The four equal lines coming from the centre form the basic pattern of the Medicine Wheel used in Native American traditions. The lines form a compass, pointing to the spirits of the North, East, South and West.
The quadrants also represent the basic elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire and again in Native American tradition they were placed in a specific order. The elements were attributed with specific colours, emotions, and animal totems.
The North is a place of healing. It is time to be grounded and go within yourself and rest and contemplate the lessons learned. Age is associated with Winter and with age and experience we attain wisdom. The white of winter symbolizes spirituality and purity. We are reminded to stop and listen to the lessons. It is time to sleep and dream. The animals of the North, the buffalo, moose and bear, know to prepare for the winter and store layers of fat to nourish them while they hibernate. The element associated with the North is Earth and the colour is green.
To the East lie new beginnings. This is where the sun rises each day with a fresh start. It is the direction of the physical body and is important for new-born and young children. The season is Spring, the time of change when growth begins and one awakens from the winter. The awakening allows us to embrace new ideas and see the light. The sun rising each day gives us the energy to do new things. Yellow is the colour of the path of life that we walk down. Here we can shine at what we do best. The animals here are of the air and include the hummingbird, owl and hawk. The element is Air and prayers are said when facing to the East so that our voices can be carried by smoke or air to Spirit.
The Southern part of the Medicine Wheel was of great importance to the Native American and the self was placed here.
The emotion associated with the South is passion, the expression of the fire in the soul. The fertility or growth is also associated with summer and the maturation of the seed into fruit and the child into adult. This is a time to be aware of the changes taking place and to use the energy and heat of fire and sun to learn, grow and understand the cycle of change. The animals associated with the South are the Eagle, Lion and Wolf. They represent the characteristics of pride, strength and courage.
The West corresponds to Autumn, the later stages of adulthood. This is where the sun sets and twilight begins. When the darkness falls, we must show courage and look inward to find the light. It is an emotional time, the element being water, and it is the place of the family and all the love and associated responsibilities that come with family. Here we learn about responsibility to self and to others, while we prepare for the coming winter. We also learn that what we see in the darkness may only be a shadow. The element here is Water and all the emotions that go with it. The animals of the West are the beaver who demonstrates team work and the snake that sheds its skin in order to grow and change.
Black Elk Oglala Sioux Holy Man
You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round…..
The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….
Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.