The Medicine Wheel is the representation of all things connected within the circle of life. It is told that there are over 100 relevant traditional teachings given of the Medicine Wheel. Each teaching holds its own meaning and purpose. The Medicine Wheel usually focuses on the significance of the numbers 4 and 7. Commonly the medicine Wheel teaches 7 aspects within each of the 4 quadrants that represent life in in specific stages; The four directions, the four elements of life, the four medicines, the four seasons, the four states of well being, the four colours of man and four stages of life.
The medicine wheel holds many other teachings as it is a representation of the circle of life.
The Medicine Wheel
From the students, faculty, visiting elders and support staff at Georgian College
To the Ojibwe people; each direction is a representation of a doorway where a great spirit sits and brings the gifts from that direction.
The Eastern Doorway represents all beginnings, both new and renewed. In the east the sun rises and new day begins so it is the place for the element of fire.
The first medicinal gift to the Anishnaabe people was tobacco - sema. It is used as a prayer vessel to the creator and all things spiritual thus tobacco sits in the Eastern Doorway.
Spring is the time of rebirth and new beginnings and is begins in the Eastern Doorway.
In the beginning of all things, we are in a good state of mind, learning and growing and in awe of all things; thus the East represents mental health and well-being.
Yellow is the colour of the Eastern Doorway as is the sun and the race of people. The Oriental race was gifted with knowledge.
The stages of life in the eastern doorway are birth and childhood as infants and children represent purity, innocence, beginnings and knowledge untouched by the world we live in.
The Southern Doorway represents growth and nurturance. The element of life is earth and the time of the day is noon as the sun shines and nurtures all plants and life.
The Southern Doorway reminds us to be kind as we nurture all living things, thus sweet grass is the gift brought to us by this direction.
Summer is the time of year represented by the Southern Doorway as it is time for all things to grow and prosper in the light of the high sun and long days.
During the summer and mid-day it is time of physical endurance as it is the time for hunting, gathering and labour, thus the Southern Doorway promotes physical health and well-being.
Red is the colour of the south as is the race of the people that sit in this doorway. The Aboriginal people were gifted with foresight; the ability to use the gifts brought to us by summer to prepare for the harvests of the autumn and the long nights in the winter.
The stage of life represented in this doorway is the youth or adolescence. It is time of searching, growing into adulthood and finding the right path, thus we must always be kind and nurturing to those within this stage of life.
The Western Doorway represents change, death, understanding and clarity. In the West, the sun sets and thus the day dies as does all intentions and deeds performed during that day. Before we finish our day we cleanse ourselves with the element of life that is water.
The Western Doorway reminds us to respect change and death with acceptance and understanding; thus sage is the medicinal gift to assist us in clearing our minds, heart and inner beings.
Autumn is the time of year when plants come to fruition and are ready for harvest, the trees change colour and begin to lose their leaves and animals begin to burrow down for the cold, long nights to come. Just as the day dies with the setting of the sun, so does the fruition from the harvests of the year with the coming of autumn.
Change can be both challenging and overwhelming as is understanding and respecting death and decay within the fabric of life; thus the Western Doorway promotes emotional health and well-being.
Dark Blue is the colour of this direction as is the night sky by the light of the moon and the race of people with the blue aura is the Black people who carry the gift of sight. (Dark Blue is also a colour closely associated with some Cree teachings, and for many Ojibwe people this colour is often black as a representation of the people that sit in this doorway).
The stage of life represented by the Western Doorway is adult and parenthood as we change in mind, body and spirit during this stage and begin to respect and truly understand our place within the world around us.
The Northern Doorway represents rest, reflection, wisdom and sharing. In the north the nights are long and the winds are cool. They remind us that our bodies and the earth must rest in order to renew so the element of life gifted from here is air.
While all most plants and animals are resting during the long nights of winter, the cedar tree continues to bear its green branches. Cedar bows brings the medicine that renews the spirit and protects us from infection or illness that the cold season may bring; thus the Northern Doorways gift is cedar.
Winter comes from the Northern Doorway as it is time for rest and sharing. All things need time to rest in order to prosper.
While the elders rest and share the stories and traditions of the people we must take the time to reflect within, thus the Northern Doorway promotes spiritual health and well-being.
White is the colour of the North as is the snow that blankets the earth and the race of people that belong to this doorway. The White people have the gift of swiftness and speed.
Elders represent the stage of life from the Northern Doorway. Our elders carry the wisdom of life as they have walked through all stages and watch others as they experience their own trials.
From the beginning of life to the end, everything in life has a cycle which follows the rhythm of the circle. As humans, when we reach the end of a path or trial in life, we stop, reflect and are reborn into the next phase with new vigor and new purpose based on the lessons learned from our previous trials; thus we begin the cycle of the circle once again.
A Touch of History:
The Medicine Wheel teachings have been fittingly used by Indigenous people from South America to North America and from the east coast to the west coast for longer than written history can recall. Today, there is no evidence supporting where the teachings originated from, however archaeological evidence has recovered large stone medicine wheels used in places of the plains of Northern United States and Southern Canada. It is believed that the area's where these Medicine wheels were recovered were traditional gathering areas for the plains tribes.
Please explore the following links. Each link shares a teaching of the Medicine wheel as it pertains to the specific culture in that area.
Ojibwe/Powawatomi (Anishinabe) Teaching @ http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/
By: Elder Lillian Pitawanakwat
The Medicine Wheel
A Historical Overview including more useful links
The Medicine Wheel @ http://www.dancingtoeaglespiritsociety.org/index.php
By: Sandra Laframboise and Karen Sherbina
Traditional Algonquin Teachings @ http://www.thealgonquinway.ca/.
A lesson guide for ages 9-11 years.
The Anishnabek Medicine Wheel - What Does it Mean? @ http://www.lowerthames-conservation.on.ca/
The Medicine Wheel @