Medicine Wheel - Sacred Hoop

Sacred Circle of Life

Medicine Wheel
Medicine Wheel. John Mock / Getty Images

The medicine wheel, originating from Native American traditions, is also referred to as Sacred Hoop. The medicine wheel represents the sacred circle of life, its basic four directions, and their associated elements. Each direction of the wheel offers its own lessons, color, and animal spirit guide. Animal totems serve as guardians or ambassadors of each of the directions.

Animals Guardians of the Native American Medicine Wheel

The four animals commonly represented in this role are The Bear, The Buffalo, The Eagle, and The Mouse.

However, there are no fast rules about which animals represent the directions of the Medicine Wheel. Michael Samuels, co-author of The Path of the Feather, teaches that all native peoples have different spirit animals and meanings of the directions, encouraging us in choosing our own.

One variation are the sacred animals who serve as representatives in the Lakota Medicine Wheel. They are Thunderbird, Buffalo, Deer and Owl. The Thunderbird was chosen for the West direction because of its powerful alignment with thunder and storms. For the North direction Buffalo is given honor for its sacred and sacrificial status. In the East the Black-Tailed Deer gives the wheel a mystical and holy energy. And in the South, the Wise Owl serves as the medicine wheel's designated messenger.

Medicine Wheel as an Introspection Tool

The medicine wheel is a symbol of symmetry and balance. During the process of constructing the wheel you will begin to recognize what areas of your life are not in balance, and where your attention is lacking and requires focus.

Continuing working with the wheel after you constructed it. Sit with your wheel in silent meditation. Allow the wheel to assist you in gaining new and different perspectives.

The medicine wheel represents the many cycles of life. The circle is representative of life's never ending cycle (birth, death, rebirth).

Each stone or spoke placement within the wheel focuses on a different aspect of living.

A personal medicine wheel can be made using fetishes such as crystals, arrowheads, seashells, feathers, animal fur/bones, and so on. Take time to reflect on each aspect of your life (self, family, relationships, life purpose, community, finances, health, etc.) as you place objects within the circle.

Simple and Complex Medicine Wheels

A medicine wheel can also be constructed without the use of objects, simply draw out your circle with colored pencils and paper. If you have the room outdoors for a large scale medicine wheel and are up to the project go ahead. If you can make it big enough for you to sit inside the spaces between the spokes of the wheel after you have constructed it all the better!

Medicine Wheel Elements and Directions

Four Elements:
Air, Water, Fire, Earth

Four Directions:
North, East, South, West

Five Directions:
North, East, South, West, Center (Heart)

Six Directions:
North, East, South, West, Sky, Earth

Seven Directions:
North, East, South, West, Father Sky, Mother Earth, Center (Self)