A voicehearer’s path ~

Posts tagged ‘medicine wheel’

The North of the Wheel ~

grazininthegrassThe North of the Wheel is the place of the buffalo; the place of the Elders; the place of snow and white hair. It should be a time of wisdom and of telling stories of days gone by, of teaching the younger ones how to survive, and how to live free. It is about the ending of cycles, and about beginning new ones. It is the place where we make the next step on the sacred spiral and start another round.

The Tatanka Oyate, Bison People, the people we know as the Lakota, were mainly in the deadbuffplains and foothills of the Dakotas. They depended on Buffalo for everything, food, clothing, housing, tools, all came from the buffalo. When the buffalo hunters shot so many in a few weeks, they knew they were set free to do this to kill off the Souix tribes. It was an incredibly uncivilized thing to do, and as far as I am concerned, the real savages were pale of skin and quick with a gun.

To the Lakota, Tatanka was a gift from the Holy Spirit. And, yes, Wakan translates Holy, so address her properly, and stop pretending that Christians were not turning their backs on G-d when all of this was going on. I do not blame today’s Christians for that sin, I wbblame them for continuing the blindness in the name of being right when our white ancestors stole this land from the people already here, as though it were right to do so. Had we been even willing to learn from the original people,  we would probably not be in quite the pickle with the environment we are in now, but, oh no, the white folks were better educated, so, of course they knew better than the poor “red savages”.

Anyway, let me step down from my soapbox, here, and get back to the matter at hand. The buffalo, to the plains people; were a source of gratitude to the Holy Spirit. They knew they were cared for and that Spirit protected them. They don’t worship the buffalo skull when it is placed on the alter, it’s there to remind them that Spirit provided the means to live. The North then, is the place of gratitude and acknowledgment that Spirit is there for us all. The white buffalo, prophesied long ago are being born more frequently now, and are, to the original people a sign that peace and harmony are just ahead of us.

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West Gate ~

gb_photogallery1_05Aren’t they beautiful? The Grizzly, according to Sun Bear, is the keeper of the West Gate of the Medicine Wheel. They are also called Silver tipped bears. Awesome in size and strength, their habits include a winter nap that is hallmark to their species. They sleep through the winter months without rising for food or elimination, but can waken quickly if stirred. It is said that bears in more southern regions where food is available all year, do not hibernate at all.

The Grizzly is a fine fisherman, enjoying the salmon runs as much as any human. In fact there are many things about the bear that are similar to humans, when they stand on two legs, their skeleton is quite similar to a human’s. The legends among Native American tribes are strong in human-bear interaction. The West on most medicine wheels is the time in the human’s life of carrying the working responsibility of tribal life. The young ones as well as the elders depend on those still in their prime to carry out the hunting and gathering duties of tribal life.

It is at this time of life that the habit of self-examination is most useful, for only as we know black-bear-mom-cubour own minds, and have faced our own limits and strengths, are we good leaders of others. This is the principle medicine of “bear”, being able to look within ourselves to find the answer to our daily dilemas. Another medicine is strength and stamina. Bear can run very fast on a short haul but when pacing himself can cover miles in a day. The last, and perhaps most important skill attributed to the bear is the capacity to heal himself by knowing instinctively the herbs to eat to cure the problem.

Bears are generally considered careful parents, watching over their cubs for as long as 2½ years. One of the most dangerous things about bears is that they are just so daggone “cute” that it is altogether too easy to forget they are wild animals and have long claws that can injure us badly in even a mild encounter.

The Medicine Wheel’s South Keepers ~

coyote_roadsideI made that a plural because I know of at least three traditional keepers of the South, depending on the area of North America where the tribe is or was located. The Coyote is best known, I suspect because Old Man Coyote is a well known trickster, and learning that he is a keeper and works with the Holy Spirit (Wakan Tanka)sort of messes with people whose backgrounds are of European teachings, where the Devil is evil and there is no place on the “map” where evil and holiness meet. The
Sacred Trickster” however, is a concept that is absolutely wonderful, as the trickster teaches you when you are too stubborn to learn by gentler and kinder methods.

