The Sacred Medicine Wheel Part 1
The Circle of Respect, Consciousness, Sustainability and Harmony
The circle represents the continuity of the cycle of life for all living beings - Human and non-human, that all things are connected and equal because in the circle there is no beginning and no end - a concept Wisdom Traditions have known for millennia.
In Native spirituality, the Medicine Wheel represents harmony and connections and is considered a major symbol of peaceful interaction among all living beings on Earth. The Medicine Wheel often represents
The four directions - East, South, West and North
The four winds and the four seasons
The four races with the colors Red, Yellow, White and Black
The four types of creatures that breathe
The four elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
Its All About Relationship
What it is that sets Native American People apart from others I would have to say, “We are all about Relationship”. Understand, I am speaking of Traditional Native People, not every Indian, as there are many among nations who have forgotten this, very most basic, tenant of sacred way of life in the natural world.
The basic understanding to the Relationship concept, which is what we, and Life according to us, is all about, is a Symbol called the Medicine Wheel. In the center of the picture above is an artistically stylized version, or Reflection, of the Medicine Wheel. This reflection of the Wheel has elements of the Horse Dance Vision, given to the Lakota Holy Man, Black-Elk. Briefly, the Horse Dance Vision was of the Future, when 4 Horses of each of the Color-symbols of the Lakota Medicine Wheel, (Yellow, Red, Black, and White) came out of the 4 Great Directions and Danced together beneath The Sacred Tree (of the Sun Dance). The Horse, as a symbolic reference, depicts New Ways, and the Colors are those of the Four Great Races of Humans. The whole Vision refers to a Great Coming-Together of all of the Races of Man for a common purpose. This belief is also of the Haudenosaunee. The Great Coming Together of 4 Sacred Color's of Man or Races. Color's of the Medicine Wheel. Also the Sacred Tree. The Tree Of Peace. Really think about what is written in words of all powerful Shamans and Medicine Men in this belief. Strong Medicine.
In the center of the Wheel above, is depicted the Medicine Hand, or the Healer’s Hand, and it represents both the Movement of Spirit in Life, and the Power of Great Mystery over the affairs of Man and the Earth. That picture was specifically chosen for this page because it is replete with many pieces of symbolism composed into a powerful message to those who can read it. Learning to Understand the basics of the Medicine Wheel as Tool, and it certainly is a Tool, is easy for anyone to do. The principals are simple, but can have great depth, giving insights into Relationship which can bring about Growth for both individuals and groups, no matter what those Relationships are.
We will begin with a Circle. Inside our Circle is All-Things, which exist in the entire Universe. Outside the borders of the circle, nothing exists at all. All-Things is a profound concept, and not just the more or less literal translation of a word. When we say All-Things we are not speaking of Matter alone, but Spirit, and many things one would not necessarily understand as a “thing”. Every word ever spoken, thought that has been thought, act that has been done, and Way that has been walked, are still rippling out from their Sources, and will continue forever, just as the borders of the circle continue around forever.
The Cross and the Colors
Our Circle is quadrasected into 4 parts by two lines which pass through its Center, one “North/South” and the other “East/West”. A Color is associated with each of the Great Ways. These colors will differ from People to People, but the one I will use as an example is the most commonly seen representation of the Lakota Wheel.
The North Point of the Wheel is White, and the color stands for Wisdom and Purity, as well as Winter, the White Man, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, and the Buffalo Nation. In the East Point is Yellow, and it represents the Sun, Enlightenment, the Mind, Learning, The Yellow Man, and the Gift of Sight. It is the Home of the Winged Nation. The South Point is Red, and stands for the Spirit, the Earth, The Matters of the Heart, The Red Man, The Pipe and its Ceremonies, the Blood of the Ancestors, Life, Trust, and Innocence. The West Point is Black, the black race, and represents Intorspection, or, “look-within”. This is the Place of Night, The Dream State, Vision, Intuition, Water, The Thunder-Beings, Hee-Eh'neuh. Whether they are Haudenosaunee, the Wakinyan of the Lakota, or the Tililoqui (Thunderors) of Cherokee People. For all nations this is also the Direction of the Darkening Land or the Dog Star where our Spirits travel after Death. We say that a person “has gone West” when they pass on.
