The Medicine Wheel and the Zodiac

The four sectors of a classic Native American Medicine Wheel superimposed on the houses of the Western Zodiac. Many tribes relate the four colors to the races of man, i.e., white, black, red, and yellow, though each sector relates to a different part of a person’s character. Each house in Western Astrology pertains to a different part of life.

There are many interpretations of the Medicine Wheel, perhaps as many as there are tribes. Nonetheless, there are distinct similarities, all seeking to help a person grow through self-knowledge. The one included here pertains to the principles taught by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind in their book about the Medicine Wheel, but subtitled “Earth Astrology,” which lines up nicely with the zodiac used in Western Astrology.

Not surprisingly, the interpretations for the different “Moons” are about the same as their corresponding zodiac sign.

Sun Bear, an Ojibwa, states that his interpretation of the Medicine Wheel was not derived from western astrology, but acquired through inspiration from the Great Spirit, suggesting that both systems originated with the same source. The purpose of their system is to help all people relate more closely to the Earth Mother and all of creation.

Here are Sun Bear and Wabun Wind’s Medicine Wheel equivalents to the zodiac with their totems.

ARIES – March 21 – April 19

Moon: Budding Trees

Animal: Red Hawk

Plant: Dandelion

Mineral: Fire Opal

Color: Yellow

TAURUS – April 20 – May 20

Moon: Frogs Return

Animal: Beaver

Plant: Blue Camas

Mineral: chrysocolla

Color: Blue

GEMINI – May 21 – June 20

Moon: Corn planting

Animal: Deer

Plant: Yarrow

Mineral: Moss Agate

Color: White and Green

CANCER – June 21 – July 22

Moon: Strong Sun

Animal: Flicker

Plant: Wild Rose

Mineral: Carnelian Agate

Color: Pink

LEO – Jul. 23 – Aug. 22

Moon: Ripe Berries

Animal: Sturgeon

Plant: Raspberry

Mineral: Garnet and Iron

Color: Red

VIRGO – Aug. 23 – Sep. 22

Moon: Harvest

Animal: Brown Bear

Plant Violet

Mineral: Amethyst

Color: Purple

LIBRA – Sep. 23 – Oct. 23

Moon: Ducks Fly

Animal: Raven

Plant: Mullein

Mineral: Jasper

Color: Brown

SCORPIO – Oct. 24 – Nov. 21

Moon: Freeze Up

Animal: Snake

Plant: Thistle

Mineral: Copper and Malachite

Color: Orange

SAGITTARIUS – Nov. 22 – Dec. 21

Moon: Long Snows

Animal: Elk

Plant: Black Spruce

Mineral: Obsidian

Color: Black

CAPRICORN – Dec. 22 – Jan. 19

Moon: Earth Renewal

Animal: Snow Goose

Plant: Birch Tree

Mineral: Quartz

Color: White

AQUARIUS – Jan. 20 – Feb. 18

Moon: Rest & Cleansing

Animal: Otter

Plant: Quaking Aspen

Mineral: Silver

Color: Silver

PISCES – Feb. 19 – Mar. 20

Moon: Big Winds

Animal: Cougar

Plant: Plantain

Mineral: Turquoise

Color: Blue-Green

Equivalents to the Elements in Western Astrology

Fire = Thunderbird

Earth = Turtle

Air = Butterfly

Water = Frog


The introduction to The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology states, “We have forgotten that we are connected to all of our relationships on the earth, not just our human family. We have forgotten that we have responsibilities to all these relations, just as we have them to our human families. We have imprisoned ourselves in tight little worlds of man-made creations.”

You do not need to be familiar with western astrology to enjoy and understand this approach. If you are, then it will enhance and deepen your perceptions with another layer of insights into yourself and others. The books below, available on Amazon, provide the details and earthly beauty of the system for relating to Mother Earth.


