Parts of the Medicine Wheel
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Medicine wheels are circular in shape, so all circles become examples of medicine wheels. The sun is the medicine wheel which lights our days, just as the medicine wheel of the moon illuminates our nights. The term 'medicine' refers to the Spiritual Essence of any person, place, or thing; 'wheel' indicates its Eternal Energy. Therefore, medicine wheels describe wholeness, and are ever present. They are symbolic of the Great Mystery which is incomprehensible in its totality. We use the medicine wheel to express all that we see and all that we do not see.
The medicine wheel can also represent the cyclical nature of things. The daily visits of the sun form a continuing medicine wheel. The phases of the moon are another example. When the medicine wheel is divided, as spokes divide a wheel, many natural concepts are more easily understood. Each spoke represents a different point of view, or a different part of the total subject. The circle can contain any number of different but equal segments. In the medicine wheel all perspectives have equal validity and therefore form equal segments of the wheel. Thus, the four seasons and the twelve months both form medicine wheels of the year.
If the number of perspectives is not defined beforehand, the medicine wheel is simply divided into four equal quadrants by a horizontal and a vertical line. Each line from the center to the rim represents one of four different points of view.
Dividing by four is not a random choice. The number 'four' represents balance. It symbolizes the four directions, the four seasons of the year, and the four phases of the moon.
The horizontal line represents the path of events, similar to the timeline of the five phases my history teacher used. It's called our 'Earth Walk' and divides the medicine wheel into upper and lower hemispheres. The upper hemisphere is the sky dome. It symbolizes the spiritual aspects of our lives. The lower hemisphere is the earth and represents our physical environment.
The vertical line of our medicine wheel symbolizes the spiritual path of truth. It divides the wheel into left and right hemispheres. The left side represents our thoughts; the right, our actions.
The point where the lines cross is called the 'vibral core'. This is where truth intersects with physical events to radiate all perspectives equally.
In Chapter One, The Legend of Perception, the four Secrets of Protection form the basic medicine wheel called The Four Winds. One secret of the Legend is located at each of the points where the horizontal and vertical lines touch the rim of the circle. These points are called the Four Winds or Four Directions.
The four directions can be used to represent many different ideas, but the basic nature of each is suggested in the concepts presented in the Legend of Perception. The EAST is the beginning. Just as the sunrise signals the start of a new day, its phase heralds the awakening of awareness. The sun warms the earth in summer to allow growth, so the SOUTH is the place of environmental lessons. It is here that we learn through our experiences. In the WEST, goals are indicated by the setting sun which completes the day. It is the place of development. From the NORTH cold winds teach strength. From this high point we are able to realize the perspective gained from visiting each location on the medicine wheel.
As we stand in the south of our medicine wheel (facing north) the line of truth is before us as a pathway. We follow this path to reach our wisdom and inner-strength. The environmental lessons of faith and confidence are at our backs pushing us forward as we move toward our own wisdom.
To understand our lessons better it is sometimes helpful to expand the focus of the basic medicine wheel. This is done by subdividing each quadrant into three segments so that twelve different perspectives can be defined. The number twelve represents completion. One medicine wheel containing twelve segments is the clock representing the twelve hours of the day and night, Another is the twelve months of the year.