The powers of the four directions - The medicine wheel - Awakening The Shamanic Force Within

Shamanism Made Easy: Awaken and Develop the Shamanic Force Within - Christa Mackinnon 2018

The powers of the four directions
The medicine wheel
Awakening The Shamanic Force Within

A wonderful map, ceremonial construct and teaching tool is the medicine wheel, which depicts all of life in cycles and circles, along with how its aspects work together. Circle-like structures have been used all over the world as ways of depicting, organizing and passing on information about the world and as ceremonial spaces to honour life and spirit. The mandalas of the East, the Mayan and Aztec circles of South America, the Neolithic stone circles of Europe and the circles in Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Maori traditions are just some of the many circles that speak of life in cycles.

The medicine wheel, also called the sacred hoop, is used by indigenous peoples of the North Americas but, as most sources state, comes originally from the Maya in South America. ’Medicine’ doesn’t mean something that medicates, but is a term used in those indigenous traditions to describe the mysterious power inherent in everything and everybody — a unique quality.

The medicine wheel is, like all ancient wheels, based on nature observation, and it moves from the elegantly simple — a centre and four directions — to the increasingly complex, with the number of wheels being theoretically infinite. In its many adapted forms it is now also widely used as a tool for personal exploration and development, with most contemporary practitioners using eight directions around the wheel and a split centre. Wheels are applied to a wide variety of subjects, such as the workings of the wider universe, Earth and nature, communities and the humanity within the whole. There are also wheels about specific human aspects such as the body, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, behaviour, creativity, spirituality, development, relationships and more. It is believed that we all carry the ’sacred hoop of life’ within us and thus the medicine wheel resonates with us on a deep level.

The powers of the four directions

The basic formation of the medicine wheel is based on the four compass directions — east, south, west and north — and represents the powers of those directions as well as their interrelatedness. These four directions correspond with the four elements, the four seasons, the four races of humanity, the four aspects of the human (the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual) and the four stages of life (birth, childhood, middle age and old age/death).

In the centre we find ’the children’s fire’, representing the infinite sacred mystery, which always was and always will be. If we add four more directions, we have the ancestors in the southeast, our dream of life in the southwest, rules and laws (karma) in the northwest and our design of energy in the northeast.

The basic wheel connects the directions in a circle (the feminine) and also connects them via the spirals (the masculine) that extend from the centre.1


The medicine wheel

Exercise: Connect with the powers of the four directions

There are countless ways to work with the basic medicine wheel, but all wheel work requires that you call in spirit, have a clear intent, open your heart, ask for guidance and then trust whatever comes to you.

The following is a good exercise to start exploring the sacred powers of the wheel. It is best done outside, but you can do it inside if you live in an urban environment.

· Create a wheel. Use four stones or crystals or the items from your altar. Place them in the directions of the east (fire), south (water), west (earth) and north (air), leaving enough space to stand in the middle of the circle.

· Call in spirit, whilst standing in the middle of the circle. Still yourself.

· Turn east and say:

’I ask the spirits of the east to teach me about the sun and fire and how to bring the sacred of the east into my life.’

· Turn south and say:

’I ask the spirits of the south to teach me about water and the plant kingdom and how to bring the sacred of the south into my life.’

· Turn west and say:

’I ask the spirits of the west to teach me about earth, about the deep mother and how to bring the sacred of the west into my life.’

· Turn north and say:

’I ask the spirits of the north to teach me about air and the animal kingdom and how to bring the sacred of the north into my life.’

Stay in each direction for as long as it feels right and just let the teachings come to you. You will get much information and insights in the form of feelings, images and advice.

Make sure you write down what you remember afterwards and find ways to bring the sacred of each direction into your life.

Finish by thanking all the spirits and then dismantle the wheel.