Directions and their Meanings
The Cree/Algonquin/Plains Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel teachings are based on a circular pattern and cyclical set of four: the four Seasons, the four stages of Life, the four Bio-psychosocial and spiritual aspect of a person.
The Medicine Wheel always centers on the individual. The Ceremonial Medicine Wheel that I use incorporates all of these aspects. They can be drawn on paper or made out of rocks in the corner of a room or in a garden. The important thing to remember is that this is an exercise in finding out about you.
The Medicine Wheel in the diagram to the right incorporates many of the teachings I have received over the years from the various Elders I have met and have received teachings from.
My family also has its own medicine wheel. Our family uses dark blue in the direction of the West. The animal in the South is also different as we put the Wolf there.
A person can also develop their own Medicine Wheel and put their own Animal/Spirit Helpers in the directions once they have gotten in touch with them. This knowing may happen in ceremony, visions, or dreams. I have developed my personal Medicine Wheel in which I put a different animal representing the same meaning. and which has different animal but same meaning: In my personal Medicine Wheel the directions and animals are as follows: East – Eagle, South – Red Tail Hawk, West – Owl, North – Blue Heron. These birds are a reflection of who I am and what gifts were granted to me. They are the animals that have revealed themselves through my walk in life.
A Medicine Wheel of Life’s Learning
with Southern Plains /Sioux/Plains Cree and Lakota Colors
The above Medicine Wheel recognizes that Aboriginal people are spirit, heart, mind and body.
Historically, mainstream education systems focussed on the mind, and in some cases, the body (physical education, dance…). It has not acknowledged the spirit and the heart, believing those to be the purview of the church. Today many Aboriginal People are feeling the effects of only having 50% of them taken into consideration in the classroom. Because of this, there is a large drop out rate, high levels of illiteracy and dyslexia in Aboriginal People who did not fit into the formal school systems. Aboriginal people recognize the importance of using methodologies that addresses all four elements of being.
Rock Medicine Wheels
Picture Reprinted from internet
One of the main stone medicine wheels that is practiced consists of 36 stones laid in a certain way creating the beautiful circle above.
The stones are laid beginning in the center, with the first Rock being the Creator, the second in the East being Mother Earth, and going clockwise the third in the South-West for Father Sun, the fourth in the North-West for Grandmother Moon, the fifth a little more to the North-West for Turtle, the sixth in the North for Frog, the 7th in the North-East for Thunderbird, the 8th in the East corner near to the South for Butterfly. This arrangement completes the inner circle.
Then we continue by laying down the corner stones of the four Cardinal Directions, the 9th being in the East representing the Eagle, the 10th being in the South representing Mouse/Wolf/Coyote/Red Tail Hawk, the 11th stone laid down in the West representing Brown Bear, and the 12th stone in the North representing White Calf Buffalo Woman.
The next to last process of a laying down rocks in the circle is the outer circle beginning again in the North-East beside the 9th rock we laid down the 13th rock and I put the Snow Geese, the 14th rock I put the Otter, the 15th rock I put Cat and it goes on in a circle till we meet the 9th rock of the East.
By then you have laid your inner circle and your outer circle. It is time to make your criss-cross inside the outer circle to touch the inner circle.
The criss-cross on the inside of the outer circle but not inside the inner circle is your final step. Again you begin this one in the North-East stone number 9 and going down the south just touching the inner circle till it becomes rock number 27. Again in the East you would begin the criss-cross starting with rock number 28 until all the rocks laid down touch the inner center marking rock number 30. Then you lay more rocks from the south to the inner circle rocks till it becomes number 31 keeping in mind that no criss-cross stones is to enter the inner circle. Lastly, starting from the number 12 going inside the outer circle towards the inner circle you would lay down rock number 34 to 36, keeping in mind that each rock has a special representation for you and an animal spirit helper.
You can build a medicine wheel out of all kinds or rocks which has special meaning to you and place it in your garden, the corner of a room or you can draw a medicine wheel on paper. What ever the venue, it is important to remember that this is another tool to be used on your healing and spiritual journeys.
Working the Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel can be called a mental construct. It orients us on a time-space continuum. The Wheel divides our world into different directions and applies specific meaning and significance to each direction. This directional orientation is achieved by simple observation of the natural world. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Regardless of where we sit on the globe there are four phases of the moon and typically four recognized seasons. These phases and seasons follow each other in a circular and sequential rotation, because of this, our personal medicine wheels are a reflection of our relationship to the natural circular evolvement of the world.
The Wheel can be used practically to help an individual understand and deal with specific life circumstances (e.g. jobs, relationships, and illness). One example is the hormonal cycles manifesting from the brain, ovaries, and uterus. These are easily understood in terms of the Wheel. It ties these events to natural lunar rhythms both physically and energetically. Within the framework of the Medicine Wheel we see ovulation and conception occur in the full moon of the east while, menses and birth occur in the new moon of the west. This framework allows one to look at these experiences in a new way, a way that is more easily understood because it is related to our experience of the natural world. Working the Medicine Wheel Archetype empowers the individual. It gives one new tools with which to embrace the chaos of life. It serves as a way to focus and reconnect to the rhythms of the natural world.
The Wheel can also be used to contemplate the flow of events unfolding over months, years or a lifetime. One could even apply this to familial patterns and past lifetimes.
Our consensual experience of the physical world determines a lot of what goes where on the Medicine Wheel. Working the Wheel is accomplished in both consensual reality and through personal introspection.
In conclusion, there are many different ways to utilize or set up a Medicine Wheel. Despite this, the philosophies/principals and effective outcome are the same. It teaches us that we have four aspects to our nature; the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. Each of these aspects must be equally developed in a healthy, well-balanced human being through the development stages of our life. To bring ourselves into balance in each area puts us in balance. Equal emphasis needs to be given to each of the directions of the Wheel. This can be accomplished through sheer will power or methodical introspection and action. However, if we do not do this, then we, Aboriginal People, believe that we are not walking in balance.
- Dancing With The Wheel: Sun Bear, Wabun Wind and Crysalis Mulligan
First Fireside edition 1992 copyrighted 1991
Fireside: Simon & Schuster Inc. New York N.Y.
- Big Horn Medicine Wheel – www.crystalinks.com
- Medicine Wheel Teachings – www.shannonthunderbird.com
First Nation Legacy On The Rouge – www.rivernen.ca
- The Medicine Wheel – www.spiritualnetwork.net
The Canadian Encyclopaedias – www.canadianencyclopedia.ca
- A Medicine Wheel Teachings – www.geocities.com
Medicine Wheel Stock Pictures – www.google.ca/search
- Grand Teton Medicine Wheel – www.shrinesandsacredsites.com
- Allying With the Medicine Wheel: Social Work Practice with Aboriginal Peoples – www./cronus.uwindsor.ca