A medicine wheel is a concept in many shamanic and nature influenced cultures and spiritual lineages, used as a map to orient oneself. It allows you to experience the energies (or medicine) present in each direction. It shows you where you are, what phase you just came from, and what awaits you. The aspects of each direction varies by culture and within that, vary by lineage and within that, sometimes varying by individual - but the general concept appears universal. A repeating cycle to get one's bearings and to move through. This has been one of the most powerful teachings I have received - it greatly influences my life and my practice.
The idea is to use your Medicine Wheel to help you mindfully move with the natural energies present at any given time as opposed to struggling against unknown forces. To be able to work with the natural rhythms of the world in a medicinal way. A supportive and healing way. Knowing when it is time to let things rest, or when it is time to rally the troops. When it's time to sow seeds, and when to harvest your efforts. If the natural world around you is slowing down, you may find it more frustrating to be ramping up and pushing ideas forward. But if you wait until the phase with latent energy dedicated to new growth and action, you may find your projects flows effortlessly. You can apply a Medicine Wheel to any aspect of your life, be it your age, your creative process, your spiritual practice, a challenge, or your emotional stages. Generally one moves clockwise around a wheel, this way when "feeling lost" or disoriented, you can find what stage you are at, know what has been completed and see what is coming next. Looking at the Seasonal Medicine Wheel above can be very helpful to begin with as we are so familiar with the repeating seasons of the year. Trees give us a perfect example to follow. In winter they have no leaves, their branches are quiet, sap slows, they lay dormant with their life force energy deep down into the earth. With springtime, tree energy begins to quicken. New shoots, fresh blossoms, birds return with joyous song. There is growth. Summer sees branches full of leaves turned toward the sun, full of life, energy, bearing sweet fruit. Children climb and play in and around. Animals visit and nibble. It's busy and there is a vibrant energy. Come Autumn this energy begins to retreat. Energy dedicated to leaves are no longer the priority. They grow dry with lack of vitality and are released from the places they've known, and become mulchy goodness for something else. Sap begins to slow with the cold. And the energy has returned from the outermost edges and vibrancy, back deep down into the center. Now.... think of all that but with a baby conceived, birthed, growing from maturity into eldership, and finally released back into the mystery where we came from. Now try it with the creative process of a project or idea. See the flow?
Some cycles are faster moving, like the Moon. Instead of a 365 day wheel its only 28. There are many many who align their actions and orient their internal realm to work in synchronicity with the moon. This moon pulls the mighty ocean tides, affects women's menstruation (ehem...moontime) biodynamic farmers pay close attention to this energy, and you may notice that neighbourhoods, people in public places, children and even your sleeping patterns are affected as well. The Medicine Wheel of the Day gives us even faster cycles of rest and activity.
Which wheel is for you?
Each direction of each wheel holds a plethora of aspects related to that phase that all have a natural flow to them. It is that direction's "medicine" and it's available to you! Looking at the samples here of the Seasons, the Lunar, and the Menstrual, you might find similarities among them all. You can get a sense of being able to amalgamate all three into one.
You might find you can identify where cultural deities that you work with would sit. Kali? An Cailleach? Kwan Yin? How about Totem Animals? Solstices and Equinoxes? Elements?
Meditate, journey, consult and find or create a wheel that you can identify with, something meaningful.
As I mentioned above, many cultures and lineages have different Medicine Wheels steeped in tradition and history. I encourage you to look into your heritage, find an elder, research and see if there is a natural resonance there within you. If you notice the tops (or the North) of my examples, you will find a certain similar energy represented there among them all, but your research may show those energies sit in a different direction. You may also find some people start in the East while others start in the North or South. This is the beauty of diversity. This is where you find your Medicine Wheel.
A bean feasa of Gaelic heritage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.