A Medicine Wheel is a ceremonial tool used by many spiritual people all over the world to perform rituals that honor the four directions, the sacred hoop of life, the animals, the sun and moon, Mother Earth and Father Sky, and many more aspects of the natural world.
Some Native Americans believe that “Medicine” is anything that deepens your relationship with the Creator and the Great Spirit.
The wheel is a circle divided into four directions, the east, south, west and north. Also a symbol of astrology, each person is represented somewhere within that circle depending upon their birth moth and day. That placement is associated with a special moon, power animal, totem clan, healing plant, color and mineral.
At the wheel, we say a prayer for releasing, forgiveness, gratitude and abundance. When we speak out loud to the universe we are stating our intentions and this is very powerful. I’ve seen miraculous things happen, some of which most people won’t believe or even understand.
Before entering the wheel in the East we will offer some kind of herb or prayer. This is an offering to let the spirits know the we enter with pure hearts and leave any ego or negativity outside of the sacred wheel. Cornmeal, tobacco, sage, cedar, roses and many other natural gifts are offered before going into the wheel. I’ve also seen gold glitter. Offering something before we enter the wheel is a good practice. It is said that before we enter any sacred space or even just going out into nature for a vision quest, it is good practice to offer something at the “door.” Just as some tradition will do, going to see someone at their house, they will offer a gift. It’s also common practice to smudge yourself before going into ceremony.
We’ve worked with children from the age of three and the grandmothers and grandfathers, all seem to have something to pray about.
The prayer we hold is not tied to any religion, it includes all living things such as the Creator, the Great Spirit, the animals, the four directions of the universe, our ancestors, and other things that bring us closer to nature. It’s also like stating your intentions.
The sound of the drum and rattle is healing and have been used for thousands of years. Some receive healing from the sound and some receive a vision.
The medicine wheel dates back thousands of years originating from the Lakota Sioux. Today, Medicine Wheel ceremonies are becoming more popular and can be found all over the world. As the teachings spread to different cultures, it is a bit modified, therefore not every ceremony will be alike. Each will be a bit different and that’s okay.
In the Medicine Wheel we drum and sing songs for forgiveness and gratitude. We offer our blessings and prayers to Mother Earth and Father Sky, to Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon, to the four directions and the animals that represent them.
Most people experience a lightness and tingling sensation. Some don’t want to leave the wheel because they feel so connected a sense of true security that they are afraid to leave the wheel and loose it. This is a feeling and an experience that can be done at any time and in any place.
The medicine wheel is a symbol of symmetry and balance. During the process of constructing the wheel you will begin to recognize what areas of your life are not in balance, and where your attention is lacking and requires focus. Continuing working with the wheel after you constructed it. Sit with your wheel in silent meditation. Allow the wheel to assist you in gaining new and different perspectives.
The medicine wheel represents the many cycles of life. The circle is representative of life’s never ending cycle (birth, death, rebirth). Each stone or spoke placement in the wheel focuses on a different aspect of living.
A personal medicine wheel can be made using fetishes such as crystals, arrowheads, seashells, feathers, animal fur/bones, and so on. Take time to reflect on each aspect of your life (self, family, relationships, life purpose, community, finances, health, etc.) as you place objects within the circle.
Over the years I’ve been assisting people from all over the world to heal past wounds, physical, emotional and spiritual. I never know what to expect with each one and they are all different. No matter what you want to do from heal physical pain to an old emotional wound, drumming in the medicine wheel can help. This can help release negativity that you have been carrying around for a long time, sometimes we don’t even realize we are carrying it.
The term “medicine wheel” was first applied to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, the most southern and one of the largest in existence. That site consists of a central circle of piled rock surrounded by a circle of stone; “Rays” of stones travel out from the central core of rock and its surrounding circle. The structure looks like the wheel of a bicycle.
The Medicine Wheel can take many different forms. It can be an artwork such as artifact or painting, or it can be a physical construction on the land. Hundreds or even thousands of Medicine Wheels have been built in North America over the last several centuries.
Movement in the Medicine Wheel is typically in a clockwise, or “sun-wise” direction. This helps to align with the forces of Nature, such as gravity and the rising and setting of the Sun.
Meanings of the Four Directions
There are many different interpretations of the Medicine Wheel. Each of the Four Directions (East, South, West, and North) is typically represented by a distinctive color, such as black, red, yellow, and white, which for some stands for the human races. The Directions can also represent:
- Stages of life: birth, youth, adult, and elder.
- Seasons of the year: spring, summer, fall and winter
- Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
- Elements of nature: fire (or sun), air, water, and earth
- Animals: Eagle, Bear, Coyote, Wolf, Buffalo and many others
- Ceremonial plants: tobacco, sweet grass, sage, cedar
The East is held to represent the mind, air, the color yellow and ‘yellow skinned peoples’, learning the groups to which people belong and the infant.
The South holds the heart, fire, the color red and ‘red skinned peoples’, and the child.
The West holds the spirit, water, the color blue or black, and ‘black-skinned peoples’ and Adulthood.
The North represents the final life stage in the wheel, being an elder and passing on knowledge to the next generation so that the wheel may start again just like the circle it takes after. It is also associated with the color white, representing the white hair of the elders and the white skinned people.
In other practices, the Northern direction corresponds to Adulthood (the White Buffalo), the South represents Childhood (the Serpent), the West represents Adolescence (the Bear) and the Eastern direction represents Death and Re-birth (Eagle). In terms of social dynamics, community building and the use of Circles in Restorative Justice work, the four quadrants of the circle correspond to Introductions.
According to Native American astrology we were all born into a particular direction of the wheel and given an animal totem and animal clan.
The concept of the medicine wheel symbolically represents a nonlinear model of human development. Each compass direction on the wheel offers lessons and gifts that support the development of a balanced individual. The idea is to remain balanced at the center of the wheel while developing equally the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of one’s personality. The concept of the medicine wheel varies: different groups attribute different gifts to positions on the wheel. But the following offers a generalized overview of some lessons and gifts connected with the development process.
Lessons and gifts from the EAST, the place of first light, spring, and birth, include:
Warmth of the spirit
Purity, trust, and hope
Guidance and leadership
Capacity to remain in the present moment
Lessons and gifts from the SOUTH, the place of summer and youth, include:
Generosity, sensitivity, and loyalty
Testing of the physical body/self-control
Gifts of music and art
Capacity to express feelings openly in ways respectful to others
Lessons and gifts from the WEST, the place of autumn and adulthood, include:
Dreams, prayers, and meditation
Perseverance when challenged
Balance between passionate loyalty and spiritual insight
Use of personal objects, sacred of life’s meaning
Fasting, ceremony, self-knowledge, and vision
Lessons and gifts from the NORTH, the place of winter and elders, include:
Ability to complete tasks that began as a vision
Detachment from hate, jealousy, desire, anger, and fear
Ability to see the past, present, and future as interrelated
These are all different teaching from all corners of the earth, and as you can see they each slightly differ from one another. Therefore in creating and performing a Medicine Wheel Ceremony, there is no wrong way to do it. So dance, sing, shake the rattles and beat the drum as it all will help you on your personal medicine path.
So if you are coming to Sedona and want to experience this ceremony, I would highly recommend it whether it’s with us or anyone else, it is healing and will be an experience you will remember forever.
Would you like a Medicine Wheel built on your property? I would love to build a Medicine Wheel for you! Do you have a perfect location picked out on your property? Contact me to set up a time to build a wheel and hold an activating ceremony.