The Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel is representative of American Indian
Spirituality. The Medicine Wheel symbolizes the individual journey
that each must take to find their own path. Within the Medicine
Wheel are The Four Cardinal Directions and the Four Sacred Colors.
The Circle represents the Circle of Life and the Center of the
Circle, the Eternal Fire. The Eagle, flying toward the East, is a
symbol of strength, endurance and vision. East signifies the
renewal of life and the rebirth of Sioux unity. RED was symbolic of
success. It was the color of the War Club used to strike an enemy
in battle as well as the other club used by the warrior to shield
himself. Red Beads were used to conjure the Red Spirit to insure
long life, recovery from sickness, success in love and ball play or
any other undertaking where the benefit of the magic spell was
wrought. The red spirits lived in the West. BLACK was always
typical of death. The soul of the enemy was continually beaten
about by black war clubs and enveloped in a black fog. In conjuring
to destroy an enemy, the priest used black beads and invoked the
black spirits-which always lived in the West,-bidding them to tear
out the man's soul and carry it to the South, and put it into the
Black Coffin deep in the Black Mud, with a Black Serpent coiled
above it. BLUE symbolized failure, disappointment, or unsatisfied
desire. To say "they shall never become blue" expressed the belief
that they would never fail in anything they undertook. In love
charms, the lover figuratively covered himself with red and prayed
that his rival would become entirely blue and walk in a blue path.
"He is entirely blue, " approximates meaning of the common English
phrase, "He feels blue. "The blue spirits lived Within. WHITE
denoted peace and happiness. In ceremonial addresses, as the Green
Corn Dance and ball play, the people symbolically partook of white
food and, after the dance or game, returned along the white trail
to their white houses. In love charms, the man, to induce the woman
to cast her lost with his, boasted, "I am a white man," implying
that all was happiness where he was. White beads had the same
meaning in bead conjuring, and white was the color of the stone
pipe anciently used in ratifying peace treaties. The White spirits
lived in the North. East = Yellow = failure North = White =
peace;happiness West = Red = success; triumph South = Black = death
There are three additional sacred directions: Up Above = Blue Down
Below= Brown Here in the Center = Green Two numbers are sacred to
the Native American. The number Four is one number, it represented
the four primary directions. At the center of their paths lays the
sacred fire. Seven is the other number and it is the most sacred.
Seven is represented in the seven directions: north, south, east,
west, above, bellow, and "here in the center" the place of the
sacred fire. Seven also represented the seven ancient ceremonies
that formed the yearly Native American religious cycle. The
medicine wheel is symbolic for the wheel of life which is forever
evolving and bringing new lessons and truths to the walking of the
path. The Earthwalk is based on the understanding that each one of
us must stand on every spoke, of the great wheel of life many
times, and that every direction is to be honored. Until you have
walked in others' moccasins, or stood on their spokes of the wheel,
you will never truly know their hearts. The medicine wheel teaches
us that all lessons are equal, as are all talents and abilities.
Every living creature will one day see and experience each spoke of
the wheel, and know those truths. It is a pathway to truth, peace
and harmony. The circle is never ending, life without end. In
experiencing the Good Red Road, one learns the lessons of physical
life, or of being human. This road runs South to North in the
circle of the medicine wheel. After the graduation experience of
death, one enters the Blue or Black Road, that is the world of the
grandfathers and grandmothers. In spirit, one will continue to
learn by counseling those remaining on the Good Red Road. The Blue
Road of the spirit runs East to West. The medicine wheel is life,
afterlife, rebirth and the honoring of each step along the way. The
medicine wheel is sacred, the native people believe, because the
Great Spirit caused everything in nature to be round. The Sun, Sky,
Earth and Moon are round. Thus, man should look upon the Medicine
Wheel (circle of life) as sacred. It is the symbol of the circle
that marks the edge of the world and therefore, the Four Winds that
travel there. It is also the symbol of the year. The Sky, the
Night, and the Moon go in a circle above the Sky, therefore, the
Circle is symbolic of these divisions of time. It is the symbol of
all times throughout creation. Man Made Structures But The Medicine
wheels are also stone structures built by the natives of North
America for various spiritual and ritual purposes. Appearing mostly
in The Northern United States and Southern Canada, medicine wheels
were built by laying out stones in a circular pattern that often
looked like a wagon wheel lying on its side. The wheels could be
large, reaching diameters of 75 feet. Although archeologists aren't
exactly sure what each one was used for, it is thought that they
probably had ceremonial or astronomical significance. Medicine
wheels are still used today in the Native American spirituality,
however most of the meaning behind them is not shared among
non-Native peoples. History Erecting massive stone structures is a
well-documented activity of ancient man, from the Egyptian pyramids
to Stonehenge, and the natives of Northern America are no different
in this regard. What does separate them from the rest is how
non-intrusive their structures were. Unlike the usual towering
stone monoliths, the natives simply laid down lots of stones on the
earth in certain arrangements. One of the more obscure arrangements
is the medicine wheel. Medicine wheels appear all over northern
United States and southern Canada, specifically North and South
Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Most of the
wheels have been found in Alberta and Wyoming. In all over 180
medicine wheels have been found. One of the prototypical medicine
wheels is in within the Bighorn National Forest in Big Horn County,
Wyoming. This 75 foot diameter wheel has 28 spokes, and is part of
a vast set of old Native American sites that document 17,000 years
of their history in that area. Construction Medicine wheels were
constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground.
Most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern of having a center
cairn of stones, and surrounding that would be an outer ring of
stones, then there would be "spokes", or lines of rocks, coming out
the cairn. Almost all medicine wheels would have at least two of
the three elements mentioned above (the center cairn, the outer
ring, and the spokes), but beyond that there were many variations
on this basic design, and every wheel found has been unique and has
had its own style and eccentricities. Deviations The most common
deviation between different wheels are the spokes. There is no set
number of spokes for a medicine wheel to have. The spokes within
each wheel are rarely evenly spaced out, or even all the same
length. Some medicine wheels will have one particular spoke that's
significantly longer than the rest, suggesting something important
about the direction it points. Another variation is whether the
spokes start from the center cairn and go out only to the outer
ring, or whether they go past the outer ring, or whether they start
at the outer ring and go out from there. An odd variation sometimes
found in medicine wheels is the presence of a passageway, or a
doorway, in the circles. The outer ring of stones will be broken,
and there will be a stone path leading up to the center of the
wheel. Also many medicine wheels have various other circles around
the outside of the wheel, sometimes attached to spokes or the outer
ring, and sometimes just seemingly floating free of the main
A 'standard' Medicine Wheel (if there is such a thing!) consists of between twelve and thirty-six stones.
It all depends on the depth of knowledge of the person for whom the Wheel is constructed.

