The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Medicine Circle, Sacred Hoop or Sacred Circle, has been used by generations of almost all of the Native American tribes of North America for centuries.
In fact, the term “Medicine Wheel” is not Native American term. It was given to the circular structures by the first Europeans and is not the way the first peoples referred to their rock structures. In truth, the concept of a wheel was foreign to the first peoples before contact with Europeans. It is now a term that is commonly accepted.
The teachings of the Medicine Wheel are numerous, varied and far reaching, extending into more modern examples of health, wellness, spirituality, community, politics and more. These teachings will vary from elder to elder, community to community, and geographical region to another.
There is no right or wrong way to use the Medicine Wheel as a teaching tool. It has been adapted as a universal symbol and a personal learning tool for various cultures beyond North America.
We need to remind ourselves that the knowledge vested by our elders should be honoured and respected. The Medicine Wheel is an important tool and way of preserving and passing on culturally important knowledge. The knowledge vested in elders should be honoured and respected.
The Sacred Circle
The symbol of a circle, or wheel, is common in many cultures around the world. Most importantly to indigenous cultures, it acknowledges the connections of everything in life, such as the four seasons; the four stages of life; the four directions; the four elements; the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual; and the relationships of the seen and unseen worlds.
The circle is divided into four colour quadrants. The colours may vary, but the symbolism remains similar throughout indigenous peoples. Starting with the east, or the eastern doorway is the colour of yellow. Opposite is west, or the western doorway is the colour of black or indigo. To the south is the colour red, and to the north is the colour of white.
Each of these colours and quadrants relates to a specific teaching and I will attempt to get into each of those teachings in subsequent blog posts.
You may ask why a circle? Circles represent cycles. They represent the shape of our celestial bodies (sun, moon, earth, planets). They represent containers or vessels. They are the perfect tool for all the Medicine Wheel teachings.
If you look at the following list of 4’s, one can certainly see that there is a lot to contemplate, discuss, analyze, and ponder over.
It is said that at the centre of the Medicine Wheel sits the Creator/God or the “life force that runs through all things”. Another analogy is that we ourselves sit at the centre of the Medicine Wheel and the Creator/God sits on the outside of the circle watching over us. Regardless, there is definitely a unity of “onenesss”, peace, balance and beingness that exits in the centre when all 4 aspects come together.
The Symbolisms of Four
4 Directions – East, West, North South
4 Seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter
4 Periods of the Day – Dawn, Noon, Dusk, Midnight
4 Races of Humanity – Red, Black, White, Yellow
4 Stages of Life – Child, Adolescence, Adulthood, Elderly
4 Disciplines – Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual
4 Sacred Medicines – Tobacco, Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar
4 Celestial Aspects – Sun, Moon, Earth, Stars
4 Life Forms – Plant, Mineral, Animal, Human
4 Elements – Fire, Water, Earth, Air
4 Qualities – Hot, Dry, Moist, Cold
4 Elements of Life – Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus
4 Food Nutrients – Water/Liquid, Fibre, Protein, Mineral
4 Basic Requirements for Human Life – Food, Water, Shelter, Clothin
4 Basic Requirements for Other Life – Food, Water, Shelter, Safety4
4 Temperaments – Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, Melancholic
4 Emotions – Anger/Disgust, Love/Happiness, Fear, Surprise
4 Aspects of Womanhood – Maiden, Mother, Queen, Crone
4 Aspects of Manhood – Warrior, Provider, Leader, Guide/Mentor
4 Stages of Celebration – Preparation, Purification, Consecration, Thanksgiving
4 Stages of Agriculture – Planting, Cultivating, Harvesting, Thanksgiving
4 Aspects of Sustainability – Social, Economic, Ecological, Cultural
4 R’s – Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Repair
4 World Religions – Christian (30%), Muslim (20%), Hindu (10%), Unaffiliated (50%)