By Mystic Trish
Smoke and World Culture in the O.C.
The Bowers Cultural Museum is a gem of
world culture right here in Orange County. Artifacts from Indigenous cultures
around the Pacific Rim abound in this beautiful state-of-the-art museum.
Charles and Ida Bowers had no children
to leave their home and collection to, so they decided to have a two-story
fireproof museum built after they both passed away. The original building is in
the Spanish Missionary style.
The Museum opened its gates in 1936,
since there was already quite a large collection of local memorabilia. The
Bowers has continued to grow with the community, expanding to an impressive
158,000 sq. ft. In addition to the main structure there is a second building
called the Kidseum, which is a wonderful experiential space for children to
learn and play.
The Bowers is committed to being part
of the culture of Southern California. The museum has a permanent collection
that starts right here with the First People or Native Americans’ collection
including over 24,000 items. Housed in the original wing of the museum, the
exhibit holds many artifacts and explains who our indigenous people were and
are. It also presents items and information about the Europeans who later
settled here on Spanish Rancheros and Missions, as well as Chinese immigrants.
The museum has been expanded several
times since it opened. It has become a leading World Cultural Museum with more
than 120,000 pieces of culture on display in multiple wings. Everything from
the Head Hunters of Polynesia to items from Neolithic China and California
Plein Air paintings are displayed.
Even before you set foot inside the
museum, you will see three sizeable artifacts in the courtyard. There is a
large stone sculpture of a seated Shaman smoking a large cigar from the
pre-Columbian period in South America. Smoking tobacco was part of the shamanic
tradition used to shift consciousness to facilitate the shaman’s ability to
communicate with the dead for healing, and gathering knowledge from the spirit
world. This sculpture is a wonderful way to begin a tour of the Bowers.
The Maze rock — a six-ton piece of
granite with petroglyphs carved into it — is another intriguing enigma in the
courtyard; no one has yet been able to decipher these images. The courtyard
also contains a two-and-a-half-ton grinding stone that was used by Native
Americans in a village on Hidden Ranch in Silverado Canyon to grind acorns and
other grains. These are just two of 24,000 Native American artifacts you will
find at the Bowers.
In the Pre-Columbian exhibit there are
more statues of shamans smoking pipes, which was part of their spiritual practice.
Many visitors are perplexed by this. Most westerners know tobacco as a nasty
substance that causes cancer. But the tobacco shamans used was a pure form of
organic highly-concentrated uncured tobacco. It is not the tobacco raised in
the U.S. for cigarettes.
According to Jeremy Narby PH.D., who
wrote “The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge,” the tobacco used
in shamanic healing ceremonies is very pure and strong and causes what western
peo-ple would term hallucinations. It is in this altered state that Shamans can
see the spirit world and do their work. In chapter nine of his book Dr. Narby
explains how the receptors in the human brain are uniquely formed to allow the
nicotine molecule to fit into them, like a lock and key. Perhaps this is why
cigarette smoking is so addictive.
There are several thousand objects of
pre-Columbian art at the Bowers, for example: the carriage and other personal
items belonging to the last Mexican Governor of California, Pico Perez, whose
heritage was Native American, Spanish, and African — a true all-American!
The Bowers also possess an extensive
Chinese exhibit. At the entrance to the gallery a beautiful carved and painted
Guanyin from 1600 A.D. greets visitors as they enter. The exhibit displays
items ranging from the Neolithic age to the present. There are
beautifully-carved jade pieces dating back 7, 000 years. One is called the
pig-dragon, a precursor to the dragon image that is so popular in Asian culture
and art. There are Tomb Demons and cast bronze bells all created for use in
spiritual practices, as well as mirrors that appeared to have been used in
early Feng-shui burial practices
The Bowers also exhibits artifacts from
the Pacific Islands. Some are extraordinarily tall sculptures that resembles totem
poles. There is also a Head Hunters’ display. Not to everyone’s taste but it is
interesting how creative these island people could be with the resources they
had on hand. Perhaps they would have benefitted from some tobacco.
So check out the amazing world-class
multi-cultural museum we have here in Southern California. Admission is free on
one Sunday a month.
Trisha Howe is a born intuitive who
started psychic training at age 15. She has over 30 years’ experience in
Intuitive Counseling, Crystal Healing, Tarot, Mediumship, and Clairvoyance.
Contact her at Mystictrish@cox.net