Date: Fri, 13 Jan 1995 01:59:56 -0500
NATCHAT Aboriginal Peoples: discussion <NATCHAT@tamvm1.tamu.edu>
Subject: Medicine Wheel
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I hope this gets to you first as a bit of a warning. I will give you a lot of information, but first. The general idea of the medicine wheel is simple, but the variations are kind of endless. With each of the different cultures, you deal with a number of different interpretations. (If there is any problem with understanding words that I use, let me know, I know a little Italian).
here goes...each of the nations (read tribes, groups etc.) has a slightly different way of looking at the wheel.
draw a circle on a piece of paper, then put a cross in the middle...
like this sort of
N _ / | \ W ----E \ | / - S
the points of the cross often represent one of the four cardinal directions...(North, East, South, West). Often the Cardinal, or sacred, directions also include above and below, or heaven, and earth.
many of the nations also have a color associated with the direction.
these vary with the nation. (that is to say that Hoops have different
colors associated with North than the Dineh, or Navajo.) These colors
are also sacred. For Instance, the Dineh have a complex system that
has relation to some of the colors. (many of the
Stories as they are called by Anthropologists have colors attached,
the pillars that hold up the fourth world, the one that we are
currently in, correspond to the directions on the medicine wheel.)
So, also then there are often attributes that correspond to the directions as well, often enlightenment is attributed to the east because it is in the east that the sun arises. Often there are animals attributed to directions as well, as their attributes match. Often the Eagle, a sacred spirit to us, because eagle is close to the heavens, and the Great Spirit, is seen as the representative of the above or up direction. The wolf is sometimes that of the North, and the Badger of the south, (the badger is a very territorial, clan or family oriented animal, who is a fierce defender of territory and home.)
So then, often different nations see things different ways. There are similarities. We also often say that we need to see ourselves sitting in the middle of the wheel, so that we know we have all of the attributes each of the directions within each of us. This is so we always think of the balances that are vital to us. To survive we must be in balance, for Mother Earth to survive, she must also be in balance.
I think this begins an explanation a bit. I just tell you what I have listened to and learned from elders who know all of this. I defer to them, and I hope I make no mistakes, and I hope I offend no one.
I have a number of memories of explanations of the wheel, form a number of view points. (An especially detailed explanation from Wilson Aronlith (spelling?) who teaches at Navajo Community College.) I will share with you all I can. I learned to make the wheel from rawhide and the dyed quills of the porcupine, and I would be glad to send one to you, so you have something to hold as you begin to learn. (this is a traditional Plains quilling technique, I think the one I use is Lakota, but it is hard to say exactly.)
I too am a student, and I learn not only from trying my best to teach, but also from listening and reading.
I will be glad to correspond with you as much as I can on these ideas. I am no expert, singer, or blessed one by any means, but I have been lucky enough to be exposed to some of my elders, and I will try to help you learn too, and learn from you in turn.
I can be reached at email@example.com. Please drop me a line with questions.