Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Medicine Wheel design in Southern California

In my research, I came across with a stone arrangement in Southern California, which I supposed to be a sacred garden. I’ve consulted the photographer, painter and garden designer expert Elizabeth Murray, who explained to me that I was in front of a Native American medicine wheel.
In Native American spirituality, the Medicine Wheel represents harmony and spiritual connections and it is considered a major symbol of peaceful interaction among all living beings. Many stone Medicine Wheels are scattered across Northern United States. Some of them have a diameter longer than 12 feet.
A Medicine Wheel is a physical manifestation of Spiritual energy, an expression of an internal dialogue between Spirit, Self and Nature.
The term "medicine wheel" was first applied to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, the most Southern and the largest in existence. That site consists of a central circle of piled rock surrounded by a circle of stone.
The mystery that surrounds the Medicine Wheel has no written records and its purpose has not been exactly found by archaeologists. Of the many theories to their purpose, the two learning theories are: the wheels contain significant stellar and cosmological alignments, and/or, the performance of specific rituals and ancient ceremonies.
Medicine Wheels are still used today in the Native American spirituality, however most of the meaning behind them is not shared among Non-Native peoples. Though the one I found was created by an American white woman.
What separates Northern American natives from the Egyptian pyramids to Stonehenge arrangements is how non-intrusive characteristics their structures were.
The stones are not monolithic, just lots of small laid down stones on the ground in certain patterns. Medicine wheels appear all over Northern United States and Southern Canada, specifically South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Most of the wheels have been found in Alberta.
One of the prototypical medicine wheels is in Big Horn County, Wyoming. This 80 foot diameter wheel has 28 spokes, and is part of a vast set of old Native American sites that documents 7,000 years of their history in that area.
Most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern of having a center cairn of stones, and surrounding that would be an outer ring of stones, then there would be "spokes", or lines of rocks, coming out the cairn. Beyond that, there are many variations on this basic design, in the one we show here, four angels are symmetrically displayed and a log is added, supposedly as a bench to rest and meditate.
The four animals commonly represented in the medicine wheel are The Bear, The Buffalo, The Eagle, and The Mouse. However, there are no rules about which animals represent the directions of the Medicine Wheel.
Each wheel works with the number 7, which is the Dream of the Creator's number. The wheel has 4 cardinal directions: South, East, West and North. As we journey through life, we will encounter each of these stages in our physical, mental, and spiritual growth.

These are the associated powers of the 4 cardinal directions:

SOUTH - Fire - Passion
This is the direction that deals with the heart, emotions, innocence, trust and childhood. Growth in the South it is the time of Summer. From the bloom we transform into the fruit of the labors.

EAST - Air - Flight
This direction's power lies with the rising sun. It represents vision, inspiration, a new start and endings, where matter and spirit touch, and the springtime planting and sprouting of seeds. Beginings start in the East - from where the sun rises. East is the direction of the physical body and newness including children and new borns. It is the time of change for all is a new beginning. Corresponding season is Spring.

WEST ( Blue) Water - Emotions
This is the direction of the setting sun. Later adulthood, the time of Fall, the time of the setting sun - twilight. The daylight fades and brings a new awareness in this time of gradual change. It is related to Fall season.

NORTH (Green) Earth - Wisdom
As we get older our hair turns white, as we come to our time of winter. White (and purple) also symbolize spirituality. With experience and age we gain wisdom. North is purity and wisdom, a great place of healing.

There is a case taken to Court, “Wyoming Sawmills v. United States Forest Service”. A federal appeals court ruled in September 2004 that this logging company did not have grounds to challenge government regulations preserving for religious purposes the site in Bighorn National Forest that is sacred to Native Americans.
The judges panel ruled that the logging company failed to show how its First Amendment rights had been subverted by the Forest Service's management of Medicine Wheel, which is an eighty feet diameter sacred stone circle and a National historic landmark to several Native American tribes located on Medicine Mountain in the national forest in North central Wyoming.

For further reading:

Appeals court upholds Native American Medicine Wheel.

The pictures belong to my archives. Please contact me for references. Do not reproduce without permission.

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