The Sacred Hoop
A belief in the interdependence of all living things frames Aboriginal value systems. Animals are no less important than humans, and plants are no less important than animals. Water and wind, sun and moon and the changing of the seasons are all related to each other and to humans. We are all part of one great whole. As this awareness dictates a vision of the world as a whole, traditional Aboriginal thinking concludes that life forms maintain their health and balance through the focus on harmony as opposed to individual wants or needs.
I would like to offer a type of "sacred space" that is steeped with 1st Nation tradition and part of the essential essence of Turtle Island. Construction of a Medicine Wheel is a perfect way to unite family, friend and neighbors in an endeavor that has the beauty of being long term... something that conceivably will be multi-generational. Let me begin with a description of the Wheel that was given to us by a great Medicine Man and spiritual icon for the 1stNation people.
"The Medicine Wheel is the circle of life (sometimes referred to as the Scared Hoop), starting with birth and continuing through out our lives until death, when we have gone full circle. The Medicine wheel has four directions, each direction offering its own lessons, color, and animal guide. There are two paths shown which cross in the center, at which point, for me, is the heart (for when you work from your heart, you can reach all directions).
The path from east to west is the path of spirits (the Blue Road).
The path from south to north is our physical walk (the Red Road ).
East ... beginnings, purity, family, innocence, amazement of life.
South ...youth, passions of life, friendships, self-control.
West ...adulthood, solitude, stillness, going inside oneself, reflection.
North … Place of the Ancient Ones who have gone over, place of wisdom
Above - freedom of mind, body, spirit.
Below - nurturing, Mother, life."
Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux
As a side note, I've also heard certain tribes refer to the West as the place of ending (death) and the North as the home of the Thunders and the “Wisdom Speakers”, a place of Spiritual Truth. This is true for my tribe, the Potawatomi ~
When you've decided on a place to construct your Medicine Wheel its customary to “sanctify” the area with prayers and a smudging ceremony. Ideally, each of the participants should be assigned a quadrant of the wheel according to age and their animal totems should be represented in that area. (Kids will have fun making drawings of the animal(s) they sense to be their guides to contribute to this part of the ceremony.)Fetishes and feathers or other symbolic animal representations are also encouraged.
Next, stones should be assembled... and it’s important that the stones be blessed and asked permission to be moved (don’t go out and randomly grab stuff from the environment, make sure there is an acknowledgment to the Creator and to the “Rock People”... asking that you be allowed to move these items).
The center is where you begin to actually place these components. (I have seen Medicine Wheels made around a tree or other natural part of the environment, incorporating that item as the “heart” or center of the wheel... the place where one dwells with The Great Mystery.)This should be explained so that each participant will identify the center with themselves. For as many people who are involved in the construction of the wheel, a large stone for each person should be contributed and made into a pile or mound as the hub.
Next, a stone should be placed at the 4 cardinal points (East, South, West and North... in that order) and the Thunderbird for that direction should be honored. Tobacco is a good way to honor the Thunders, a small tobacco tie placed under each cardinal (Thunderstone) rock. Do a prayer to honor each guardian as well as Creator. This will determine the actual radius of the wheel, so make sure you have planned appropriately with enough stones to make an identifiable wheel. I would suggest using a minimum of 6 or 8 stones for each quadrant and 4 to 6 stones for the spokes, placed 1 or 2 feet apart. (In addition to the 4 Thunderstones.)
~ Placement of the stones is from east to south to west to north and back to east. ~
Finally, the spokes are set in place. In my family tradition, the stones are placed from the south to north honoring man’s earthly passage, and then east to west honoring the journey “home”.
When the stones are in place, a prayer and blessing should be offered and then feasting and celebration.
As a final thought, make sure you explain to friends, family and guests who come to your home that the circle has a sacred meaning for you and those who helped you to assemble it, and ask that it not be disturbed. It is a perfect place to meditate or contemplate one's journey, a place where the union between all aspects of the Wheel of Life is given tangible representation... made physical.
The 1st Nation People were in cycle with the moon and the construction of a Medicine Wheel should be done accordingly, with either the full moon or the new moon. Blessings and prayers through the seasons should be done in similar rhythm. Ideally, if you can invite a Native American elder or someone with a Medicine bundle or a Pipe-Carrier to bless the endeavor, you will enhance the ceremony and make the occasion even more enriching for all present. If you have someone attend for the purpose of blessing the event, a gift of some sort should be given to that person as an appropriate way of honoring Native American sensibilities.