The medicine wheel can be a wonderful symbol to bring into your life. It is part of an ancient tradition, and holds great power. It can also be fun to work with the medicine wheel as it puts you in touch with yourself and Nature.
Learn the following:
- What is the ‘Medicine Wheel’?
- How to construct it
- The meanings of east, south, west and north
- How to complete your wheel
- Using it for healing
WHAT IS THE MEDICINE WHEEL?
‘Medicine’ in this sense means ‘power.’ The medicine wheel is a circular symbol of wholeness, containing all the forces of life, taken from North American tradition. Everything has a place on the wheel, as you will understand when you read on. The medicine wheel can act as a focus for meditation and visualization and gives us protection in the unknown. It is a great framework for honouring Nature, but it also portrays the forces within ourselves. Because of this you can use it to heal and balance yourself
There are many versions of the medicine wheel. In this article we are looking at the Lakota wheel. Many shamanic practitioners use this wheel, but it isn’t the only version. For instance, as you will see, the South quarter of the wheel is devoted to the element of Water, whereas in some traditions it is Fire. As long as you are happy with the version of the Wheel that you work with it does not really matter because the Wheel cannot be unbalanced.
CONSTRUCTING YOUR WHEEL
In many occult traditions a ‘magic circle’ is cast around practitioners, to focus and protect. The medicine wheel, in contrast, is not cast ‘around’ but made in the centre of the group. However, it still offers the same protection. If you are using the medicine wheel on your own, you can simply build it up in front of you.
If you want your wheel to be left in place, so you can conveniently work with it, choose a handy shelf or cupboard top. In this way your wheel becomes an altar, or devotional space, ready for you at all times. A low coffee table is especially suitable, as you can sit close on a large cushion, to work with your wheel.
You could also make a vertical wheel on a notice board or even with fridge magnets, but obviously this has limitations. As you ‘play’ with the idea of the medicine wheel other ideas may come to you. In fact you can have several wheels around your dwelling, if you wish.
Once you have chosen your space, mark it out as a circle with four quarters. Make this as big as you can – you always need more space than you think! Get a compass so you know the directions, and divide your circle in quarters, evenly. You can draw your circle on cloth or paper (although that could be flimsy). An especially nice idea is to pick up pebbles on a walk and mark out your wheel with these. Try to keep to natural substances as much as you can.
EAST OF YOUR WHEEL
Imagine that your spirit ‘enters’ your wheel from this direction, which is the direction of sunrise. East is fire and its colour yellow. The totem beast is eagle, but if these do not fly over your home, choose something similar, such as buzzard or hawk, to make it more ‘actual.’
The Sun is linked to East, all beginnings, humanity as a species and the quality of intuition and enlightenment. This is the ‘far-sighted place’ where we decide how to use energies on all levels. It is the place of daybreak, Spring and birth.
SOUTH OF YOUR WHEEL
Where possible, always move clockwise when tending your wheel, as that is the direction of the sun (although if you live in the Southern Hemisphere it’s the reverse)
South is linked to Water, to summer, midday, and the colour red. The heavenly body is the Moon and species Plant Kingdom. Its totem beast is the mouse and it’s linked to the emotions and youth, trust, innocence and what’s closest to you. This is the ‘close to’ place.
WEST OF YOUR WHEEL
The element Earth belongs to West, along with evening, autumn and the colour black. It’s the home of the Mineral Kingdom – the infinitely slow and silent life closest to the earth. The totem is Grizzly Bear, although badger may be more appropriate as they are closer to home in the British Isles. The heavenly body is Earth itself. West is the realm of physical sensation, of ‘ordinary’ reality and maturity – the ‘looks within’ place.
NORTH OF YOUR WHEEL
Here we meet winter, midnight, old age and death, the colour white and the element of Air. The heavenly body is the stars. Your ability to use your mind and reflect is a North/Air function, for thought moves quicker than the wind. Its species is the Animal Kingdom and totem beast the buffalo, but you may prefer to substitute for the more local wild boar or deer. This is the ‘place of knowledge’.
COMPLETING YOUR WHEEL
Now you know the basics of your wheel you will need to use a combination of imagination, resourcefulness and analyzing to use it to help you.
Be resourceful by finding things to go round your wheel that are appropriate to you. For instance, flames belong in East so choose a yellow candle, sea-shells you gather on the shore in South (and/or a bowl of water), crystals, stones and even garden soil in West and feathers you pick up on walks in the North.
Sometimes it may be hard to decide in which quarter things belong. For instance, a joss stick really changes the atmosphere, but does it belong with Air in the North, or Fire in the East? Maybe that depends on the fragrance – light cool scents would be North while richer frankincense would be East. Also, should you have candles of the appropriate colour in each quarter? Why not? Simply have a larger yellow one in the east, with smaller night-lights of red, black (you can get very dark purple ones) and white in south, west and east respectively.
Put pictures or statues of the totems in each quarter. Place flowers all around your wheel. Be creative with ribbons and beads. Although a cairn of crystals in the west would be great you could have crystals in each quarter – citrine in east, carnelian in south, mostly onyx, jet and obsidian in west and clear quartz in north. Look around you and see which of your favourite objects have a place on your wheel. Play with ideas until you feel happy – you can always change it at any time, for the wheel is ever-evolving.
HEALING YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR WHEEL
Once your wheel is in place and you understand it, the next step is easy.
First, decide what you want to ‘heal’. This could be your relationship, your finances, something physical, anxiety, depression – or you may want help passing an exam or getting a job. Perhaps you could meditate on this while you burn a candle in the ‘looks within’ place, i.e. west.
Choose which quarter of the wheel your issue belongs to. Please remember, you can’t get this ‘wrong’!. Even if there could be a better choice this won’t mean all your efforts are in vain. In any case, you’ll probably realise and move to another quarter if you should. Some issues may belong in two or more quarters anyway.
Depression might be treated by boosting the east. Light a candle there each day, bring yellow flowers and pictures of sunrise etc. But you may feel your depression would be soothed by the common sense of earth in the west, so pour it into a dark stone and lay it within crystals in the west. There is no one right way.
Here is a list of problems and how to treat them. These are only suggestions – always go with what feels right.
EDUCATION PROBLEMS – bind a scroll with white ribbon, place in north
GETTING A JOB – place a symbol of the job such as a letterhead in the east, for new beginnings
MONEY PROBLEMS – place coins in the west, but remember that ‘money’ is quite abstract so you could write yourself a big cheque and place it in north for the air and your own mental powers to work for you
ANXIETY – soothe this by ‘earthing’ it in the west. Write it in fine soil, leave this overnight in the west, then scatter outside
DEPRESSION – see above
NEGATIVITY – tend the east of your circle with candles, joss sticks and uplifting images
EXHAUSTION – as negativity
RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS – two little figures embracing in south, or a pair of swans, or hearts
PHYSICAL ILLNESS – this is very complex because it could arise from a variety of causes. For instance, has anger, depression or anxiety contributed to your illness? Did you catch a virus, or do you have a deficiency in some nutrient? The more you can find out, the better. However, tending the west of your wheel by regularly placing fresh flowers, nuts and fruits and any symbol of health and abundance you can think of in place will help. If you are having treatment, place a caduceus, to empower your therapist
Hopefully now you have some idea of how to use your wheel for health. Remember that creating and tending your wheel will bring you health in itself, for it is balancing and uplifting.