What Is A Medicine Wheel?

September 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Religious Mandalas

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By Beth Ali

A medicine wheel is a Native American sacred circle that represents the Universe and the balance of all creation. Like a mandala, it is a physical symbol of the Circle of Life and all our relationships.

Despite their physical existence, there is a lot of mystery that surrounds the Medicine Wheel as no written record to their purpose has been found. Of the many theories to their use, one is the performance of specific rituals and ceremonies that have been long forgotten, or else handed down within Native American communities and not commonly discussed with non-Native peoples.

Medicine wheels may be symbolized in a home through art, but actual wheels are created on the ground in ritual or ceremony. They are usually constructed out of stones in the shape of a circle with spokes coming out from the center. Each stone and direction in the wheel has its own significance and can be used to help in solving particular problems. Medicine wheels have also been known to be represented on sacred shields, or can be made of hide leather that is woven with sinew and decorated with beads.

The location of a medicine wheel, in both the physical and spiritual realm, is considered sacred because they are built on earth’s energy meridians which connect everything, everywhere concurrently.  This place is believed to possess spiritual power that can be accessed when visiting the site.  However it is not considered to be a tool to be used for the increasing of one’s personal power. It is rather an ancient portal to ancient knowledge.

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Medicine wheels are places where people pray and meditate to help strengthen a feeling of connection to the universe.  Ancient people believed that the medicine wheel had great power and aided in creating change and healing.  Traditional medicine wheels are still used today by tribal peoples for healing and finding balance in their lives and harmony with the earth. Medicine wheels are also considered symbols of cosmic connections and all creation, our relationship to the sun, representations of Harmony and Oneness, or about ‘walking the Earth with reverence,’ with healthy minds and inner peace.

Medicine wheels are speculated to be usable maps of the major terrestrial forces influencing us from the moment of conception, much as an astrological map positions and describes the celestial forces at play. As you can see, the believed purpose of a medicine wheel is varied, but the core theme seems to be about making sacred space more accessible, visible and therefore real to us.