Imagine the Medicine Wheel as a wigwam (tepee). The anchors hold the wigwam fasten to the ground. In the east there’s the door. The clans are at the center where the fire should be. The moons are orbiting at the top where there’s usually an opening to let out smoke. The poles which give the three dimensional aspect to the wigwam are the mysteries. The elements identify everything that moves or remains within the dwelling: People, stories, blankets etc… The winds refer to life’s challenges: Natural storms, death, accidents, war etc…
Lots of people come knocking at my door to learn about the Medicine Wheel. Most will say that the reason why they are approaching this indigenous philosophy is because they are looking for healing and self-discovery. From a Western point of view or from a New Age point of view this actually makes sense; but from a Sacred Circle perspective it hides a few inconsistencies. The whole idea behind the Medicine Wheel is that we are born and we live according to the Sacred Circle way. In Western society when we’re sick we usually consult a medical doctor. We basically refer to a physician to diagnose the problem and help us treat it. We can’t approach the Medicine Wheel in the same manner because it’s understood that nobody knows the Wheel better than the person who lives according to it; and as far as illness is concerned, it’s understood that through the Wheel we should be able to diagnose and heal whatever is ailing us. The Wheel doesn’t bring healing or self-discovery per say – “It’s a journey of teachings which brings us to walk towards healing, wellness and wholeness.”
Someone once argued with me that there was no such thing as living shamanically. He said that Shaman was the only word which existed in the Tungus language and that it was wrong to create vocabulary which describes a Tungus reality; but can not be understood by these people. My reply was that I wasn’t familiar with the Tungus language; but “if it’s anything like any other indigenous language, words were always meant to speak of experiences and impressions with the intention to share with others.” In the Inuit language for example there are approximately 250 words to speak of snow and each word describes a different snowy experience. Shamanic people in general share common perspectives, behaviours and attitudes like any other collective. If we explore the word Shaman closely we come to understand that these people understood life as a journey which explores medicine (power, sacredness and influence) and that they hoped to communicate, to use, to create, to better understand this power in order to connect to the basic nature of life. In other words they walked the talk (so to speak). They lived the Shaman way.
If the word Shamanism separates the Shaman way from the Western way for example then I agree with the young man who argued against “shamanic vocabulary.” Yet if the word Shamanism or shamanic simply bring forth the fact that there’s something more to our daily living and that it offers a very particular impression then, aren’t we following exactly what the Shamans have been saying since the beginning that life is medicine and that we can interact directly with it?
I don’t say that “it is wrong for anyone to learn the wheel as a philosophy”. Heck I don’t say “anything is wrong” unless I’ve experienced it and it’s taken away from me healing, wellness or wholeness. Still, I strongly suggest to those who want to learn about Sacred Circle tradition that they apply it to their daily living and that they explore the different facets of the wheel from an empirical point of view. There’s no other way from a shamanic point of view to reach healing, wellness and/or wholeness.
P.S. Wouldn’t mind some questions or suggestions for future blog entries. I’m drawing a blank these days. Don’t be shy to suggest something that I haven’t done yet!!! I’m open to anything.
P.P.S. I'll be back with a picture.