Here We Go 'Round The Medicine Wheel

by - Monday, October 26, 2015

There is something mysterious about a Medicine Wheel. Whether it's the name, or the sense that you are in a sacred place, it is difficult not to feel some connection with the past, other visitors, and your surroundings when you visit one. Nose Hill Park's Medicine Wheel (est. October 2015) gives you that feeling even though it isn't ancient like its brothers and sisters scattered across the province. Interconnectedness is, indeed, what the medicine wheel is about.

While visiting a medicine wheel, you are to leave offerings and be blessed by the Creator1. An offering can be a prayer or song, or physical thing you leave on the central cairn. Your time at the medicine wheel should be a time for gratitude and positive thoughts. Intrigued? Here are some more things you should know when visiting a medicine wheel.


What Is A Medicine Wheel?

Constructed of rocks, a medicine wheel usually consists of a rocks set out in one or more circles, with a rock cairn at the centre, and two or more spokes radiating from the centre2. While some medicine wheels have several spokes, many have four as four is a sacred number to several North American aboriginal peoples3.

The Medicine Wheel represents the interconnectedness of all things as well as the circle of life.

Nose Hill Park Medicine Wheel

What Are They For?

Since medicine wheels are so ancient, no one knows for certain what their original purpose was. A few have been found to mark the graves of famous warriors4. Larger ones have been found to align with certain stars, or sunrises during significant celestial events such as solstices5. It is speculated that medicine wheels may also have been places for rituals such as Sun Dances.

In more recent times, Medicine Wheels have been places to pray and give offerings to the Creator or Sky Beings. Artifacts up to 4,500 years old, including bones and arrowheads, have been found at some sites.

Who Made Them & Where?

The majority of medicine wheels have been discovered in "traditional Blackfoot Territory mainly in Alberta, but also Montana and Wyoming [and] Saskatchewan".6 Two thirds of all known medicine wheels have been found in Alberta7, the most noteworthy being The Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel, near Bassano, which contains artifacts 4,500 years old making it one of the oldest religious monuments in the world (older than Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids).7

What Offerings Can I Leave?

Offerings can be prayers, songs, or physical things such as cloth, colored ribbons, or necklaces. On the day I visited, someone had left fresh cut flowers (not wrapped in plastic). Traditional offerings include the four sacred medicines: sweetgrass, sage, willow, and tobacco8. 

Place your offering on the central cairn, being careful not to disturb any stones or others' offerings.


Nose Hill Park Medicine Wheel at Sunset
What Is the Correct Way to Go 'Round the Medicine Wheel?

It is recommended that you walk around a medicine wheel in a clockwise direction9.

Topics of Discussion

Why do you think the number 4 is significant to so many First Nations?
(see how many your friends/family can come up with)
  • 4 directions – north, east, south, west 
  • 4 seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter 
  • 4 aspects of a person – physical, spiritual, mental and emotional 
  • 4 elements – fire, earth, wind, water
  • 4 stages of life – childhood, youth, adulthood, old age10
  • 4 kingdoms - animal, mineral, plant and human
  • 4 sacred medicines - sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar and sage11.
Have you visited a Medicine Wheel before? How did it make you feel?

For More Information

For more information on Calgary's Medicine Wheel in Nose Hill Park, please see this post. 

References

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