The Medicine Wheel is a powerful symbol and philosophy of healing shared by many Native American tribes and cultures. It connects us to the potent forces of nature, roots us in the wisdom of the Four Directions, and invites us into an awareness of the continual flow of life.
Different tribes work with the Medicine Wheel in different ways and each cardinal direction carries various layers of meaning. My work with the Medicine Wheel at Ewassa is rooted in the Q’ero shamanic tradition from Peru and the corresponding cycle of the Four Elements from Brazil, the two ancient wisdom traditions that I have been trained and initiated in.
The Four Directions of the Medicine Wheel offer unique perspectives and tools for healing, and a universal path of self-discovery and revitalization that we all can journey through.
What follows is an overview of the Four Directions as I work with them at Ewassa, and how progressing through the Medicine Wheel can offer deep healing and transformation.
The starting point for healing work is the South. Here we begin to release the past: Our regrets, stories of who we are and why, our outmoded roles, patterns, limiting beliefs, and expectations of how to be in relationship to others. Here we see things for what they are at a literal level, and release attachment and emotion.
As we shed our past we create space for a new way of being. We can step forward without preconceptions and begin to see life and our potential in different ways. We are guided in the South by the Serpent, who periodically sheds its skin – all at once – beginning a fresh cycle.
The South is the direction where the sun shines brightest and hottest. Here we work with the element of Fire to burn away all these things from the past and clear space for what is to come. Within Fire we also rekindle our passion for life and feed the fire that propels us forward.
In the West we work with old or intrusive energies that need to be released. We delve more deeply into the hidden areas of our lives and the traumas and generational patterns buried in our subconscious mind.
This is a time for releasing energetic imprints from the luminous body or soul, recognizing that those imprints can unconsciously keep us stuck repeating old patterns. Here we examine and shift the unseen, the influences behind our literal and physical world.
The Jaguar guides us in the West, with its acute senses and ability to track and perceive the unseen. Jaguar is an unrivaled hunter who can capture and transform unwanted energies, or pursue its target like an arrow.
The element of Earth corresponds to the West direction. Earth is where we witness transformation, reorganize elements of our lives and find physical healing. We work with the healing herbs and other powerful objects in nature, and connect with the Earth Mother and her nurturing and life-giving nature.
By the time we reach the North direction of the Medicine Wheel we have shed old patterns and energies and created fertile ground for something new and positive to take root.
We can then step into an awareness of our life’s trajectory and how our daily choices affect us and those around us. We intentionally choose to create a life of beauty and purpose, carefully planting seeds of positivity. We recognize our place in the world – standing between our grandparents and our grandchildren – and consider our legacy and the wisdom we’ll leave behind.
The Hummingbird becomes our guide, teaching us to seek out the sweetest nectar from blooming flowers and surround ourselves in beauty and nourishment. Hummingbird also shows us how to persevere against all odds, as it travels long distances in pursuit of new sweetness.
Water is the element of the North. Water brings life to everything it touches, awakening seeds that have lain dormant and helping the flowers to flourish and blossom. Water cleanses our emotions, washes our bodies and nourishes our soul.
The cycle of the Medicine Wheel reaches completion in the East – the direction of the rising sun – representing a new day and new beginnings. It is in the East that we align with our deepest calling and look beyond self to understand how we can serve and bring our unique gifts to the world.
Here we connect with the wisdom of Spirit, the Divine Creator, and see our purpose and our life from a higher perspective. We are guided by the Eagle who soars effortlessly through the sky and yet clearly sees what it needs to, far below on the earth.
This is the direction of Air, the domain of consciousness, understanding and spirituality. Within Air we embrace the expansion and new spaciousness brought by the winds, and contemplate time and the sacred space beyond time where all is connected and limitations disappear.
After we conclude the cycle of the Medicine Wheel we simply begin to walk it again, approaching the South from a place of greater wisdom and authenticity (or self-understanding) than we did the previous time.
The Medicine Wheel is therefore never a circular repetition of what has come before, but rather a spiral of upward evolution. We may walk the same directions and work with the same Four Elements again and again, but each time we pass through the Medicine Wheel we release more layers from our past, clear more energetic disturbances, discover new inspiration, and deepen more purposefully into our calling and our unique gifts.
This path of healing is equal parts removing negative influences and strengthening positive ones. We weed our personal garden, tend to the soil, carefully plant the seeds of what we wish to manifest and then water and care for them.
Similar to the way the seasons cycle each year from Fall to Winter, Spring and Summer, the Medicine Wheel moves us forward to new possibilities. Each direction and season helps us develop a greater understanding of the cycles of life and our place within them.
As you move through the Four Directions the unique nature of everything in the natural world becomes apparent. The Serpent, Jaguar, Hummingbird and Eagle are only called to fully be who they are, with their own wisdom and medicine. As are we. This is a path of self-discovery and authenticity. Healing is about deepening, rebalancing, letting go of limiting influences and aligning with your purpose and the greater good.
Wishing you many blessings on your path!