Among indigenous cultures worldwide, there is a universal recognition of four cardinal directions. These cardinal directions of Earth are held sacred, for they share a symbolic wisdom with us. The Medicine Wheel is an indigenous symbol that incorporates the cardinal directions; it forms a perfect circle, symbolizing nature’s cycles. Within the medicine wheel we find each of the seasons, elements of nature, and the wisdom that all life comes full circle. The grand mother Earth, the Sun, the Moon are all aspects of the natural world and in the shape of a circle. The medicine wheel is without beginning or end, it is the representation of a repeating on going process, the natural cycle of life.
Within each circle, it is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant is comprised of one of the following four colors, yellow, red, black, and white. The medicine wheel is a symbol that is shared by many traditions and all share the universal core elements, however, the configuration of the elements may vary.
We begin in the East, which is represented by the color yellow. The East is the place of the rising sun, the place where Day runner first makes his appearance, it signifies a new day. The Element of Fire-Sun is found here, the season of Spring, the time of new birth and renewal. Here Eagle soars close to Great Spirit, the Great Mystery, sharing with us the bigger picture.
Looking to the South, we find the color Red. The Season of Summer, the South is the place in the sky where the Sun shines brightest. Walking the Red road, is to live in a good way. The element of Water, the blood of Mother Earth. The place in the stars where we are believed to originate, and will one day return. Here the white tale deer pierces the veil between the physical plane and the spirit realms, it teaches us to observe are surroundings, and to shed all things that no longer serve us.
Looking to the West, the color is black. The season of Fall, the place where the sun sets and the day ends. This is the autumn of our lives. The element here is Earth, the soil to which all life returns. Here we find Bear; it teaches us to face our fears and to face death. When we embrace Bear, it then becomes our ally. We no longer walk in fear, death has no power over us and in this way we are transformed.
We turn to the North, the color is white. White as the color of snow, and is the season of winter. The element is of Air, of the wind. In winter, buffalo faces the cold wind head on. It demonstrates endurance, facing hardships, and discomfort with patience. In the North, we also find Raven, the shapeshifter, and intermediary between the spirit realms. Raven teaches us to live in the moment, without regret (past), and without worry (future).
So for a minute, I want you to imagine, that you are within a beautiful landscape, Mountains rising to the north, and a placid glacial lake before you. The water is perfectly calm, so still that it has become a mirror reflecting all that surrounds it. As you gaze upon the lake, you notice the reflection of the majestic mountains before you. The mountains image is identical, with the exception that it presents itself upside down, the inverse of what is above. Within this mirror, there is also a beautiful sky, some trees, and even birds. The entire scene is the inverse reflection of all that you see. What is above so is below, appearing as two parallel universes.
Imagine yourself kneeling at the edge of this pristine, placid lake. You lean over the water to see your own reflection staring back at you. You are gazing into the eyes of your twin, identical in every way, with the exception that your twin is your reversed image. You raise your right hand to say hello, your twin simultaneously raises their left hand. The left is as the right, the above is as the below.
In this moment, four directions are presenting to you and there are parallels to be drawn. Imagine that you are at the center of the medicine wheel; you are one with the Great Spirit, one with the Great Mystery. Allow this knowledge to fill your heart, to well up within you, flooding your entire being with love. Look into your own reflection; imagine a single teardrop falling into your twin’s image looking back at you. The drop forms the center of what becomes many concentric rings, circles emanating outwards. The first ring represents those closest to you, your loved ones, and your immediate family. The outer expanding rings represent your extended family, your community, the world and all life upon Mother Earth.
Imagine all people and all life that Mother Earth carries upon her, joined together in one incredible circle, interconnected as one. The Indigenous peoples share an egalitarian belief system that is nature based. This belief is that all life is sacred, that all life deserves equal rights and opportunities. The Lakota have a beautiful expression that speaks to this widely held belief. Aho, Mitakuye Oyasin ~ Greetings, all my relatives, we are all related.