name ‘Encircling the Land with Sacred Dance’ as she was endeavouring to dance at sacred venues (often cathedrals), although we were never allowed to use Lincoln Cathedral. Instead, we found a village hall nearby which was very fitting as they had a beautifully embroidered wall hanging in this hall of people dancing in a circle!

Suzy’s idea was to energise the sacred Landscape Temple of Britain by circle dancing in each of the 12 zodiac landscapes following the sun, at the time of the full moon...circles within circles. Each visit was for around two days, when we circle danced on one day, and then pilgrimaged the next day, usually relying on a GKT Local Contact who knew the area. Suzy always visited a water source because she took water from each place and offered it to the next zodiac landscape, thus moving the water energy around the circle.

Here is an example of Suzy’s annual journey, this was her last year following the Sun, honouring the Moon - Encircling-the-land-2011.pdf (gatekeeper.org.uk) She put her heart and soul into this project...and finances. It was a privilege to work with her.

After Suzy died in 2011, Clare Higson took over the organisation of the ELSD and together we continued dancing around the zodiac until 2015, when we both had to stop due to personal reasons. The project then became The Wheel of Life led by Charlotte Yonge. We still use Peter’s zodiac map and move around the zodiac each month honouring the full moon in the sun sign, but dancing now only takes place in a couple of places, in Wells Cathedral (Pisces) and Lincolnshire (Virgo). Instead, there is a full moon meditation and, when circumstances allow, a pilgrimage.

Here in Lincolnshire, Jane Wise has led the dancing since, as there is a strong following for Suzy. We still hold her photo in the centre of the circle mandala.

Two years ago, we danced in the local woods, owned by Jane Wise, who also has a labyrinth. The story is here... Report from Wheel of Life Event – Virgo | Gatekeeper Trust

Rose Williams
Local Contact for Virgo and Leo

4 thoughts on “Encircling the Land With Sacred Dance”

  1. Rohan Voo says:

    Greetings Rose

    Suzy was a very dear friend to me, who i first met at rock n roll/swing dances back in the 80s.
    i miss her terribly sometimes.
    She was one of the most beautiful beings i have ever known.
    Today, most unexpectedly, I came across an email Suzy sent me telling me about this website, which of course led me to here.
    i was more than delighted to see that Suzy and her work had not been forgotten, and also to see a photograph of Suzy, which has brought me great comfort as i never had a photo of her.
    i just wanted to day thank you.
    Many blessings.
    Rohan

  2. Rose Williams says:

    Dear Rohan
    How lovely to hear the way you found this article. I am sure in some way it was Suzy guiding you. When Suzy last visited me in July 2011, she told me she had been taking part in a local “Strictly Cone Dancing” event near her home, I wonder if you were there too?. She certainly loved dancing. I have some great photos of her salsa dancing at one of my parties. I miss her a lot too, she was a very special person. I can still hear her beautiful laugh ❤️ Thank you so much for sharing your memories of her.

  3. Liz Leachman says:

    I’m so glad to read about Suzy Straw. I didn’t have very much contact with her but when I was living in London (I left in 2001) she came to White Eagle Lodge (just off High Street Kensington) and ran 2 or 3 sessions of sacred dance (and song), and I saw her once or twice more in Bath as I remember, and I have never forgotten her – they were the most wonderful experiences of sacred dance that I have ever had, before or since. I was unwell after that otherwise I would have followed her. I did hear that she’d died and was so sorry, but it’s wonderful to hear that her work and the quality of her work goes on! Thank you. I shall keep a look out for your events that I can get to in the future. I live in Gloucestershire by the way.

  4. Joanna Huckvale says:

    Dear Rose, I was a neighbour of Suzy’s and also used to go to circle dances at Holycombe. She was very patient and kind towards me because I used to get very tired sometimes. This meant I couldn’t always make it to the class or do every dance. She let me pay only for the sessions I attended. (I later found out I had Fibromyalgia so I feel she had been very sensitive to my unproven need.) – She once took the trouble to get the class dancing to a Branle I was taught at college years ago that you could do to the carol ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’. I had forgotten it but she figured the steps out from something I downloaded and we did it, complete with the ladies lift at the end. My husband enjoyed the classes too and we always had great enjoyment of it. The flower and greenery dressed centre of Holycombe’s lovely Angel Room was always a focus for the magic of the occasion as was the group hug at the end to blow out the candle there. – It was a great shock when Suzy died. – I wrote a song to commemorate her called ‘Lady of the Dance’. I have actually started the task of sorting through my poems and verses today and I wondered if she was commemorated on Wiki at all. I found you here – I would be happy to send my poem to you if you want to email me. I will be happy to hand it over completely to your ownership in case you or any of your dance circle wanted to just read, or amend and rework it in her honour. It needs a new tune too. Mine was a bit prosaic! – Lammas Blessings. Jo

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