[NOTE:–These books are among the many I’ve read as research material while writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits. Co-author, Pete Risingsun, provided the details of Charlie’s journey in the book, but material such as this helped me learn more about Native American culture and prepared me for our collaboration.]


The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind

Dancing with the Wheel: The Medicine Wheel Workbook by Sun Bear, Wabun Wind, and Crysalis Mulligan

Every Step Forward Leaves Something Behind

Progress requires change. As new truths become evident, old ones fade away. Sometimes it’s a good thing; others, not so much.

Consider the period in history known as The Enlightenment.

It’s hard to miss the irony of what “being enlightened” meant in the 17th Century versus what it means now.

When it was proven conclusively that the solar system was heliocentric, not geocentric, it unlocked new doors of scientific knowledge. Ecclesiastical authorities trembled, called out for professing a truth that simply wasn’t. Placing Galileo under house arrest did not change the facts, only made the powers-that-be ultimately look like fools, their credibility and power decimated.

Was this progress?

In some respects, yes.

In others, not so much.

Slammed by this undeniable revelation, the faithful stumbled over the rubble left behind. Sadly, this placed the realm of the spirit under scrutiny as well. It was undetectable and thus unable to be proven in the lab. Besides, it was part of the domain of those who’d erroneously insisted upon a geocentric universe. Astrology, which is based on an Earth-centered view of the heavens, was tossed aside as well.

When Galileo observed Jupiter’s moons through his telescope, he realized it was possible for heavenly bodies to revolve around something besides the Earth, ripping the concept of a geocentric universe to shreds.

Replacing the concept of God or the Great Spirit with math was a bold and incredibly reckless step, making scientists no less arrogant than the Church.

Skeptics rail against prayer and any connection to things of the spirit, their mien no different than that of the bishops, cardinals, and popes who once proclaimed the Earth orbited the Sun.

The Enlightenment is largely responsible for where we are today as a planet, for good or ill. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and rediscover what was lost when telescopes and space probes replaced the wonder and beauty of the night sky. Likewise, our connection to each other as well as every plant, animal, and mineral that comprises our Earth Mother. Beyond that, hasn’t science itself told us we are all made of “star stuff,” comprised of elements produced in the stars?

Limiting “truth” to those things that can be proven scientifically denies the many magnificent things that remain just beyond our reach.

The place from which we came and where we’ll eventually return has yet to be detected by scientific instruments. One of the things I love about quantum theory is that it’s the most likely place where all these strange and wonderful unexplainable things could easily reside and thus reconcile the argument between science and religion once and for all. What exactly is the role of consciousness? Do thoughts become things? Does it interact with matter?

Isn’t that what our spirit and body do? Every single day?

Science has yet to provide an answer.

Those in tune with a higher realm are familiar with other ways of knowing.

Fortunately, the flawed concept that the only world that officially exists is the physical one didn’t reach indigenous people. Now they have the opportunity to teach us those things that they wisely retained, in spite of “modern civilization” trying to beat it out of them.  After centuries of bad press, the wisdom of ancient ways and beliefs is finally being recognized, honored, and revered.

At long last a select few are embracing the untarnished wisdom of those who have always known the answers before modern man became smart enough to even know the questions. Only when this wisdom is incorporated into mankind’s heart and soul will we be able to handle today’s technology in a constructive way.

And therein lies the irony, that absorbing this spiritual knowledge and perceiving this magnificent unseen realm is called–

–enlightenment.

A somehow tragic illustration of the Circle of Life.

It’s time to retrace our steps, taking with us what we’ve gained while gathering up those things that were left behind along the way.

Picture credits: Pixabay (Ancient key: Konstantin Krasinkov; Jupiter: Randy Cardoso Garcia; Crazy Horse Memorial: Rudi Nockewel; Heavenly Light: Gerd Altmann)

How Much Do You Know About the Medicine Wheel?