The North/South Path of Wisdom and Spirit is what we have come to call “The Red Road”, and the East/West path is the War Path. On the Red Road, one seeks Spirit and the Spirituality of our Old Ways, and commits thereby to doing good for himself and others in this Life. It is the Path of Learning and Teaching in a Good Way. On the other hand, War, whether Within or Without, is the ultimate end result of Conflicts between The Mind and the Inner Self, represented By the East and the West. But, it must be realized the both Paths, and Both Qualities are an integral part of each of us, and, in Reality, the two Ways are necessary to each other, as it is by the recognition of the existance of both, we learn how, and what, to choose to be inbalance with all life.
The Sacred Medicine Wheel Part 2
In the first blog we discussed the representations found in the Circle and the Cross, the Colors and their significance, and a few of the representations of the Four Great Ways. In the Center of the Wheel is Great Mystery; Hawenneyu and Hahgwehiiyu to the Haudenosaunee, Wakan Tanka and Tunkashila to the Lakota, and Adanvdo to the Cherokee. This is the Ultimate Source of All-Things. Though Anthropologists, in their non-knowledge and confusion, have called us ‘animalistic’, (perhaps because we feel a greater Respect, and a deeper Relationship with our fellow Beings on the Earth), thinking that we Worship animals, we have forever and always been Monotheistic; believing in only One Deity.
The Medicine Wheel is more than just a piece of Symbolic Art. It is an Educational Tool and a Path-Map for our Walk through Life with our Fellow Humans and other Beings on the Earth. For thousands of years, our People, (collectively speaking), had no written languages, and, so, used Symbolism and mnemonics to Remember the Meanings. I cannot begin to tell you all of the Meaning of the Medicine Wheel, as, after many years of daily study of our Ways and Symbols, I am still learning them, myself. But, I can tell you how to get started with this Learning on your own.
The Basics of the Tool
Lets look at the Four Great Ways. The North, or White, Way is the Path of Wisdom. To the East is the Path of Enlightenment. To the South is The Path of Spirit, and To the West is the Path of Introspection. These are all, major Ways of Perceiving the World and Life, as well as pursuits in Life. It is our belief that no Human is born Whole or perfect in form and mind with complete perceptive ability, and we know also that each of the Four Great Ways represents a necessary value of perception required in Life. Though a Human is not born with a full faculty of perceptive ability, each Human is born with what we call beginning Gifts. These beginning Gifts lie somewhere on the rim of the Medicine Wheel. For instance, a Child might be more prone to Introspection (West) than he is Curious (East)–and another Child may have Wisdom (North) beyond his years. yet another Child may bear qualities of 2 or three of the Great Ways. But, none will bear all of them. Wherever on the Wheel that a person’s beginning Gifts lie, they will always remain his easiest Ways of “seeing”, while, directly opposite his beginning Gifts, will be his most difficult. Yet, it takes all of these Perceptive Qualities, and those that lie in between, for a person to become Whole.
Using the attributes of the Four Great Ways, one can figure out where he is on the wheel, where he needs to go, and what he needs to learn in order to Relate to Life in a Good Way. After that, it is only a matter of following the Path around the Wheel to develop one’s perceptive skills. Remember, the First Relationships one needs to make in Life, are those that lie within the Self. Learning to Change one’s perceptions can only lead to better and more solid Relationships, and Life is all about Relationships.
There is far, far, more and deeper meaning, as well as hundreds of different perspectives on the Medicine Wheel, that I don’t have the space or Time to go into, here. But, literely all of our Ceremony is based on the Medicine Wheel, and integral with it. I think I have given you enough to at least get you started on a Path to better understanding of the Symbolism, and enough information for you to be able to use it in your own Growth.
Lastly, Remember that the Wheel that is depicted above represents the Horse Dance, and the Prophesy of the Coming Together of the Four Great Races of Man. The Prophesy is worth Believing; I Believe in it, and the Wonderous Things that can come for All Men when the Prophesy is manifest. Such is the reason I am doing this–I will not be a party to standing in the Way of Understanding, nor in the Way of Great Mystery who Gave this Vision to the Ancestors.
Thank You for life.
Thank You for the messages You provide.
Help us to learn how to pray from our heart rather than our head, so that we will be able to hear them.
Thank You for the lessons You provide.
Help us to have open eyes, ears, and hearts and a quiet mind, so that we may recognize, understand and accept them.
Thank You for the gift of Free-Will.
Help us to choose to live in harmony and balance, so that we may avoid the trap of the ego-self and seek a path that leads to true spiritual wisdom.
Thank You for the opportunity to learn and apply Your Laws and Teachings, so that we may walk in truth and wisdom on Your Good Red Road. GW.