The Medicine Wheel is a major symbol of peaceful interaction among all living beings on Mother Earth – it represents harmony, balance and connections. Where I live, Alberta, Canada, there are 46 of all known Medicine Wheels, of which there are 66. Any rudimentary search of the medicine wheel is likely to give any student reading material for days. The Royal Alberta Museum has a very good article on this.
The above article claims the term “medicine wheel” was first applied to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, the most southern and one of the largest in existence. In the 25 years I have been practicing shamanism I have encountered many different types of medicine wheels, from all over the world. The term has caught the imagination of people all over the world. Medicine Wheels are represented by a collection of varied colors, animal totems, and uses. Different tribes use different symbols. Shamans Way has developed Wisdom Paths for the medicine Wheel based on what I have been taught.
Medicine Wheels, sans the name, have been found throughout the world. Peoples have celebrated and ritually practiced in circles and wheels for centuries. One does not have to look much beyond the I-Ching, Mandalas, or Sand Paintings, to name a very few, to see that the concept of the wheel has been an integral part of our spiritual heritage. Factors such as: cosmology, geographical location, priests, shamans and sacred geometry; create differences in the representation of the wheels, found in sacred art, ritual and ceremony.
As we grow, we change like the seasons, passing through the sections of the wheel, learning from each. The centre of the Medicine Wheel is touching Spirit, the pure heart, the truth. Everything extends from the centre, and everything comes together in the centre.
Shamans Way has created a series of Wisdom Paths. Each Path is based on an aspect of the Medicine Wheel. Medicine Wheels, indeed Wheels in general, have for many generations, been a part of our ancestors lives. The Medicine Wheel, we are using to illustrate, and teach our Wisdom Paths, is Sun Bear’s Medicine Wheel.
The study of the Medicine Wheel, is a simply, complicated, process. When we see a diagram of the Wheel, it is a two dimensional state. However, when our ancestors created a Wheel, it represented all the aspects of humanity, the natural world, as well as the seen and unseen aspects of our existence.
The Wheel is based on the knowledge of the rhythm of life. Our ancestors, and ourselves, gain knowledge, still, through the observation of Nature. One of the first things I was ever taught was that everything happens in a circle. The world is a circle. Trunks of trees were circular. Birds nests were circular. Water drops are circular. The seasons are circular. The world around me had very few straight lines. Much of Nature expresses itself in circular patterns.
There are different Wisdom Paths on the Medicine Wheel, but it is important for me to share my understanding of the word “Medicine”. My medicine is not a pill or a procedure, a hospital, or what we would commonly know as Medicine. Medicine, to me, is the vital power or force, that is inherent in Nature itself. It also refers to my own personal power, within me, which can enable me to become more whole or complete. Spirit teaches me Medicine. I put Medicine in my drum cases in the form of sweet grass braids and Red Willow Fungus. Medicine is, whatever, is imbued with the ability to affect me, teach me, and allow me to grow. Not all Medicine tastes good, but that is a whole other story!
The Medicine Wheel is a synthesis of two concepts: medicine and wheel.
Shamans Way – Medicine Wheel Table of Aspects
The Table of Aspects, is a very brief demonstration of how quickly, a complex Medicine Wheel can grow. It is many things on various levels, with many different meanings and ceremonial significance’s. Within the circle are representations of natural, and personal powers, in complete balance. It brings to life, the common understanding; everything is interconnected, linked to the Cosmic whole.
Learning the Wisdom Paths, increases awareness of the individual self. Within the teachings are layers of knowledge; giving one power, over one’s life. We are creating a shamanic map, coupled with an in depth philosophical system. This, we will use, as a guide, to help us find our way and ground us, as we embark on inner journeys.
A Medicine Wheel is a physical manifestation of Spiritual energy, an outward expression of an internal dialogue. A mirror in which we can better see what is going on within us. It is a wheel of protection, it enables us, and allows us, to gather surrounding energies into a focal point, and to commune with Spirit, Self and Nature.
It helps us with our “Vision”, to see exactly where we are. We look into our Shadows and Light, learning which areas we need to develop, to realize, and grow into our most authentic Self. The Wisdom Paths show us the intricacies of the interwoven threads of life & what our part in it all, is. It helps us to understand that, without our part in the tapestry, the “Bigger Picture”, is not as it should be. We add color, dimension and life to each other, to all of life. No matter what colour, race or creed we are, we need each of us to create a beautiful existence and expression of the Whole. We are all but one realization of the “Universe” trying to realize itself, so, let’s see, what part we ourselves are.
The Medicine Wheel, is a model to be used to view self, society , or anything that one could ever think of looking into. The Wisdom Paths created by Shamans Way will teach you how to work with it. The Paths will offer pictures to you, helping to add clarity, to a foggy view. Like other shamanic tools, it is used for the uplifting, and betterment of mankind, healing and connecting us to the infinite.
Learning Medicine helps to deepen the understanding we have of ourselves, thereby giving us a deeper view into all Life. Learning the Wheel, helps attune us to the Earth’s influences and forces. We will learn to track and distinguish the natural energies that affect our lives.
Suffice it to say, the Medicine Wheels have shape-shifted into many different languages, forms and interpretations. Like all things, adaptability is the key to survival. The Medicine Wheel teachings, have been adopted by many tribes. It has moved, as the Wheel it is, towards a personal connection to each person. A personal tool with the ability to teach on many different levels. The ever moving Wheel, has helped many of us to have a tangible shamanic medicine tool, upon which, we heal ourselves, our communities and our nations.