The Medicine Wheel as been used by The North American Indian people for millennia right up to the present day.
So, what is the function and uses of a medicine wheel?
As mentioned, its origins go way back in time with native people on Turtle Island.
There are many meanings associated with its use such as the following:
The Four directions North, South, East, West. Each one can have different meanings.
- North represents night the stars sleep the mental aspect of the human.
- South can represent midday sun highest point, emotional aspect of the human.
- East can represent a new day, birth, and the spiritual aspect of the human.
- West the setting sun physical aspect of human.
The four directions can mean the cycle of life:
- The East – a new day, birth, childhood and new beginnings.
- The South – teenage years adult hood growth.
- The West – midlife, maturity and knowledge.
- The North – old age, wisdom and the return to spirit.
The colours have their meanings as well:
- Yellow – time, relationships.
- Black – knowledge, feelings.
- White – movement, behaviour.
- Red – vision, respect.
Animals also play a significant role of the meanings of the Medicine Wheel like the Eagle, Wolf, Bear, Buffalo. The Eagle is yellow, the Buffalo (Tatonka in the Lakota language) is red, the Bear is green, and the Wolf is white.
The colours also represent the four races of humans on the planet:
- White Caucasian
- Yellow Oriental
- Black African
- Red and Brown peoples
This also includes and relates to the following:
- the Two-Legged Ones that fly – birds
- the Ones that crawl – insects, and
- the Two-Legged Ones – humans
Again, it can include the meaning of the Wheel of Life, it has no beginning and no end. It is continuous.
The other meaning is the four elements:
When conducting a Medicine Wheel Ceremony, the smudging shamans will use an Abalone shell, which represents water; sage and tobacco represent earth. When lit the smoke represents fire and the prayers – rising into air to reach the great spirit.
Many other teachings are also used with the Medicine Wheel including passing on teaching prayers and sometimes oral knowledge.
These places are very sacred and are used for religious and spiritual ceremonies not only with the native peoples on Turtle Island but now all over the world.
One of the largest and best known is the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Montana which dates to around 1000 A.D.
To conclude, the Medicine Wheel can be diverse in its meaning to different native tribes across the U.S. and Canada, but its use is the same a place to worship, connect to the elements and the universe and spiritual meanings and ceremonies.