The Architecture of a modern Medicine Wheel
Medicine Wheel Introduction
Here is an introductory overview of the whole Medicine Wheel before we study each stone. This Medicine Wheel Introduction is meant to acquaint the reader with the basic principles of the wheel and be a quick reference for the wheel’s basic parts.
Center Stone- (1) The Great Mystery. Begin building the wheel by placing the center stone which symbolizes the sheer wonder of all that is. In Lakota teachings, there is no heaven, no classical God. There is only the Great Mystery- the Void from which all life comes. Life is and will always be- a mystery.
Inner Wheel-(Stones 2-8) The Seven Clans around the Great Mystery. Around the center stone, seven stones are placed. These stones represent the clans (collective awareness of) Planet Earth, the Sun, the Moon and the four basic elements of life- Fire, Air, Water, and Stone.
Outer Wheel -in two parts
Part 1- Four Spirit Guardians- (stones 9-12) These are the Gate Keepers of the four directions; North, South, East, and West. These four large outer stones should be placed in the actual accurate directions they represent whenever possible. The four directions of the world hold profound cosmic wisdom of how reality comes and goes through spacetime. They work on the polar opposite axis with North being the seat of elders and teachers while South is the home of eternal youth and the process of always learning. East is the guardian of all things spiritual/metaphysical while the West is the portal to physical reality. The East/West axis is called the BLUE ROAD of spirit. It is the energy stream of ancestors and lives yet to come. The North/South axis is the RED ROAD of life. It is the ‘right’ path we walk in life to stay connected to what is true. Truth changes. We follow. Where the Blue Road and the Red Road cross is where communication between dimensions can occur, where we can access the Knowing field.
Part 2- Months Of The Calendar Year – (stones 13-24) The smaller stones between the four directions in the outer wheel make up a single calendar year with three months per quadrant. Each month holds a Spirit Animal Guide for that time of year as well as a color vibration and a stone. It is good to locate and contemplate the meanings of the stone of your month of birth and compare it to its opposite- which would be your particular life challenges and what you are learning in this life walk. Keep in mind, this interpretation of the outer wheel is a modern construct, as ancient tribes did not use a European calendar year. Sun Bear adapted the Medicine Wheel to modern culture.
The Four Virtue Pathways
The Spokes: Virtue PathWays between the inner and outer wheels- Energetically, we are always moving either from the outside wheel to the inside or from the inside out. We are always moving between physical reality and spiritual metaphysical reality. How we move between the dualistic realms is informed by the Virtue stones. Each spoke in the wheel is comprised of three stones each (12 stones total) which connect the inner circle to the outer circle and create distinct quadrants. The connecting spokes are dynamic teachings that enable us to travel from inner to outer reality. One experience leads to the next and we are always cycling around from beginning to end and beginning again. The four virtue pathways are comprised as follows:
Virtue Pathway one: Spirit Journey of the North- (stones 25-27)
Cleansing Stone (25) –Renewal Stone (26) – Purity Stone (27) To seek enlightenment it is necessary to release illusions and misperceptions. This is done through a process of cleansing. There are many ways to cleanse body, mind, and spirit. Native cultures hold the sacred Sweat Lodge for this phase of life. Once cleansed in a spiritual ceremony we are renewed and have shed old unhelpful beliefs. The cleansing and renewal processes lead us to the reality of pure innocence. From this place, we are ready to move to the Eastern pathway.
Virtue Pathway two: Spirit Journey of the East- (stones 28-30)
Clarity Stone (28) –Wisdom Stone (29) – Illumination Stone (30)– Having released the illusions of the past we see what is- as it is. From the empty space of clarity, real wisdom about people and life patterns emerge effortlessly. We find in this part of the wheel that we have answers to people’s questions without much effort. This stream of wisdom leads to an even higher state. Beyond logical wisdom and data collecting, we discover an indescribable state of grace known as illumination. When we are in this part of the wheel we are able to leave our limited personal situation and grasp entire generations of conflict with compassion. From illumination connect to cosmic dimensions beyond our five senses. Achieving this moves us, ironically out of the Eastern arc and into the South, the land of the child.
Virtue Pathway three: Spirit Journey of the South- (stones 31-33)
The journey through clarity, wisdom, and illumination has the unexpected effect of bringing us back to the child’s place of learning. Having left the familiar dimension of the North environment and opened to new realms, we become students once again of unknown territory. The phases of this arc are the:
Growth Stone (31) – Trust Stone (32) -Love Stone (33)– Whatever we question can be dismantled, leaving us confounded and alone if we are not careful. To truly grow we must trust the process of life. When we learn to trust, we open to love. Can there be any greater achievement? But the wheel doesn’t stop there. It never stops. As we move through love relationships our awareness shifts us into the fourth quadrant- The Western arc.
Virtue Pathway four: Spirit Journey of the West- (stones 34-36)
Experience Stone (34) – Introspection Stone (35) – Strength Stone (36) Here we release the comfort of having answers and enter the uncomfortable phase of being taught again by elders in an area of life we’ve only just discovered. We grow. It is awkward but necessary and compulsive. All the love and connection we find in life at any time still does not ultimately define us. When we move into these virtues we understand that we are not what happens to us. No single relationship, no matter how loving, can ever define us definitively. Likewise, no single relationship no matter how painful can define us either. We are ever-changing energy fields through time. This pathway asks us to accept our independent, autonomous nature. The last stone in the cycle is Strength. The process of living always leads a soul to more power gained. EVERY life walk is a success on some level no matter how many mistakes we’ve made. One’s life always results in some amount of power achieved in some capacity. Connecting to, moving through, and releasing physical reality results in spiritual power. We survive the trials of life and simply grow stronger and more capable of another cycle of experience. It is our choice to use that power to enter the wheel again and cycle through another adventure. Or perhaps we will use our hard-won strength to travel out of the Wheel and sustain presence for others.
IT’S YOUR WHEEL
Build them wherever you go! It is your adventure and your wheel. Do with it what you will and bring what you discover to others. Build tiny wheels with pebbles in your bedroom. Build larger wheels with river stones at your next campsite. These wheels are invitations into the Field- a greater resource for wisdom.
The Medicine Wheel is a cosmic map into the Great Mystery. It is a living sculpture of energy patterns that teaches us how to listen to life’s moments with shamanic integrity and helps us locate where we are in relation to where we want to be and how best to move forward towards our life’s joy. This introspective tool, when combined with Animal Spirit Medicine teachings can open up limiting perspectives and shift a situation into deeper clarity and creative momentum.
Making a Medicine Wheel starts by placing a stone in the center and building outwards. Here is a numbered diagram of all the stones in a Medicine Wheel.