Respectfully submitted by Donata.
Note: The form of the Medicine Wheel, as presented in this seminar, is based on traditional ones (see bibliography).
The interpretation and spiritual/practical use of the Medicine Wheel presented is my own, which unfolded and developed for me as I worked and meditated with the Wheel over the last 25 years.
This seminar explains how I found the Spirit of Place in a land my distant ancestors never knew. My ancestors came from two different countries. One branch of my mother's line came to America about 1740, but that still makes us newcomers. A son of that branch married a Seneca woman. Records weren't kept that far back, so I can't officially claim a Seneca heritage. I only know the town in southern Italy from which my father's family emigrated in the late 19th c. and no further history. I'm not a citizen of either Ireland or Italy, so feel somewhat distant from the Spirit of Place of those lands. This is not an unusual situation for a child of America.
How does a 'displaced person' find Spirit of Place?
I found a partial answer in the Celtic ancestry of my mother's land, Ireland. Druidry called to me for years before I discovered OBOD Druidry.
I found the Spirit of Place of the land of my birth, the U.S., through teachings of the land of my birth, especially the Native American Medicine Wheel. This has become a strong daily anchor for my spiritual path. There are many versions of the Medicine Wheel. I’m sharing one I’ve studied for years.
My two spiritual paths of Druidry and the Medicine Wheel are similar in their teachings and beliefs. Both are Earth centered. Both see divinity (however defined) in all beings. Both paths recognize the value of intuitive knowledge. Both emphasize the importance of accepting personal responsibility for your choices in life. Their world view is one of cooperation with others. Impeccability is a basic requirement of these spiritual paths – that is, truthfulness and total honesty with yourself, and in your words and actions with others.
The Medicine Wheel has much in common with other earth centered spiritualities found around the world. The Four Directions are honored, and their qualities are studied to aid a person to become whole. There is great reverence for the land itself, which is seen as Mother Earth. Great Mystery is the Source of Life, and Mother Earth is the great Nurturer and Sustainer.
Two of the most generally known traditions found among most Native Americans are the Sweat Lodge, which is a purification ritual intended to be a release and renewal, and the Give-Away, in which gifts are freely given to others in gratitude for all we have received. I find these rituals compatible with OBOD. There are seasonal celebrations, and honoring of the Full Moon. These are usually limited to members of the Tribe. Healing is important, and Medicine people are similar in use of herbs and prayers to the Wise Men and Women of our European heritage, and of modern Pagan teachings. Both have been persecuted by conquering powers.
I’ve been drawn to Native American ways since childhood, and thus I discovered the Medicine Wheel. I’ve worked with it for over twenty-five years. The Wheel itself became my teacher, so my interpretation is a personal one. I share this seminar with deep respect for those who kept the teachings alive. The Medicine Wheel directly links me to the Spirit of Place of the land where I live, and it made me aware of the Planetary Spirit of Place which underlies each individual geographic Spirit of Place.
I am a modern shaman trained in the shamanic lineage of Don Jose Matusuwa, Huichol Elder. He says of sharing the teachings:
"The teachings are for all, not just for Indians... The white people never wanted to learn before. They thought we were savages. Now they have a different understanding, and they do want to learn. We are all children of God. The tradition is open to anyone who wants to learn." --Don Jose Matusuwa
In this spirit I offer my seminar.
What is the Medicine Wheel? What does “Medicine” mean in this context?
“Medicine” means “Power”; your personal power. Power is your life force, your personal energy, focused and directed to your purpose in life. The Medicine Wheel is a circle made of stones. The Center of the Wheel is the place of Great Mystery, Source, Great Spirit, or any other name you choose. Each stone on the rim of the Medicine Wheel is equal-distant from the Center. This illustrates the equality of all beings. Each being; plant, animal, and human, shares in the universal energy, the Life Force that animates all. This leads to greater respect for all other beings, and for the Earth herself.
