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Shamanic Healing Wheels - Part 1

Everything happens in circles and spirals.

DNA is a spiral, plant growth happens in a spiral, and planets orbit one another in circles. In fact, planets are circles, or spheres if you like.

The circle is an extremely powerful shape. It indicates oneness, an endless power all contained within a cycle. In the same way, a spiral is a circle that indicates a shift, and growth to new levels.

If you think about it, our lives are like spirals. Ever heard the term ‘spiral out of control?’ It’s quite commonly used when things look like they’re going belly up.

“You’d better get a grip before your life spirals out of control…”

Why do we use the word ‘spiral?’ Why not use ‘dives out of control,’ or just simply ‘gets out of control?’

Subconsciously we know our lives are a spiral. We know we go around in circles and find ourselves experiencing the same thing over and over again.

It’s just consciously we don’t accept it.

How many of us have found ourselves in the same uncomfortable situation after experiencing the same challenge five years before?

Didn’t we swear last time we’d never end up here again? It was a terrible experience five years ago; it almost drove me insane! I was barely able to cope with the challenges!

Now here I am, five years later, experiencing the exact same thing…

It’s not a coincidence that you’re there again. Nothing happens by coincidence. It’s your life spiraling hopefully in control. It’s your job to keep it under control.

We're meant to go through the same experiences over and over again in our lives until we learn the love, empathy, and compassion that we're meant to learn.

Each experience is an opportunity to grow consciousness. At first, we may develop self-pity, bitterness, and a sense of betrayal, and then the experience will spiral around again. If we remain in those negative emotions it will just be more painful.

Sooner or later in our lives, we have to start looking at ourselves and our roles and responsibilities in what happens to us.

This is when the shift starts to happen. Instead of spiraling in one plane, your spiral starts to move upwards, the circles start to get bigger; you start to grow consciousness.

And yes, you will experience more similar challenges, because they're what the universe is echoing back to you, what your soul is asking for, and what your soul’s purpose is.

But every time you go through those challenging experiences, you'll recognize yourself within them and begin to learn unconditional love, empathy, and compassion for yourself and for others.

If you don’t, there’s always the next lifetime.

It’s a universal truth that you have to experience everything that you are and everything you are not.

Growing consciousness is about giving to and taking from the universal consciousness, the ‘matrix’ if you like. This universal consciousness is also called the Akashic records, which we have briefly discussed before. I will go into more detail in a future article.

The Shaman sees life as a series of spirals.

Each aspect of you exists in a spiral; your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual beings are constantly spiraling, sometimes on one plane, sometimes upwards and wider in the growth of consciousness, and sometimes even downwards in self-pity, bitterness, shame, guilt, and anger.

We want to avoid this downward spiral as much as possible.

To the Shaman, the spiral is a Medicine Wheel. It is the circular movement of medicine, movement. Remember, what is shamanic medicine?

Medicine in a shamanic sense is anything that causes shift or change. Positive or negative can be both, because an overdose of medicine can be dangerous!

So where am I going with all this? Actually, a bit off track, as I wanted to introduce you to the simple medicine wheel, starting with the 4 directions and their qualities.

Let’s get back on track.

The Four Quadrants

What I’m going to write about takes from a variety of shamanic viewpoints. A diversity of meanings has been amalgamated here to give meaning to the simple circle of the Medicine Wheel.

In particular, though, some of the information is loosely based on the Lakota Sioux shamanic traditions.

I try not to be a puritan because it’s limiting. I believe in taking all learnings and consolidating them in their own truths into an opportunity for greater learning, as long as the parts remain true.

Spirit – the East

Place of the waxing moon, the east is the gateway for the merging of religion and spirituality. Most major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism originate in the east.

This is home to the Initiator Guides, the guides who introduce religion to people and lead us into the Medicine Wheel through the entrance, the east gate.

It’s also a place of the very powerful animal totem, the eagle, who soars with spirit.

The east is traditionally associated with spring, the renewal, and therefore it’s also the place of fire.

We sit in the east quadrant when we want to focus on our healing. It serves as a space of spiritual illumination and enlightenment, being a mirror for the west, which is all about the physical.

The color associated with the east quadrant, the spirit, is yellow.

The east is important because it’s the entrance into the Medicine Wheel for the two-leggeds, the humans.

Emotions – the South

The south quadrant is where the Protector guides dwell, those totems and angels who journey with us into the dark and challenging places.

It’s the place of the full moon and represents summer and fertility.

Our emotions reside in the south quadrant, and the focus is on creativity, accessing all parts of ourselves, the good, the bad, the naughty, the dark, that lead to creativity.

The animal totem that lives in the south is the coyote, the fox, and the jackal, depending on where you are. It holds the trickster energy and is fun-loving, but unpredictable. This energy reminds us that there is always a flip side to what we see.

This is also the place of water, the ever-moving, ever-flowing element, like our emotions. We are reminded here of what we want to gain and what we want to shift because it is a place of feeling.

According to Native American Tradition, the Heyoka, a specific kind of Shaman, derived their energy from the south.

The Heyoka energy was unpredictable, symbolic of the duality of things. They were given special privileges to act out in unacceptable ways, for example, to do childish and disgusting things.

