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The Medicine Wheel: Indigenous Traditional Healing Series


The Medicine Wheel, also referred to as the Sun Dance Circle or Sacred Hoop, represents the sacred circle of life. It has been used by various generations of Indigenous people for health and healing, as well as learning and teaching. It is organized into four quadrants, which are known as the four directions (east, south, west, and north). The number four holds great significance in most Indigenous cultures. Different tribes interpret the medicine wheel differently, and the colours may vary.

A commonly used Medicine Wheel.

The Medicine Wheel can also take different forms and is often seen represented in artwork and construction. Historically, the Medicine Wheel was often constructed from stones arranged on the ground. The wheel moves in a circular, clockwise, or “sun-wise” direction, starting in the east. 

Medicine Wheel constructed from stones.


Below you will find various interpretations of the Medicine Wheel.

Stages of Life

The stages of life can be represented as birth, youth, adult (elder), and death in the Medicine Wheel. Birth is represented in the east, youth is represented in the south, adulthood is represented in the west, and death is represented in the north. This example demonstrates nicely how the wheel and its teachings move in a circular, clockwise direction. The following examples are listed in the order they appear on the Medicine Wheel. 


Spring, summer, fall, and winter can be represented in the Medicine Wheel. 

Elements of Nature 

Fire, earth, water, and wind can be represented in the Medicine Wheel. 

Aspects of Self 

The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of self are represented in the Medicine Wheel. 

Sacred Plants 

Tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, and cedar are represented in the Medicine Wheel. If you are wanting to learn more about these plants and their uses, you can read about them in my last article The Four Sacred Medicine: Indigenous Traditional Healing Series 


Many different animals can be represented in the Medicine Wheel. It is common to see an eagle, bear, wolf, and buffalo, but interpretations of the Medicine Wheel are not limited to these four animals. 

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