The Medicine Wheel takes the form of an encircled cross. The circle represents the earth. Ancient people knew the earth is round by looking at the horizon and watching the movement of the stars in a great circle overhead. The encircled cross developed as a means of ordering and understanding the world, and is found all around the world. The cross divides the wheel or circle of the world into quarters. The rim corresponds to the horizon. The horizontal and perpendicular arms of the cross are based on astronomical observations of the solstices and the equinoxes, and mark the four cardinal directions. The four cardinal directions also correspond to times of the day, of the seasons of the year, and the stages of a person’s life.
The other major observation of early astronomy, the phases of the moon, gave humans a method of keeping time. The moons are represented by the stones that are placed around the rim of the wheel. Thus early people developed an understanding of time and space. This brought order to the apparent chaos of the world. There is a remarkable agreement on the meanings found in the encircled cross all around the world. The Medicine Wheel is truly a multi-cultural symbol.
The stones that run from the east of the Medicine Wheel to the west form the Black Road of Obstacles and Lessons. As you walk from East to West and back again, the Black Road helps you to grow as you overcome your obstacles and learn from their lessons.
The Sun goes through an ongoing cycle of seeming birth, death, and rebirth as it travels along the Black Road from East to West, from sunrise to sunset. It travels it again at night, from West to East beneath the apparent world (this is how it appears from where you stand) to rise again at dawn. As you travel back and forth on this road you may come to an understanding of the ever-repeating cycles of your life. The Sun returns each morning, and is a symbol of hope as you overcome your obstacles.
The day begins not at dawn, but at sunset. The sun is ‘born’ from darkness into the light and hope of dawn. Sense the difference in viewing the start of day as sunset. Follow the course of the Sun at night and see that the night is never fully dark. You can find guidance in the Moon, ever changing, ever renewing, and from the Stars, always circling about the spindle of the sky, which is marked by the constant North Star. The North Star corresponds to the Center of the wheel and your personal Spirit of Place. Thus the Black Road offers you the promise of stability, and a sense of order in chaos and confusion; It gives you hope and a ray of certainty in a confused, chaotic world.
The stones that run from the south of the Medicine Wheel to the north form the Good Red Road. When you walk on this road, from South to North and back again, you walk in balance and harmony.
The South terminal of the Red Road is in the Underworld, the home of the Ancestors and Animal Allies. The Beings of the Underworld offer you the freedom, wildness, and terrors of the unknown. The North terminal of the Red Road is in the Upperworld, home of great teachers, angels and deities. They offer you spiritual guidance and inspiration. The Red Road teaches that you must descend into the Underworld and experience its freedom and wildness before you travel to the Upperworld. In a seeming contradiction, the freedom of the Underworld is grounding and centering, rooting you in its regenerating creativity.
This is the pattern of Shamanic teachings and journeys. You begin on the Black Road, where you learn its cycles and its lessons for your daily life. Then you walk on the Red Road, descending first to the Underworld, meeting the Ancestors and your Allies. After that you may fly above to the Upperworld. You travel back and forth on these two roads throughout your life. Wherever you travel, the goal is always to return to Center. You begin in the Center, and return back again to the Center.
Center is the center of your own Being, your sacred place of life and love. Center is the place of the World Tree, the Tree of Life, and the Shaman’s Tree. It is the Tree of the restored Hoop of the People where Black Elk, a Native American mystic, saw in vision all the peoples of the world coming together in peace. Center is the Wisdom Tree of Druidry as well, and the Door to wisdom. Center is the place of Great Mystery, the Source of all life. What is the experience of Great Mystery? What is the experience of AWEN? Great Mystery is more easily experienced in a place of nature, but is present everywhere. You can sense Great Mystery in your own silence. Take time daily to sit in silence. Be the Silence.
Your personal Center, your heart center – and the center of your Medicine Wheel, Circle, or Grove - creates a unique Spirit of Place for you. You connect to all parts of the earth, and to all beings on the earth, and thus you can connect to the planetary Spirit of Place. Spirit of Place is found within your heart, wherever you are. You walk the path of the heart. In the end, there is only One great Spirit of Place, one that all share.
Practical Work with the Medicine Wheel:
The Medicine Wheel may be used as a problem solving tool, as a guide in your spiritual life, or to gain inspiration or energy to start a project.
