The Medicine Wheel Garden

The Medicine Wheel originated with various indigenous peoples of North America. It was used – and is still used – as part of a religious ceremony in which the various parts of the wheel stand for spiritual concepts, life paths, behaviors, etc. The name comes from the most famous wheel, which sits atop Medicine Mountain, part of the Bighorn range in Wyoming. Constructed anywhere from 300-800 years ago, Medicine Wheel looks very like a bicycle wheel from the air. There is a central hub of rocks fashioned into a cairn with 28 “spokes” radiating out from it. Six more cairns are placed at intervals around the wheel. The cairns and the spokes were placed to align with both the rising and setting sun at the Summer Solstice, as well as the rising of Aldebaran, Rigel, Sirius, and Formalhaut. These alignments make perfect sense for that site, which is only accessible during the summer months.

The Medicine Wheel can be used as a metaphor for many things. One way of envisioning it is to draw an equal armed cross within a circle, creating four wedges. The top wedge is north; its color is white, and it represents winter, Eldership, reflection, deep spirituality and life understanding. The right hand wedge is east; its color is yellow, and it represents spring, planting, birth, new beginnings, second chances, and connection to the physical world. The bottom wedge is south; its color is red, and it represents summer, growth, the teen years, mental development and intellectual understanding. The left hand wedge is west; its color is black or blue, and it represents fall, harvest, adulthood, and deep emotional understanding. The center of the circle represents you or your community. Of course, there are other ways of envisioning a Medicine Wheel, depending on where you’re from and what resonates with you. The important thing is the four aspects of life represented, and the myriad of meditative discoveries that can be made within each aspect. 

To create a Medicine Wheel garden, you would need a compass and some permanent way of marking the four cardinal directions. Rocks are an obvious choice, but sculptures, bricks, or even big letters will work, just as long as they’re weatherproof. Flat stones or some sort of paving would be good for the spokes, since that is where you will be walking. Perhaps a really big flat rock for the center of the circle, or a smaller circle filled with gravel. Then you get to decide what colors represent the four aspects to you, and plant each wedge with different plants of that color. As you meditate in the garden you might that you have spirit guides for each aspect, in which case you’ll probably want to add things that remind you of them. Like any garden, a Medicine Wheel will be a work in progress.

Herbs that work best for the Medicine Wheel Garden.