The Seven Lessons of the Medicine Wheel
The Science of the Medicine Wheel
Many cultures have attempted to track the movements of the sun, the moon and the stars and have used these celestial bodies to measure time, to follow specific geographic routes using cardinal directions and to relate to the physical and spiritual world they live in. There are numerous examples of ancient sites around the world where ancient cultures and ancestors laid out stones in patterns that relate very closely to the movements of the sun and can be used as calendars showing accurate sunrises and sunsets on the solstices and observed equinoxes.
The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop or Sacred Circle, has been used by generations of various Native American tribes and First Nations in Canada for health and healing and as a tool for learning and teaching. There are many interpretations of the Medicine Wheel by many people and cultures, and no one is wrong. Depending on the teachings they received, many Elders, including SAY Magazine’s consulting Elder Norman “Redsky” Monkman, refer to the Medicine Wheel as the Medicine Circle. In fact, “Medicine Wheel” is not an Indigenous term this term was given to the structures by the first Europeans and is not the way the first peoples referred to their rock structures. In fact, a wheel was a foreign concept to the ancient first peoples, but this is how they are commonly referred to in present time.
For the purpose of this article we will use the more widely recognized term Medicine Wheel.
There are seven common teachings associated with the medicine wheel in many First Nations’ cultures. These teachings vary by tribal custom and by the elders relating their own heritage and stories. However, there are a lot of common themes that can be taught and discussed that are very relevant to modern life and can be proudly taught as evidence of the high level of knowledge in cosmic things, in the changing of seasons, in timekeeping, in the use and respect for animals, in plants and in the elements.
There is no right or wrong way to use the medicine wheel as a teaching tool. It is both a universal symbol and a personal mnemonic tool for various cultures. Inviting elders to relate their associated learnings about the medicine wheel is an important way of preserving and passing on culturally important knowledge. The knowledge vested in elders should be honoured and respected.