Find Your Direction in Life with the Medicine Wheel
Stone medicine wheels have been built and used for ceremonies for millennia and each one has unique characteristics and qualities. The medicine wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop, has been used by generations of various Native American tribes for health and healing. The medicine wheel is a circle divided by a cross to create four directions (north, south, east and west). In Native American traditions, the medicine wheel was a reflection of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and it gave people guidelines to follow for personal growth. Each person is represented somewhere within that circle and that placement is associated with a special moon, power animal, healing plant, color and mineral.
Historically, medicine wheels were constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground oriented to the four directions. Most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern of having a center made of stone and surrounding that is an outer ring of stones with lines of rocks or spokes radiating from the center to the cardinal directions. While alignment with the cardinal directions of north, south, east and west is common, some medicine wheels are also aligned with astronomical phenomena involving the sun, moon, some stars, and some planets in relation to the Earth’s horizon at that location.
Movement in the medicine wheel and in the Native American ceremonies is circular and typically in a clockwise or “sunwise” direction. This helps to align with the forces of Nature, such as gravity and the rising and setting of the sun. Each of the four directions is typically represented by a distinctive color such as black, red, yellow and white.
- East represents the beginning, the ending, and the renewal. It is typically associated with the upper world of light, enlightenment, and returning back to our origin.
- South is responsible for the growth and flowering of all living beings. South is most often associated with the flowing of emotions. Symbolizing our inner child and rediscovery of childlike wonder.
- West symbolizes a place of transitions, the shadow within us that requires introspection.
- North is a place of giving back or sharing your wisdom with others. A place of healing.
The directions can also represent:
- Stages of Life – birth, youth, adult, death
- Seasons – spring, summer, winter, fall
- Aspects of Life – spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
- Animals – eagle, bear, wolf, buffalo
- Ceremonial Plants – tobacco, sweet grass, sage, cedar
The medicine wheel can be found in many native cultures around the world. It is a universal symbol, and its meaning has been defined by different cultures throughout the ages based on their location, religious beliefs, and tribal practices. The most commonly held belief is that the medicine wheel represents the natural cycles of life and the basic way in which the natural world, including humans, moves and evolves. The power of birth, death, and rebirth are encompassed in the medicine wheel, as well as each individuals path toward personal growth and realization.
Sometimes the medicine wheel was literal circles of stones used for religious ceremonies. Other times the medicine wheel was sewn or painted on clothes and textiles. The medicine wheel was a tool that was commonly used in ceremonies, teachings, and therapies by the native people of North America. Within the wheel is a representation of the interconnectedness of human and nature as cycles and spirals of energy.
The medicine wheel can also be used as a tool for meditation and reflection. They are powerful tools that can be used during celestial alignments such as sunrise and sunset of the summer solstice, as well as the rising places of certain stars associated with the summer solstice. This can be valuable while setting intentions, personal growth and healing. Medicine wheels are terrific tools for personal exploration, growth and transformation. Every aspect of the wheel is interconnected and represents wholeness and serves as a framework to honor the forces of nature.
The medicine wheel 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 forces and to the natural energies that affect their lives. Each path of the medicine wheel can help you to acquire the knowledge to work on changes that will put meaning and purpose into your life, bringing enlightenment and fulfillment. A healing practitioner can aid an individual in physical, emotional and spiritual healing while working within the sacred space of a medicine wheel.
Jo Homar is founder and owner of Bountiful Blessings Healing & Guidance, Sedona Healing Retreats and The HIGHER Connection Institute for Intergalactic Studies. Her work encompasses bridging the gap between the spiritual and physical realms. Healing work from her Sedona office includes integration of sacred sites. More information on services offered in Connecticut and Sedona can be found on her websites: JoHomar.com, SedonaHealingRetreat.com and TheHigherConnectionInstitute.com.