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Medicine Wheel

Updated: 6-27-2011 11:17 AM



 Traditional teachings of the Ojibwa people encompassed all aspects of the person’s life, in relation to the world around them.  The learning process addressed and teaches about the inseparability of the emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions.  Native people believe everything happens/goes in a circle clockwise, therefore the medicine wheel is a circle divided into four quadrants.

 The Medicine Wheel is an interconnected system of teachings relating to the seasons, directions, elements, colors and the cycle of life.  It speaks of the need for balance, harmony and respect as bringers of happiness.  It is an ancient system of traditional indigenous knowledge that many tribal peoples share under many different names.

 Experience continues to be a fundamental principle of the Anishinabe learning processes.

If you look at the Medicine Wheel, it is in four quadrants, four is a sacred number among many tribal people.  Four directions, four races of people, four cycles of life, four seasons, four winds and four quarters of the moon.

 We began in the east, it is the start of a new day or beginning new.  The season is Spring, everything is just starting to come alive, to bud or grow, the trees, the grass, the flowers.  The stage of life is infancy again because of the newness.  The element is Earth, which was the first creation.  The color is red.  In the physical health quadrant is how a person takes care of self in a good physical way – nutrition, are your family meals healthy and nutritious; exercise, are you exercising on a regular scheduled basis; boundaries, are you aware of what are healthy boundaries; personal hygiene on a daily basis.

 And in the south quadrant, everything that comes from this direction is warm, thus the season is summer, the life stage is youth.  The element for the south is air, because we all need air to breathe, the vegetation to grow.  The color is yellow.  In the emotional health quadrant is how aware are we of our emotions – identify feelings, healthy ways to express these feelings, not being afraid to seek help.

 In the west, we are now entering the third quarter of the circle/wheel, the season is fall, vegetation is beginning to go dormant, leaves are changing and falling off their branches and the grass is turning brown, the life stage is adult, we are preparing for the completion of our circle and passing down some of the knowledge that we had learned.  The element for the west is water, again an essential for growth and for us humans, without it we wouldn’t live.  The color is black.  In the spiritual health quadrant is how aware is a person of their spiritual being-mentor, do you have a mentor and do they practice the Native Traditional way like ceremonies cleansing or rituals such as naming, big drum; Christian such as church, baptisms, communion, or other practices of spirituality.  All beliefs focus on basically the same principles, morals, values and spiritual guidelines.

 The north, we are now in the final quarter of our circle/wheel, the north is cold, the season is winter, things are in the dormant stage, the vegetation, the insects, the stage of life is the elder, we have completed our circle and have passed down our knowledge to our children and grandchildren, the element is fire, to keep us warm and some of the insects and bugs that are in the dormant stage, so in the spring they will come back to reproduce and complete their circle.  The color is white.  In the intellectual health quadrant is how aware we need to be about our education – education is the power in the modern technological and the traditional world.  Are you teaching and learning about the electronic world with your children, helping with homework, attending their IE”,s, reading to your child, the seasons, tobacco to elders, fasting, language and ceremonies.

 If you mix the colors of the four races of people, you will get brown, which represents the Earth.

 Being able to find balance and harmony helps a person live a moral, noble, intuitive and spiritual life.  Everyone needs a balanced life.  Start the day by offering tobacco, praying for a good day and to ask for guidance in your life.

 Mary R. Favorite, White Earth - 2004