The Heyoka was a highly respected Shaman and their behavior was always indicative of what was going on within the community. Their role was to remind one of the infinite dance between light and dark.

They crossed dressed and, in many cases, would’ve been what modern society calls ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual.’ They called themselves the ‘Two-spirits.’

The color associated with the south quadrant is black.

Physical – the West

This is where the Illuminator Guides reside, those guides who light the way for us on this physical journey.

It is the place of feline energy, the jaguar, the leopard, and the tiger, except in North America, where the Bear takes prime place as the chief totem.

The west quadrant is where we do things, it’s the physical dimension where we learn lessons and grow consciousness for the evolution of our souls.

It’s also the space for introspection, going within, into the cave-like the Bear, and reflecting upon ourselves. Place of conclusions, the setting sun, and the waning moon, the west is associated with autumn, the ending of cycles.

It's in the physical where we must face our fears and integrate them into our lives so that they serve us on this journey of growth and survival.

The west is the mirror of spirit, the east, meaning that in order to heal in the physical, we need to go within and engage the spirit.

The color associated with the west quadrant is red and the element is earth.

Mental – the North

The north quadrant is the place of the cow or the buffalo, the bovine energy. In Native American tradition, the Sacred White Buffalo resides here. The bovine represents abundance in many cultures.

The Connector Guides are found here, those guides who connect us to the Akashic records and provide us with logic, inspiration, solutions, reason, and inventions.

It’s the space of nothingness, the all potential, and therefore abundance. Governed by the New Moon, the north is associated with winter, a place of potential.

Our angels and ancestors live here, and guide us, leading us along the paths of life, helping us to conduct our affairs according to our truths.

The color associated with the north is white and the element is air or the wind.

This is the place of thought, the working mind, and it must be noted that is in direct opposition to the south, the emotional space on the wheel.

Successful work with the wheel means that we draw these opposites together so that they complement one another rather than oppose each other.

Working With the Medicine Wheel

This information is essential to know if we wish to work with a Medicine Wheel. It informs us of the qualities and meanings of each quadrant. This provides the context for the interpretation of the lessons and medicines that we find on the wheel.

Now to work with a Medicine Wheel means we have to build one. If you have a big yard, it would be nice to use some space and build one using some stones. You'll need 64 stones in total.

However, a Medicine Wheel can be made on something as small as an A3 piece of paper. It needn't be big. If that’s all the space you have, then it’s fine.

Do You Want to Build and Work With a Medicine Wheel?

Now working with a Medicine Wheel is a deeply introspective and spiritual experience.

It requires a lot of reflection, going within, and exploring each part of yourself, spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental.

The Medicine Wheel contains each part of us, we are the wheel. It's a web of interconnected parts, what happens in the spiritual reflects in the mental, emotional, and physical. What happens in the mental reflects in the emotional, physical and spiritual, and on and on.

Building and working with a Medicine Wheel is a very powerful and meditative process. It is an explorative process that leads to change, understanding, and growth of compassion for yourself and others.

In order to work with the Medicine Wheel, you need to set aside a bit of time every day and commit to it. Think about whether you want to, because in the next article I will take you on a journey into the workings of the Medicine Wheel and how it can help you.

The Medicine Walk

Before you build a Medicine Wheel, it's necessary to embark on a Medicine Walk. This can take as long as you like, but preferably not too long, otherwise, you’ll lose momentum and direction.

I would suggest taking a period of 3 weeks and setting the clear intention to complete a Medicine Walk.

The Medicine Walk involves you looking for 64 items that resonate with you and collecting them. They could be anything, a feather, a stone, a coin, a pen, or any item whatsoever that you feel a deep or even passing attraction to.

They need not be "special" items. They can be simple, even an old rusty nail, if it comes into your path and you notice it, it is one of your items.

Collect each item and keep it in a bag or box. Once you have collected these 64 items, you'll be ready to start building your Medicine Wheel.

Next Time...

In the next part of this article, we'll embark on a Medicine Wheel Journey together.

I'll take you through the process while building my own Medicine Wheel, and identify and interpret the items on my Medicine Wheel according to the meanings and qualities of each quadrant and the 7 lessons and medicines associated with each quadrant.

This will in turn help you to interpret the lessons and medicines on your personal Medicine Wheel journey.

It must be remembered that on the journey of the Medicine Wheel, we'll be honoring the 7 directions, East, South, West, and North (the 4 quadrants)

In addition, we're honoring the Lower World, the place of our guides and totems, the Upper World, the place of our facing our fears, and the Middle World, a place of healing and change.

For now, I send you on your Medicine Walk. Set a clear intention to find 64 items that resonate with you and collect them.

I would like to thank Lionel Berman for the information on the four quadrants of the Medicine Wheel.

If you would like to read up on Shamanic Healing Wheels, a good book is the one by Kathy Callahan, The Path of the Medicine Wheel: A Guide to the Sacred Circle.

See you next time for Part 2 of this article on Shamanic Healing Wheels.

This post was originally published on July 22nd, 2021, and updated on November 15th, 2023.

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