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Shamanic Wisdom

Shamanic Wisdom Jan Engels-Smith

The Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel is a good example of a core or a cross-cultural shamanic belief. Native peoples from around the world use this archetypal tradition to help describe life and everything in it. The information regarding the medicine wheel provided in this writing is not derived from any particular source but is my interpretation that has been aided by the spirits with whom I communicate. My version of the medicine wheel has served me well, and I share it because of the positive effects it has had on me in my spiritual development. Although the medicine wheel is common to many cultures, it differs greatly from one to the next. I am not seeking to provide a historically accurate definition held by an ancient people but to provide a model that has worked well for me and can aid you in your spiritual growth.

Most indigenous cultures describe and define their cosmology using a circle. They might use a name different from the medicine wheel for this model, but the central concept is of a cyclical progression of events representing the circular nature of life. Native peoples saw life in this way, not as linear. Our left-brain Western culture has developed a linear representation of reality with a past, present, and future. Our lives actually move in cycles, and the medicine wheel, or the wheel of life, describes those cycles. The linear model is characterized by starts and stops, and the circular wheel suggests continuity and eternity. The Western model is finite and limited, but the wheel is infinite and limitless. We have great difficulty in imaging the concept of eternity because linear thinking is characterized by a beginning and an end. If one sees existence in the circular pattern, then one can understand the never-ending passage of a point around a circle of infinity.