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      Medicine Wheel in Native American culture

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Native American Medicine Wheel

What is the significance of the medicine wheel?

Native American traditions were not based on a fixed set of beliefs or on an interpretation of sacred writings, but on the knowledge of the rhythm of life which they received through the observation of Nature. And what they observed is that there are no straight lines in Nature. All of Nature expresses itself in circular patterns. This can be seen in something as small and simple as a bird's nest as well as in things much greater such as the cycle of the seasons or the cycle of life (birth, death, rebirth). And therefore, to Native American peoples, the circle or wheel represents Wakan-Tanka ("the Great Everything" or Universe) and also one's own personal space or personal universe.

What is Medicine?

Native American "Medicine" is not the same as the modern medicine that we think of today. It is not a pill or a procedure or anything else that can be used to improve one's physical health. When Native Americans refer to "Medicine", they are referring to the vital power or force that is inherent in Nature itself, and to the personal power within oneself which can enable one to become more whole or complete.

Medicine = energy = power = knowledge

The Book of Ceremonies: a Native Way of Honoring and Living the Sacred

This book offers insight into the ways that Native American reverence and ritual can enrich all aspects of life. read more...

What is a Medicine Wheel? What does it mean? And what can it be used for? :

In Native American belief, the cardinal directions are linked to great Powers, or intelligent forces, whose energy (or Medicine) can be harnessed. The directions can be charted on a circular map, the Medicine Wheel, which can enable one to come into alignment with these spiritual powers and absorb something of them.

The Medicine Wheel is many things on many various levels and has many different meanings and uses. It is a circle which represents natural and personal powers in complete balance, and which shows that everything is interconnected and part of one cosmic whole. It is the circle of awareness of the individual self, and a circle of knowledge that gives one power over one's life. It is a shamanic map, or philosophical system, that can be used as a guide to help us find our way and ground us when we embark on inner journeys. We can use it to understand ourselves as well as life itself. It can be used for finding direction in life and for aligning physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realities. One can use it to attune themselves to Earth influences and forces and to the natural energies that affect their lives.

A Medicine Wheel can be used:

  • as a sacred space
  • as an aid to meditation
  • as an altar
  • as a centering device for one's consciousness
  • as a protector
  • as a framework in which to honor the forces of Nature and the levels of being.

Each direction on the Wheel constitutes a path of self-realization and self-initiation into the mysteries of life which can lead you to the very core of your being where you can make contact with your own High Self (your Spiritual Self or True Self). Each path can help you to acquire the knowledge to work changes that will put meaning and purpose into your life, bringing enlightenment and fulfillment.

Each of the four directions has many natural forces or powers that it is connected to, such as the four seasons, the four moon phases, the four life stages, the four kingdoms, the four planes of existence, just to name a few. The ones I will be discussing here are listed in the table below.

DIRECTION CENTER EAST WEST SOUTH NORTH
TOTEM BUTTERFLY EAGLE or HAWK BEAR COYOTE or MOUSE BISON or WOLF
COLOR GREEN YELLOW BLACK RED WHITE
ELEMENT ETHER FIRE EARTH WATER AIR

How to make a Medicine Wheel:

The most widely used version of the Medicine Wheel comes from the Lakota tradition. At its most basic, it consists of a large or special center stone to represent Wakan-Tanka, the Great Everything, and four smaller stones to represent the cardinal directions (N, S, E, W). Sometimes four even smaller stones representing the ordinal directions (NE, SE, SW, NW) are also used.

The Medicine Wheel can be of any size. Outdoor Medicine Wheels can be made large enough for a group of people to sit within it. It can be made much smaller so that only you can sit within it. Or it can be made in a small travel-size which you sit outside of and that can be taken anywhere and set up anywhere. This small, portable Medicine Wheel is the one I will be talking about here.

First, you need to decide which stones you wish to work with. Very large outdoor Medicine Wheels usually are made of big rocks of whatever kind that can be found in the area.

Making your personal medicine wheel

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Copyright 2010 www.crystal-cure.com. This article may not be reprinted or published without permission from Emily Gems.

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No claims are made. These alleged powers are gathered from writing, books, folklore and various sources.