Note: my correspondences may be different from the ones you use. On my Medicine Wheel, East is the place of Fire & Spirit, Inspiration, and Choices; South is the place of Water & Emotions; Giving, Service, and Nurturing; West is the place of the Body & Earth; Introspection, Intuition, and Releasing/ Renewal; North is the place of the Air & Mind; of Wisdom and Understanding, where you Receive or Gather the wisdom of the other directions.
Here is one way to use the Medicine Wheel to understand a problem. My friend Judy was planning to visit her daughter to help after her daughter’s surgery. Judy believes in alternate health and nutrition so she told her daughter that she’d bring her juicer with her. Her daughter laughed at the idea that raw juices could help her. When Judy told me about this she was very upset and saw her daughter’s rejection of the juicer as a rejection of Judy herself. As we talked, Judy mentally walked around the Medicine Wheel.
She began in the East, the place of Spirit, and choices made from the heart. Judy sincerely believed she could help her daughter, and she spoke from her heart.
Then she moved to the South,place of emotions. She shared her pain at the lack of respect and tolerance she felt from her daughter. After she fully expressed her feelings, which is important to do, she moved to the West.
In the West, Judy became calmer. She went inward. She saw that her daughter might have felt overwhelmed and undervalued by her own certainty. She released the need to have her daughter share her own beliefs.
Judy next moved to the North. She reflected on what she learned from the other directions and decided that she had been too directive for her daughter’s comfort level. She realized that her daughter could love her without wanting to adopt her way of life. The knowledge she gained from her Circle of the Four Directions gave her the wisdom to release the pain of the situation.
Judy moved into her Center, where she responded with love and compassion. She accepted her daughter’s differences and no longer felt rejected. She allowed her love for her daughter to guide her. Her visit to her daughter was successful and loving. She left the juicer at home. In the same way, you may examine any problem or question that concerns you.
Try this method for yourself. If it feels more important to begin in another direction than East, do so. You may choose to go to the opposite quarter, or direction, to balance yourself. Try different methods to see what works for you. The method may change with the problem or question.
Native American Bibliography:
Books referenced and recommended. This is not a complete listing, but only a few of my own preferences. There are many more I could list, including some that are more shamanic in focus.
Key: # - recommended book.
##Bopp, Judie, Michael Bopp, Lee Brown and Phil Lane, The Sacred Tree: Reflections on Native American Spirituality, Four Worlds Development Press, Four Worlds Development Project,University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, l984. 0-941524-58-2 The Sacred Tree and gifts of the directions.
## Mails, Thomas E., Secret Native American Pathways: A Guide to Inner Peace, Council Oak books, Tulsa, Okla., l988. 0-933031-15-7 Study of four native American pathways): Pueblo, Cherokee, Apache, Sioux.
# Mails, Thomas E., Exploring the Sacred Pathways, The Pathways Foundation, Lake Elsinore, CA. Practical workbook for making tools. 0-915357-00-1
## Mails, Thomas E., in dialogue with the Sioux Holy Man, Fools Crow, Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power, Council Oak Books, Tulsa Okla., 1991. 0-933031-35-1 Healing rituals of the Sioux Holy Man.
## Meadows, Kenneth, The Medicine Way to Self-Mastery, Element Books Ltd., Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset, l990. In-depth presentation of Native American teachings and attitudes. 1-85230-151-1
# Meadows, Kenneth, Earth Medicine, Elements Books, 1989. Native American Medicine Wheel and Earth Astrology. 1-85230-47-1
## Sun Bear, Wabun Wind, and Crysalis Mulligan, Dancing with the Wheel; The Medicine Wheel Workbook, Prentice Hall Press, New York, 1991. 0-13-572843-6 Visualizations, exercises, and ceremonies using the Medicine Wheel. Tools, mineral, plant, animal, color wheels.
Sun Bear and Wabun, The Medicine Wheel Earth Astrology, 0-13-572982-3
Animal totems, personal characteristics, with NA correspondences.
## Ywahoo, Dhyani, Voices of Our Ancestors: Cherokee Teachings from the Wisdom Fire, Shambhala Publications, Boston, Mass., l987. Teachings, attitudes, meditations by 27th generation elder. 0-87773-410-0