Bear's Blog

Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming

Medicine Wheels: Part One

Aug 15, 2023

Native Americans have created medicine wheels for thousands of years. It’s a structure made of rocks placed in the landscape; it typically has a central stone(s) surrounded by one or more concentric circles, with two or more lines radiating outward from the center point. Most of the few hundred that survive are found in Canada and the U.S. Mountain West. Some scientists and historians believe these forms reflected various celestial alignments (not unlike Stonehenge and other ancient structures).

The most famous, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming (pictured above) is an important example of this theory. It has a central “cairn” large enough to contain a sitting person, surrounded by 28 spokes emanating outward, with six other cairns along the outer ring.

They are known and utilized as a focus of ceremony and spiritual practice, like a large altar on the land. It embodies the Native cultural values of harmony, balance, right relation, and interconnectedness with the natural world. Like the labyrinth in Christianity, it has a very specific form and way in which to engage with it. They invite us into an experience of reflection, gratitude, silence, and a meditation on the eternal cycles of life.

The medicine wheel honors the four directions – north, south, east and west (and three more if you include “above”, “below” and the center). The simplest form is a circle with these four quadrants, and an inner “spirit circle” that the spokes lead into.

Here is a basic approach to a Medicine Wheel ceremony, although it is ultimately a creative and individual expression. Entering from the East, go clockwise, stopping in each quadrant to call out the general attributes (qualities, animals, colors, and elements) of each direction. Honor those elements and speak to how it influences your life; maybe even ask for guidance or support with something specific.

Next, express gratitude for these qualities, beings, and energies by making an offering. The offering can be an herb, traditionally tobacco. I like to take rough cornmeal and throw it up into the air with an enthusiastic “Ho!” of affirmation and completion. Here are some ideas to play with:

To the East:
Air, spring, birds (the eagle), dawn, birth/childhood, new beginnings, creativity, growth, yellow (tobacco)

To the South:
Fire, summer, midday, snakes and 4-leggeds (wolf, deer), youth, fertility, abundance, joy, yang, red (sweetgrass)

To the West:
Water, autumn, the bear (approaching hibernation), evening, maturity, healing, harvesting, wisdom, blue (sage)

To the North:
Earth, winter, white, the buffalo, nighttime, introspection and rest, stillness, yin, darkness, patience, elders (cedar)

For Above – Father Sky, the active principle

For Below – Mother Earth, the receptive principle

At the Center – Humanity, the heart and soul, the timeless here and now

I hope this piques your interest. In the following weeks, I will share our experience as a healing community building 3 wheels in Bozeman, Montana - and how to make one of your own! A medicine wheel is a wonderful way to celebrate and reflect on our connection to the natural world.

Learn more about the celestial alignments of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel by clicking here.

Peace, love and healing -


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