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

An Interview with Author, Pete Risingsun

Q: How did you meet Marcha Fox? You live in Montana and she lives in Texas.

A: I wrote a detailed article about sweet grass, a sacred medicine plant the Cheyenne use in all of our spiritual ceremonies. Marcha read the article in the Soaring Eagle Newsletter, then wrote me a letter and we eventually talked on the phone. She liked the way I wrote the article.


Q: What happened next?

A: We did an interview on the phone. My questions were:

  1. Why are you writing a book about Native Americans?
  2. What made you decide on a Cheyenne character?
  3. How do you want this book written?
  4. Will I be paid for my work?

She called back the next day and said, “I want the book written accurately so when another Cheyenne reads the book they will not be offended.”

After that, she received an A for the first three questions and an A+ for the fourth question.

I told her I had to read her book first to determine if I could help her. She assured me it would be easy.

I read her draft of The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon. I told myself, “Wow. If you decide to help Marcha you are going to change Charlie Littlewolf into a traditional Cheyenne. You will make him a Cheyenne medicine man and warrior and the grandson of an honored and respected medicine man.” I pondered it for a week, thinking it could help my grandson’s college fund.


Q: What convinced you to coauthor with Marcha?

 A. Well, I felt confident that I could help. My question was how we would accomplish telling the story.

I began to understand she needed a Cheyenne medicine man to be a main character in the story. Still I had no answer on how. Then I knew: Ask the grandfather spirits for guidance.

I went to the sweat lodge alone and entered. I called the spirits and waited a long time before they came. The grandfather spirits spoke the truth to me. “You help this woman, she wants to do good things for our Cheyenne people. Tell her your story, only in the spirit of truth. You cannot do this for money, you will fail. Grandson, you have been chosen by Maheo to speak for your people.”

I then had a purpose to tell my story for my people. I went home feeling happy. I thanked the grandfather spirits for their guidance with wisdom and became the coauthor.


Q. You are from two entirely different cultures. Did you experience any challenges because of the cultural differences?

A. The greatest challenge was communicating the details of our Cheyenne spiritual ceremonies. The ceremonial sweat lodge requires detail and protocol. Ceremonial sweat lodge keepers have completed their vows for many ceremonies to earn their right to be a lodge keeper. So therefore they have high expectations of individuals who enter to focus on the purpose and protocol for the ceremonial sweat.

The Sacred Mountain fasting ceremony requires four days and nights on a buffalo robe with a sacred red pipe and the guidance of a painter who earned their right to guide you to complete your vow to fast at the sacred mountain.

The fasting ceremony requires a year of preparation with family support to set up camp and be there when your painter brings you down. Your vow is a commitment to fast without water and food for four days and nights for a purpose.

I came to understand and realize that I had not explained to Marcha who, what, why and how a medicine man became who he is. A medicine man inherits his medicine from his grandfather from a lifetime of teachings. A medicine man has great spirit powers with Cheyenne medicine to heal and clean people of their wounds, illnesses, curses, and call back lost spirits.

I realized how important it was for me to explain and continue to clarify my communications when the main character in the story was to become a medicine man.

We then were able to begin transforming Littlewolf into the grandson of Eaglefeathers, a true medicine man with great spirit powers.


Q. What agreement did you and Marcha have as authors of “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon?”

A. We did not agree on a plan, we just did it. Marcha offered to hire me as a subject matter expert and sent a payment in good faith. We did the hourly rate arrangement for a short time. I then offered the Cheyenne way. I told her, “I will help you write your story and when we are done you can give me a gift of your choice, to show what my work meant to you.”

Cheyennes gift a nice comfortable blanket. So we decided to do this, since Marcha felt this was fair. My grandfather spirits said for me to tell my story in the spirit of truth for my people and not for money. We became a team of good faith to tell a great story.


Learn more about Pete on his author page here.

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)