The Origins Of The Medicine Wheel
Although the use of the circle as a magical construct and as a way of holding and organising knowledge and information has been used by many ancient, aboriginal and other peoples from around the world, the Medicine Wheel which we have received through the surviving Native American Medicine People has ancient origins.
The Zero Chief Hyemeyohsts Storm (A Zero Chief is a holy person who has understanding and connection with the nothing which is everything), who is credited with introducing the Medicine Wheel to the west, claims a long lineage of Medicine Wheel teachers that go back beyond the Native American Tribes, to the ancestors of the Mayans who were said, to have come from ancient civilizations situated on islands in the Pacific Ocean.
These islands were destroyed in a long distant cataclysm that also destroyed their Atlantic counterpart Atlantis. The survivors of this event built many of the ancient temples and other stone structures now found in South and Central America.
Hyemeyohsts Storm claims that the lineage of the Medicine Wheel teachings that he carries were indeed developed by these ancient peoples, who had a flourishing culture many thousands of years ago. He says that the discovery of the Medicine Wheels were synonymous with the discovery of Mathematics.
“All our Medicine Wheels reflect the Earth compass. From these Wheels
the children and adults not only learned of the Power and Beauty of the
human Self, they also learned how to count. And they learned mathematics.”
Hyemeyohsts Storm ‘Lightningbolt’
Through their knowledge of mathematics, the Maya developed a profound understanding of time and the nature and evolution of the Universe, that was far beyond any other culture that has existed. It is only since our own discovery of computers and the atomic clock, that we are beginning to comprehend the enormity and sophistication of their knowledge and understanding. The Mayan notion of mathematics was a complex one integrated with all forms of knowledge, as well as seeking understanding of space and time they sort to unravel the mysteries of Creation.
"There are many kinds of Medicine Wheels. Some of them represented
human interaction, some represented mathematical principles in life and some
represented the study
of the human Presence of Mind. The Medicine Wheel
reveals the relationship
and integration of all things created.”
Hyemeyohsts Storm ‘Lightningbolt’
The Medicine Wheels were part of a complete body of knowledge, an integrated science of life, held by the Mayans during the flowering of their culture. At the height of its development the knowledge of the Mayans was held in a variety of temple schools. These acted like universities, each holding and developing particular strands of knowledge.
The migration of fierce war like tribes from South America, internal strife and war between the city states, combined with powerful earthquakes and climatic change, brought an end to their civilised and enlightened reign. The temple societies devolved into the tribal medicine societies with the Mayans that retreated back into the jungles and mountains of Central America. Remnants of the tradition continued to survive within the Aztec era that followed the Mayans. However a large number of the people moved North into what has become North America in several large migrations, taking their knowledge and traditions with them.
The Mayans brought with them a sophisticated knowledge of agriculture, hygiene, healing and sacred science including the Medicine Wheel, to the tribes of hunter gatherers that populated this region. The Mayan men and women of knowledge travelling as Medicine People, Wise Ones and Healers gradually spread and shared their teachings, so that over a period of several hundred years the Medicine Wheels became integrated into the philosophy and beliefs of these people.
In his book “Lightningbolt” Hyemeyohsts Storm tells how a tribe of European migrants came into conflict with and eventually merged with one of the migrating groups of Mayans. The Europeans brought with them their own teachings which were integrated with the knowledge of the Mayans. All this occurring long before Columbus.
By the time of the European colonisation of the Americas, the Medicine Wheel was an established tradition adopted by the majority of tribes becoming part of their own sacred understandings and practice, the Mayan origins being largely forgotten outside the lineage carriers within the Medicine Societies. The integration of the Medicine Wheel into the nomadic hunter gatherer tribes of North America no doubt refined, reformulated and simplified them, building systems of understanding compatible with its new custodians and the lifestyle they followed. However, the power and sophistication of the system and teachings was not lost and Medicine Societies dedicated to the teaching and preservation of the Medicine Wheels flourished.