The South of the wheel is all about the things you need to learn to keep your body and soul together. This is where you should ideally learn to stay well grounded, learning the skills that will help you survive and even prosper. It is a time of innocence and growth, a time of wonder and of learning, lots and lots of learning.

The Porcupine is also a south keeper, more for those in the North East, I believe, note that 3822_file_porcupine_boultonwith the porcupine if you try to hurt it you will pull back a handful of quills, but if you are gentle and slow with your movements, you can pet it as long as you are mindful to go in the right direction. Innocence is the medicine of this creature, that ambles its way through life, not seeking to hurt others, but protected in such a way they can hurt themselves on it. They are a solitary creature, seldom seeking companionship, though they will accommodate when necessary. They not aggressive in any way, and their childlike curiosity is known by country folk.

mouseThe Mouse is also a keeper of the South Gate in some traditions, I believe mostly the Anishnabee tribes of the midwest. Mouse medicine is also quite curious, wanting to get up close to the things coming into it’s world, it wants to feel, taste, and touch to learn. It’s whiskers are it’s yardstick for telling it if a small space is safe to crawl into or not. There is, in mouse a child like curiosity about the world around it, which is key to it’s being a South Keeper, as it is that curiosity that helps us grow beyond our narrow boundaries. Nothing so injures the inner child so much as killing off that natural curiosity.

On most traditional medicine wheels, the South is the place of the child/young adult, a very important time in one’s life, as this is where we learn whether or not to trust those around us, and how to go about our “being”. All three of these “keepers” have a bit of the trickster in their make-up, either built in, as with porcupine’s quills or mouse’s size, or in being so smart they out smart themselves, like Grandfather Coyote. This is because growing into a strong and solid person grounded when we need to be and spiritual when we need to be, is a tricky business. Much depends on our parents and much depends on the medicine with which we were born.

Sacred Circles ~

I am fascinated by all sacred circles, not least because my query to a Lutheran minister teaching us Catechism got me ousted from the classes altogether. He was teaching that with God the time line has no beginning and no end. I asked if that, (a line with no beginning and no end,) wasn’t a circle? He was certain I was a witch (I was 12 at the time) and no longer wanted me around the others learning the ways of the church. It’s been a long trail from there to here. An artist friend of mine commented when I related that story to her that that was simply the artist’s perspective coming through.

But, he pretty well guaranteed that all symbolic circles would draw my attention for the rest of my life. Had he known I already heard voices at that time, I am certain he would have insisted on an exorcism right then and there (and Lutherans are not known for that sort of thing.) I didn’t have to deal with that for many years. To the left is a set of chakra wheels, showing sacred sounds that go with each chakra, as well as that chakra’s color when the person is in good balance. The circle on the right is a simple color wheel, used by artists when aligning colors for a project. So, yes, I work with circles all the time.

The circle has an ancient history and of course originates from the circles in nature, which are seldom perfect, but rather near circles. But, to ancient peoples began to symbolize the path one traveled while on the earth. Interesting that the indigenous people, in referencing so much of their lives with the path of the sun, had no difficulty imagining the earth as also round. Sort of makes you wonder at what point learning takes the place of logic, doesn’t it? And should it? We do seem to want to educate ourselves into uselessness, don’t we?

As I said, I am fascinated with the Sacred Circles, Stonehenge, and all other Sacred Hoops found all over the world. They are all wonderful signs of a world that observed the roundness of the sun and emulated it. I have in fact, wondered if the reason the Native Americans did not use wheels was that they felt them too sacred to use them as burden bearers? They were not slow to adapt to the use of horses, and when they were exposed to horses, they were exposed to the wheel. There are many things to learn from these sacred circles, and from the perspective of the indigenous peoples that designed them.

Caution! I am not a Native American teacher, I am a mixed blood who has had the extreme honor of learning at the feet of some wonderful teachers of their path. What I show and explain here is very much my own personal medicine wheel as I understand it, it is not to be taken as something you use as a measuring stick of someone else’s medicine wheel being right or wrong. That is the beauty of this path. I can be right, and they can be right, for it is a matter of personal truth. These pieces of personal truth then weave into the larger truth that is the people, but if one is listening to the song of Creator correctly, it will weave into a beautiful pattern. That is part of why I love this path so, and also part of why I want my readers to understand that this is my wheel, as I walk it, in order to learn your own wheel, I would send you to a Native Teacher to learn your path. 