Photo Credit: U.S. Forestry Service

1. What is the medicine wheel?

a. A circle divided into four parts, each of a different color representing Earth’s four races.

b. A large circular structure oriented with the four cardinal directions defined by stones that was used anciently as a calendar.

c. A complex philosophy that promotes self-reflection, personal growth, and spiritual progression.

d. All of the above.

2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?

a. Lovell, Wyoming

b. South Dakota and Wyoming

c. Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

d. All of the above

3. How old is the medicine wheel?

a. 20,000 years

b. 7,000 years

c. 300 – 800 years

d. Unknown

4. What are medicine wheels used for?

a. A calendar.

b. Institute peace and understanding.

c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.

d. All of the above.


ANSWERS

1. What is the medicine wheel?

Answer: d – All of the above.

a. Many tribes define it as a circle equally divided into four sections of different colors, i.e. black, white, yellow, and red, which represent the four races of man.

b. Pictured above, the most famous physical medicine wheel and type site for such configurations in North America is at an elevation of 9,642 feet in the Bighorn Mountains in Lovell, Wyoming. It’s 75 feet in diameter and comprises a roughly circular alignment of rocks and cairns. Within the primary circle lie 28 rows of stones that extend out radially from a central cairn.

c. The medicine wheel is both an archaeo-astronomical entity with ancient roots supported by archeological evidence and a philosophical one for personal growth and spirituality intended to strengthen a community, one individual at a time.

2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?

Answer: d – All of the above.

Between 70 – 150 ancient medicine wheels have been identified in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

3.  How old is the Medicine Wheel?

Answer: d – Unknown

Some sources indicate that the Lovell Medicine Wheel is part of a much larger complex of archeological sites and traditional use areas that indicate 7000 years of Native American occupation. Others estimate it was built between 300 – 800 years ago.

The modern medicine wheel philosophy proclaimed by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind (see references below) originated in the early 1970s.

4. What is the Medicine Wheel used for?

Answer: d – All of the above.

a. Calendar

There are 28 “spokes” in the Medicine Wheel, which coincide with the Moon’s cycle of approximately 28 days. Some stones align with the Sun’s rising and setting on the equinoxes and solstices, marking the seasons.

At different times in the 20th Century archaeoastronomer, Jack Eddy and astronomer, Jack Robinson, independently determined that some of the stones aligned with the heliacal rise of certain stars. These served to divide the seasons into months.

The dawn or heliacal rising of a specific star pinpoints a date exactly. This is the day a star is first seen, just before its extinguished by dawn, after it has been hidden by the Sun’s light for an entire season. If you’re familiar with astronomy, you know that certain stars are only visible specific times of the years. Others never set, such as Polaris, a.k.a. the North Star, and the constellations such as Ursa Major and Minor which include the Big and Little Dipper, that surround it. They are always visible, but they rotate around Polaris and thus change positions during the year.

b. Institute peace and understanding.

The estimate of the medicine wheels’ age of between 300 – 800 years old coincides with the 15th Century AD when Native American nations were in a state of constant war with each other.

At that time a great Iroquois Chief later known as Hiawatha urged the tribes to cease killing their brothers and formed a great alliance known as the Confederation of Nations, which proclaimed Indian peoples were more alike than different, in spite of speaking different dialects. Their basic belief systems and traditions were similar.

The Medicine Wheel became part of this commonality and was decorated in special symbols, colors, and stones, to let people entering the tribe know about its tribal members. The wheel instructed individuals on their strengths and weaknesses as well as what they needed to learn and share with others. Each was expected to work on themselves, or leave the tribe. Within a few generations, people lost the concept of blame and anger which resulted in the longest peace in modern history of 150 – 200 years.

c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.

The medicine wheel has interpretations that are similar to those espoused by Western Astrology. Sun Bear (Ojibwa), whose visions revitalized the medicine wheel for this purpose, claimed, “We attribute any similarities between the Medicine Wheel and astrology or any other way of self-knowledge to the fact that all truths come from the same source.” (The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, p. xix).

