What Is An Indigenous Medicine Wheel?
The medicine wheel is circular symbol broken into four areas or quadrants. These four areas have four different colors assigned to them, which are most often yellow, red, black, and white. It is also very important to note that different nations have different medicine wheel teachings, according to their stories, values, and beliefs. So, there is not only one perfect medicine wheel.
The four areas of the medicine wheel have attributes assigned to them:
- the four directions
- the four states of being
- the four sacred medicines
- the four seasons
- the four elements
- the four stages of life.
Some nations use the four colors in different locations on the medicine wheel and use the four areas on the medicine wheel to represent the four colors of people on mother earth. Each of the four directions or areas have teachings and each of the set of attributes have their own teachings as well, which we will get to more in the next two important points about the medicine wheel.
Why this circle is so important?
The circle represents the circle of life, the circle of self-awareness, and the circle of knowledge.
The circle of life:
Indigenous people of North America looked to this circle as a reminder that everything flows in a circle. We believe that life continues on and on. Our spirits live forever, on Earth, and then into the spirit world. Similar to the circular nature of the seasons and the life cycles.
The circle of self-awareness:
The circle also represents our own awareness of ourselves and our state's. Mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional and in order to be happy, we need all four of those states to be balanced. We can be aware of our own balance and help steer ourselves toward a more balanced life. Therefore, a more happy life. We need to be aware of each set of attributes and what they teach us. For example, in order to exist on Earth, all four elements are needed and not only are they needed, they also need to be in balance.
The circle of knowledge:
This represents the personal power that we each possess to learn about the different attributes and have control over our states of being to maintain our happiness. This circle of knowledge means that we use it as a tool and as a system for passing on knowledge.
All aspects of life are interconnected.
All creation on Mother Earth was put here for a purpose and we are all deeply connected. The spirit world is connected to life on earth, the water is connected to the land, and the sky is connected to the ground. Our connection to the land and to our Mother Earth can directly affect our spiritual wellbeing, which will then affect our physical health, our emotional health, and our mental health as well. All attributes of the medicine wheel are connected and we, as people are all equal. So, all nations of the earth are equally connected to the creator.
5 Facts You Need to Know About the Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel (sometimes called a Sacred Hoop) is an important Indigenous symbol used by Anishinaabe, Cree, and other Native North American tribes to represent the core of our world views. Because the Medicine Wheel plays such an important role in the Indigenous culture, you have probably seen this symbol used in a ton of places, but may never have known just what it meant.
There are many different beliefs surrounding the exact symbolism and uses of the medicine wheel, and our elders have shared countless pieces of knowledge to help new generations to learn about the Indigenous worldview and our beliefs. Here, we’ll share five key teachings from the Medicine Wheel so you gain a deeper understanding of the Indigenous culture, and can confidently share what you’ve learned with friends, family, and neighbors.
1. All Aspects of Life Connect
Whether you are referring to the emotional, physical, spiritual, or intellectual aspects of your life, they are all deeply interconnected. The Medicine Wheel is made up of four connecting parts, with each one needing all the rest in order to create the whole. The four sections are dependent on each other, just as all aspects of life are dependent on each other, teaching us the importance of balance and being in touch with the various aspects of ourselves.
Our health and wellbeing are directly impacted by our connection to our Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon, just as the rest of the natural world is interconnected and dependent on all other aspects to complete the circle of life.
2. Unending Balance
The circular shape of the medicine wheel represents the idea that life continues on in an unending circle where time has no true beginning or end. Similarly, we believe that our spirits have always existed here in some form or another, and will continue to exist as an animal or some other part of nature once we are gone.
The Wheel represents the cyclical nature of life, and speaks to the need for harmony, balance, and respect between all of life’s parts. Though divided into four, each part makes up an invaluable part of the whole, and together they create a balance. This system of traditional knowledge is used by various Indigenous tribes, and though the four parts may represent different things (the four seasons, the four elements, etc.), one always needs the other three to achieve harmony.
3. The Sharing and Organizing Of Knowledge
In Indigenous culture, information is traditionally passed on from the elders in the form of storytelling. Although receiving knowledge from our elders remains an important part of our culture, the medicine wheel is also a major source of knowledge. The Medicine Wheel provides a basic framework for the Indigenous learning process, representing the interconnectedness of all aspects of life while also offering a physical documentation of important Native teachings.
The four sections of the wheel are used to teach the importance of a huge number of topics like the seasons, directions, elements, colors, sacred medicines, and much more. The symbolism of the Medicine Wheel is so important to the teachings of Indigenous culture that you’ll see cultural groups, artists, and even businesses using the symbol in pieces of artwork, advertising, and even logos.
4. The Sacred Number ‘4’
The number ‘4’ is widely considered to be sacred by tribes across North America and around the world. Cultures around the globe have longheld traditions regarding the number, believing both in its innate spiritual significance and its symbolic value. For North American Indigenous tribes, the number ‘4’ has particular significance in ceremonies and for the teaching of various truths about life.
The four colors on the Medicine Wheel have a variety of meanings, and many teachings believe that they are meant to resemble specific directions, life cycles, seasons, or elements. Interestingly, the four colors can also represent the various groups of people on the Earth, representing the diversity that makes up our world. The fact that cultures from around the globe believe that 4 is a sacred number further highlights this point, proving that we truly are brothers and sisters; many parts of a whole family.
5. Many Parts Make a Whole
It bears repeating that the Medicine Wheel emphasizes the interconnectedness of life and the importance of achieving balance and harmony within yourself and with the natural world. The Medicine Wheel is a vehicle for a vast number of teachings, the exact details of which will vary depending on who you are talking to.
Depending on whose Medicine Wheel you are seeing, what culture they are from, and what they were taught regarding the importance of the wheel, the finer details of the wheel may differ slightly. What is important is to understand the fundamentals of the wheel and to find lessons from it that help you to live a better, happier life. Don’t worry too much about getting it perfect or choosing the “best version”, just enjoy the lessons you learn and let them help guide your path in life.