The way of the Native American Medicine Wheel is not so much that of a religion as a way of life. It is a perspective of how life works, and is therefore compatible with any belief system that serves good and compassionate purpose.

As we walk the medicine wheel of our own lives, we find that there are seven sacred directions to be traveled.

East ◊As we are born into this journey, our first direction is the East. This is the place of new beginnings, it is “where” we receive instruction by learning to hear and see what Spirit is saying to us. Most with Eurobred religious backgrounds are sure, when they begin to hear Spirit for the first time that these are messages for the people. This is seldom the case. On this path, Spirit is generally working with individuals for their own well being. It is best to presume from the outset that this is how it is with you.

“There is but One Original Source, learn to heed the messages Spirit is bringing you. The messengers of Spirit are here to help you complete your walk.”

South ◊ This is the sacred direction of growth. It is here we grow in stature as well as understanding.

“Grow as the Willow that bends and moves in the wind but seldom breaks. Grow in Spirit, grow in Truth, grow in Love.”

West ◊ The West is the Sacred Direction in which we take on the mantle of responsibility for ourselves and for the tribe. It is when we have reached this point of growth in our sacred walk that messages from Spirit may have meaning for others as well as ourselves. It is the “place” where we learn what is right to do for ourselves and how not to embroil others in our own dysfunctions.

“Walk with a light step, walk with grace, walk with love.”

North ◊ The North is the place of the Wisdom of the Elders. This is where we learn to honor the wisdom of those who have walked the wheel of life before us. “Here” is where we learn to apply that wisdom, both for ourselves, and for others. This is the point where it is appropriate for us to begin to pass on the wisdom that we have learned as we have walked the wheel.

“Be ever mindful that what we do affects Mother Earth and all her children for seven generations hence.”

Above ◊ This is where we learn to honor Creator in everything we do and say. It is from this perspective that we learn that all of life is actually a prayer. Nothing we do or are is ever hidden, all will be revealed in the end, so the best thing we can do is live our lives by the light we now have, and hope for the best possible results.

“From the stars we came, to the stars we shall return.”

Below ◊ This is the “Place” in our lives where we learn how to maintain our grounding in this plane of reality. Those who are truly aware have a tendency, unless they put forth a great deal of effort, to “wander off” into mental or astral realms, and forget that part of our mission is to learn to be “here, now”. In learning to be present in the here & now, we will learn to cope with what we have been given.

“Walk in balance, remembering always that we are astral beings living in bodies made of clay.”

Within ◊ This is our sacred space. This is the place within us that we are to hold separate, where no one else is welcome except by invitation. It is here we learn to honor our own boundaries and those of others. It is here we learn to appreciate who we are and what we have been given. It is here we learn not to desire to be someone else, it is here we learn that all “things” are held in stewardship, nothing is ever truly “owned”, so, even the act of stealing without intent to repay is a defilement of our own sacred space.

“Honor your own truth and walk your path accordingly.”

Each of us has animal totems that go into those slots where I have shown stars, earth and a labyrinth. Those are your teachers, not someone else’s, and their identity should not be lightly shared. You will also have individual teachers to help you connect with the cardinal teachers, according to the teachings, if you really are interested, find a Native teacher to show you how to work with them, it is a fun and productive study, and you will know much more about yourself if you do this.

I hope I have been clear enough that you can see that this is a dynamic path, with learning and discovery as a part of it from beginning to end, not only acquiring more and more bits of information along the way, but then having the wisdom to use them properly as you acquire them. No, I will not pretend, any more than my teachers did, that there were not mistakes made among the Original People, but then, had those mistakes not happened, we’d have had to grow up in Europe or whereever our other ancestors were from. Nor will I pretend that those whom I have had the honor to learn from were not the same sort of flawed people the rest of us are. I wish it were not so, but, we humans tend to be quite capable of living for self as well as living for the good of all, it just happens.

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