The medicine wheel
The medicine wheel is an ancient symbol important to almost all the Native peoples of North and South America. It provides a method of sharing many teachings and encouraging many layers of meaningful reflection.
The medicine wheel is the shape of a circle, representing the wholeness of Creation and the cycle of life. This powerful cycle is the interconnectedness of all that is above, on and within Mother Earth. If we live in harmony with the cycle, the balance of the wheel is preserved, and the cycle maintains momentum. If we live in distruptive ways, the wheel will lose its balance and all of Creation will suffer.
Teachings focus on four main aspects of a concept. They are spaced equal distances apart on the wheel to acknowledge their equal value in maintaining the wheel's balance. The centre of the wheel is the symbolic centre of Creation, of one's people, of one's self. From the centre, one may consider issues, events, feelings, needs...etc from other perspectives, seeing things as they are and as they could be.
Teachings of the four directions or powers refer to different but equally important ways of understanding one's place in the world .
Symbols vary among and within Native cultures, but they all relate to the four hills (infancy, youth, maturity, old age) and the four races (yellow, red, black, white).
This is the direction of renewal, birth and re-birth, the rising of the sun, peace and light. It's colour is yellow. Its medicine is cedar. Some gifts of the east:
belief in the unseen
trust in one's own vision
Its teachers include the mouse (humility) and the eagle (greatness of spirit).
This is the direction of vigour and passion, of warmth. Its colour is red. Its medicine is sweetgrass. Some gifts of the south:
anger at injustice
control of feelings
Its teachers include the red willow (strength, flexibility) and the cougar (sensory acuteness, physical excellence).
This is the direction of power, of life-giving rain. Its colour is black. Its medicine is tobacco. Some gifts of the west:
commitment to life values
testing of the will
Its teachers include the black bear (spiritual insight, strength) and the turtle (perseverance).
This is the direction of wisdom and fulfillment, of the wind. Its colour is white. Its medicine is sage. Some gifts of the north:
Its teachers include the great mountain (the struggle for knowledge) and the sacred lake (depth, quiet reflection).
Every person who seeks a balanced life must first recognize and then continually refine the gifts offered by each of the four directions.