Published on July 11, 2012 by Amy
Native American traditions were not based on a fixed set of beliefs or on an interpretation of sacred writings, but on the knowledge of the rhythm of life which they received through the observation of Nature. And what they observed is that there are no straight lines in Nature.
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All of Nature expresses itself in circular patterns. This can be seen in something as small and simple as a bird’s nest as well as in things much greater such as the cycle of the seasons or the cycle of life (birth, death, rebirth). And therefore, to Native American peoples, the circle or wheel represents Wakan-Tanka (“the Great Everything” or Universe) and also one’s own personal space or personal universe.
Native American “Medicine” is not the same as the modern medicine that we think of today. It is not a pill or a procedure or anything else that can be used to improve one’s physical health. When Native Americans refer to “Medicine”, they are referring to the vital power or force that is inherent in Nature itself, and to the personal power within oneself which can enable one to become more whole or complete.
In Native American belief, the cardinal directions are linked to great Powers, or intelligent forces, whose energy (or Medicine) can be harnessed. The directions can be charted on a circular map, the Medicine Wheel, which can enable one to come into alignment with these spiritual powers and absorb something of them.
The Medicine Wheel is many things on many various levels and has many different meanings and uses. It is a circle which represents natural and personal powers in complete balance, and which shows that everything is interconnected and part of one cosmic whole. It is the circle of awareness of the individual self, and a circle of knowledge that gives one power over one’s life. It is a shamanic map, or philosophical system, that can be used as a guide to help us find our way and ground us when we embark on inner journeys. We can use it to understand ourselves as well as life itself. It can be used for finding direction in life and for aligning physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realities. One can use it to attune themselves to Earth influences and forces and to the natural energies that affect their lives.
A Medicine Wheel can be used:
Each direction on the Wheel constitutes a path of self-realization and self-initiation into the mysteries of life which can lead you to the very core of your being where you can make contact with your own High Self (your Spiritual Self or True Self). Each path can help you to acquire the knowledge to work changes that will put meaning and purpose into your life, bringing enlightenment and fulfillment.
Each of the four directions has many natural forces or powers that it is connected to, such as the four seasons, the four moon phases, the four life stages, the four kingdoms, the four planes of existence, just to name a few. The ones I will be discussing here are listed in the table below.