Similar to an astrological natal chart, a person’s birth date determines their location within the medicine wheel. That placement is associated with a special moon, power animal, healing plant, color and mineral. As a person progresses through life and experiences challenges, answers and inspiration can come from “visiting” other locations on the wheel and meditating upon the qualities they need to learn and grow.

Sources

http://www.native-americans-online.com/native-american-medicine-wheel.html

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/bighorn.html

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/dawn-rising.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_wheel

Sun Bear and Wabun, “The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology,” Simon & Schuster, © 1980.

Sun Bear, Wabun, and Crysalis Mulligan, “Dancing with the Wheel: Medicine Wheel Workbook,” Simon & Schuster, ©1991.

The Astrology in These Books is Real

Excerpt from “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits.”

As a physicist who’s also a professional astrologer, clearly I’m a bit of an enigma…

A bit?

Probably more like a humongous anomaly.

However, as a novelist, my affinity for the unknown and all things weird and wonderful comes in handy. All my stories have a touch of technology as well as the paranormal and supernatural. Of course in this book, my coauthor, Pete Risingsun, provided plenty of support for Charlie’s experiences as he returns to his culture with its intimate connection to the Earth and its Creator.

I didn’t plan to have a character in the story who was an astrologer. However, rarely do I actually “create” a character. They just show up. And that’s how Patrice came on stage.

While Patrice Renard is a fictitious character, the astrology represented in this story is real. I swear I am not making this up. No one is more astounded than I am. The birth dates of the characters were made up and used with places close to the imaginary ones in the story. How the astrological influences on fictitious characters for the time frame chosen for the story could tie in perfectly with the plot is beyond my comprehension. To be honest, it actually blew my mind.

For those of you who might be astrologers or interested in it, here is the hypothetical Birth Chart for Bryan Reynolds, one of the story’s characters.

In fact, at times when I wasn’t sure what would happen next, all I had to do was refer to the astrological implications of that moment to figure it out. Being a professional astrologer, this was easily done. Ironically, this is one of the few times when my dual career with that of an author has been in my favor.

Many times I have been ridiculed and even ostracized as an author because of the prevailing prejudices in modern society against this ancient art. The most avid debunkers tend to hail from religious and scientific circles.

I live in the “Bible Belt.”

Do the math.

Many years ago as a physicist I set out to disprove it myself. Pardon the cliché, but it’s not exactly rocket science how that turned out.

You astrologers out there will recognize this as a “biwheel.” It comprises Bryan’s chart with the transits for when the accident occurred, which is what Patrice is delineating in the first graphic.

If you think astrology is weird, study some of the speculations associated with quantum theory and entanglement which, to any rational person, are even farther out than us having a relationship with the stars. Even astronomers are the first to admit we’re all made out of “star stuff.” As a physicist I personally think the concept of parallel dimensions where we exist in all of them is ridiculous, regardless of what the math may say. Seriously! I’ll admit to random memories of past lives, but simultaneous existence in more than one dimension? One is enough to handle, thank you very much.

Another irony in this technological age is the renewed interest in energy healing and various other ancient techniques long practiced by medicine men and healers among indigenous people worldwide. The Great Spirit is once again revealing them to those with an honest heart and open mind. And there’s more evidence for that, albeit anecdotal, than most of that supposedly scientific hocus-pocus.

Also of interest in the context of this story is the fact that Indigenous Americans have a form of astrology associated with the Medicine Wheel. While it doesn’t employ the predictive side like Western, Traditional, or Vedic astrology, it delves even deeper into the psyche and seeking inspiration as needed.

Rather than the familiar zodiac signs such as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc., the Medicine Wheel includes animal, plant, and mineral totems along with various other analogies, all closely tied to the seasons and nature. The moons associated with the Medicine Wheel line up exactly with those that define the zodiac signs of western astrology, their meaning essentially the same.

Coincidence?

Not in my world.

If you’re interested in reading the story you can get a copy from Amazon here. I’d love to hear what you think.