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The Medicine Wheel

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The Medicine Wheel

Post  MISPLACEDBUCKEYE on Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:08 pm

When Native Americans pray to the 4 directions it is a prayer to the spirits of the world, to life & the Great Spirit that encompasses the 4 directions & everything that is. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol that incorporates the 4 directions. Its spokes point east, south, west, & north. The 4 quarters are colored red, yellow, black, & white representing all races, seasons, & stages of life. The circle is the earth, moon & planets. It is the circle of life & all creation.
— with Kerry Silversmith.

For the Medicine Wheel in Big Horn County, Wyoming, USA, see Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark.
The Medicine Wheel in Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming, USA
A ceremonial drum of the Royal Military College of Canada showing a medicine wheel design.

Medicine wheels, or sacred hoops, are either a symbol of indigenous North American culture and religion, or stone monuments related to this symbol.

The monuments were constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground oriented to the four directions. Most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern of having a center of stone(s), and surrounding that is an outer ring of stones with "spokes", or lines of rocks radiating from the center with the spokes facing East, South, West and North following the cardinal directions. Some ancient types of sacred architecture were built by laying stones on the surface of the ground in particular patterns common to aboriginal people.

Originally, medicine wheels were stone structures constructed by a large number of the tribes or nations of indigenous peoples of America for religious, ritual, healing, and teaching purposes. Medicine wheels are still "opened" or inaugurated in Native American spirituality where, by certain tribes or groups, they are referred to as "sacred hoops". There are various native words to describe the ancient forms and types of rock alignments. The most prevalent and used involves the four directions.

More recently, syncretic, hybridized uses of medicine wheels, magic circles, and mandala sacred technology are employed in New Age, Wiccan, Pagan and other spiritual discourse throughout the World. The rite of the sacred hoop and medicine wheel differed and differs amongst indigenous traditions, as it now does between non-indigenous peoples, and between traditional and modernist variations.

The Royal Alberta Museum (2005) hold that the term "medicine wheel" was first applied to the Big Horn medicine wheel in Wyoming, the most southern archeological wheel still extant.[1] The term "medicine" was not applied because of any healing that was associated with the medicine wheel, but denotes that the sacred site and rock formations were of central importance and attributed with religious, hallowed, and spiritual significance.[1] The revisionist and culturally congruent English nomenclature is "sacred hoop".[2]

A 2007 Indian Country Today article on Indigenous American hoop dancing defines the hoop this way:

The hoop is symbolic of "the never-ending cycle of life." It has no beginning and no end. Tribal healers and holy men have regarded the hoop as sacred and have always used it in their ceremonies. Its significance enhanced the embodiment of healing ceremonies.[3]

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