The breakdown of a thirty-five stone Medicine Wheel is as follows:

The Central Feature is the Sacred Fire.
This is where the Flame of Life burns.
It is the
'Many worlds' Gateway..
It contains the Embers of the Essential Person - the deepest inner soul.
Thus The Sacred Fire can also be called The Portal.

The Four Direction Stones (stones 1-4)
North (Warrior), East (Teacher), South (Healer), West (Visionary)
(within these stones are the four colors of the Human Race; These stones sit at the four corners of the Sacred Fire.

The Legend of Spirit Keepers

North ~ (stone 1)
East ~ (stone 2)
South ~ (stone 3)
West ~ (stone 4)~ Mudjekeewis ~ Great Bear
~ Shawnodese ~ Coyote
~ Wabun ~ Golden Eagle
~ Waboose ~ White Buffalo

Seven stones surround the Sacred Fire. (stones 5-11)
Element of Air ~ (stone 5)
Element of Water ~ (stone 6)
Father Sun ~ (stone 7)
Mother Earth ~ (stone 8)
Grandmother Moon ~ (stone 9)
Element of Fire ~ (stone 10)
Element of Earth ~ (stone 11)

Three stones exist between each Direction on the outer perimeter of the circle:

Spirit-Keepers of the North: (stones 12-14)
The first moon of Waboose ~ The Powerhouse ~ The Snow Goose
The second moon of Waboose ~ The Humanitarian ~ The Otter
The third moon of Waboose ~ The Mystic ~ The Cougar

Spirit-Keepers of the East: (stones 15-17)
The first moon of Wabun ~ The Pioneer ~ The Red-tailed Hawk
The second moon of Wabun ~ The Builder ~ The Beaver
The third moon of Wabun ~ The Dancer ~ The Deer

Spirit-Keepers of the South: (stones 18-20)
The first moon of Shawnodese ~ The Homemaker ~ The Flicker
The second moon of Shawnodese ~ The Lover ~ The Sturgeon
The third moon of Shawnodese ~ The Analyst ~ The Brown Bear

Spirit-Keepers of the West: (stones 21-23)
The first moon of Mudjekeewis ~ The Negotiator ~ The Duck
The second moon of Mudjekeewis ~ The Prophet ~ The Snake
The third moon of Mudjekeewis ~ The Teacher ~ The Elk

And Finally The Three Spirit Pathways between each direction and the Sacred Fire.

Waboose: And The Northern Path, The Gifts and Totems (stones 24-26)
1: Cleansing and The Raccoon2: Renewal and The Earthworm3: Purity and The Dolphin

Wabun: And The Eastern Path, The Gifts and Totems (stones 27-29)
1: Clarity and The Hummingbird2: Wisdom and The Owl3: Illumination and The Firefly

Shawnodese: And The Southern Path, The Gifts and Totems (stones 30-32)
1: Growth and The Rabbit
2: Trust and The Salmon
3: Love and The Wolf

Mudjekeewis: And The Western Path, The Gifts and Totems (stones 33-35)
1: Experience and The Whale
2: Introspection and The Mouse
3: Strength and The Ant


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