Shamanic Drumming Blog

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Medicine Wheel of Life

Bighorn Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop, has been used by generations of various Native American tribes to represent all knowledge of the universe. Within the cosmology of primal peoples, the Medicine Wheel represents the circle of life. All aspects of life, energy, and the ever-moving universe spiral in circles. The plants, the animals, the minerals, and the elemental forces of nature all exist within the circle.

The Medicine Wheel provides a means of entering sacred space--that place where you can find yourself over and over again. The Medicine Wheel of Life is a mandala, a symbolic blueprint or map of reality. It represents a multidimensional, interwoven web of relationships that are in constant communion with each other. The sacred wheel exists simultaneously in a horizontal and vertical axis, as well as in the unfolding continuum of time--past, present, and future.

The Medicine Wheel of Life serves as a portal to consciously enter the cyclic, time-space unfolding of Tao or Great Mystery through a practice of reverent, harmonious relationship. It is based on the belief that the universe is alive, sentient, and constantly communicating its wisdom to who ever makes an effort to listen.

To move around the wheel and develop a relationship with each direction is to step onto a path of learning and fulfillment. Each direction has qualities and attributes that help us spiral toward completion on the wheel of life. All creatures walk the circumference of the Medicine Wheel, experiencing birth, life, and death. After completing a cycle of learning on the sacred wheel, each of us returns to the source, the Great Mystery at the center or heart of the circle.

The Medicine Wheel of Life is symbolized by a circle that is bisected first with a line of light from East to West. From the East the sun arises and the guardian Eagle takes flight. Though the qualities attributed to each of the four cardinal directions tend to vary from culture to culture, the energy of the East is typically associated with the vernal equinox, Eagle, Hummingbird, morning, birth, beginnings, the rising sun, illumination, inspiration, ascending consciousness, and the element of Air.

From the South rises the vital energy of renewal, regeneration, and growth. From the South we learn to plant seeds of good cause. We learn that our thoughts and actions create our reality. South is related to the summer solstice, Serpent, Coyote, midday, youth, trust, growth, and the element of Fire.

From the West flows the energy of transformation. In the West we assimilate our life experiences. Experience is the only baggage we carry with us from this Earth walk. From the West we exit the realm of physical experience and join into vast levels of experience in the spirit worlds of light, or we choose to return and walk again the sacred wheel of life. West is connected to the autumnal equinox, Bear, twilight, introspection, emotions, flow, the moon, death, endings, transformation, and the element of Water.

From the North flows the energy that completes the quartering of the circle. From the North we receive wisdom and clarity of mind. North is linked to the winter solstice, Buffalo, night, wisdom, clarity, patience, renewal, blessings, abundance, and the element of Earth.

Quartering the circle defines all that is the Great Mystery. We are here on earth to experience and realize the mystery. The vision of that mystery is ever present within each of us. When we still the incessant chatter of the mind, we begin to realize the Sacred Vision. We begin to recognize certain qualities from the four directions that help us evolve on the wheel of life.

Father Sky and Mother Earth together generate the powers of creation. The four directions are the power and life-giving forces of the created. When we begin in the East and turn clockwise, acknowledging the four directions, we align ourselves with the powers that shape our reality. We are also creating a circle--a boundary that separates the sacred from the ordinary and profane. Such a ritual creates a sacred space that can be slipped in and out of at will. By creating a circle, we are also structuring an energy pattern that will contain, focus, and amplify the power generated by ritual. A circle will shape the elemental forces into a powerful current that will spiral upward and downward, uniting heaven and earth. Thus, we synchronize our environment and ourselves to the circle of all that exists.

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