There were groups of wise ones who travelled amongst the people sharing their knowledge and skills. The Twisted Hairs and the Zero Chiefs were examples of these and were active within the tribes with the coming of the Europeans. However during the ensuing years of chaos and genocide these people and the societies they belonged to became largely eradicated.
The knowledge of the Medicine Wheels and the history of the people who developed and used them almost vanished, but for the efforts of a handful of chiefs and devotes they would have been lost. However despite the adversity, oppression and persecution significant portions of the knowledge survived into the present day.
It must be remembered that Native Americans from the late 1800s were not allowed by law to practice their ceremonies and beliefs and the legislation continued into the late 1980s when it was finally repealed. This coupled with the missionary activity of the Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses and other churches on the reservations made life for surviving Medicine People difficult in the extreme.
The Medicine Wheel Today
Since the early 1980s a variety of Medicine teachers have visited Europe, bringing with them the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. This for many surviving Native American Indians is very controversial and has antagonised in particular the radical political groups, who see the interest of Europeans, as a form of cultural and religious theft compounding the previous crimes of genocide and land grabbing.
However the Medicine people themselves are responding to a global trend which has encouraged spiritual paths from around the world to open their secret teaching to all who would dedicate time to learn them. This movement is in harmony with the massive changes predicted by the ending of a great cycle of time and the beginning of a new era.
Many spiritual groups around the world agree with the ancient time lords of the Maya that the approximate date for this transition is 2012 and that this date marks the end of a 5,200 year cycle which involves our solar system returning to a particular galactic alignment. In the west astrology recognises this as the beginning of the Aquarian Age, although in reality this is the end of a far larger cycle of time.
As a European not a Native American, my understanding of the Medicine Wheel comes within its own cultural context and has been integrated with my own understanding of matters sacred. The main teachers I have studied with have been Métis, which means mixed blood. These are people who have both native American and European blood. They have in the presentation of their teachings, translated what they have received into a more contemporary idiom. In some cases drawing from western esoteric and psychological knowledge to engender understanding.
As someone from Britain I have integrated these teaching with remnants of knowledge from my own cultural pagan traditions, which share some similarities with this new knowledge coming from America. My Celtic ancestors would have been familiar with circles of power, as this way of holding and using knowledge as it is a universal feature appearing in many cultures. For me there is no question of trying to become a Native American Indian. The study of the Medicine Wheel has helped me reinvigorate aspects of my own spiritual heritage, which has over thousands of years suffered the same fate as them, being crushed and persecuted by similar colonial forces and subjected to the spread of Christianity which actively sort to replace our own indigenous spirituality and beliefs.
The simplicity and enduring power of what they teach has helped me to develop my own understanding of them which honours their ancient and sacred roots whilst utilising them in a modern European context. In the end I feel strongly that all spiritual knowledge is there to benefit all the people of the world, no matter what their race colour or creed. In this time of the reckless destruction of the planet all the people of the earth need to use the knowledge preserved within the Medicine Wheels as a catalyst for change and to create new contemporary understandings upon which to base future actions.
The common conception of the Medicine Wheel are that it is just a circle representing the four elements and other simple correspondences. However it is far from that and is in fact a massive system of interactive and interrelated wheels that work together similar to cogs in a traditional time piece, acting as a complex holographic computer and in this way it is very much aligned with the workings of the human mind. The spectrum of the Medicine Wheels is vast and deals with a huge variety of subjects from the nature and workings of the universe and the humans place within it. To the various aspects of the human self and how they reflect the qualities elements. Harley SwiftDeer claims to be a Medicine Wheel Shield Carrier, his first teaching Shield contains 144 Medicine Wheels and this is only one of many differing shields.
The study of the Medicine Wheel is the central core of our online course "The Cartography Of The Invisible" where we explore this paradigm in relation to its power to awaken and empower the sacred self. We also offer a wide range of workshops and spiritual life coaching, based around a central core of the Medicine Wheel, Toltec and other Shamanic Traditions.
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