Indigenous Insights - Medicine Wheel Musings
As we embark upon spring and the days are getting longer, may we embrace all of the learnings and musings that this season and cycle have to offer. Our landscape is changing and along with more sunshine to brighten our days, many of us who’ve lived in Wood Buffalo for long enough are also anticipating the annual river break.
With its powerful energies, the water rushes through and for those moments it’s all fresh and new again; water is life and movement is medicine. And as we live, work and play in Treaty 8, we also acknowledge that Treaty Rights are guaranteed “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.”
If we look at the cycle of spring as symbolized by the East in the medicine wheel, we can learn so much about ourselves and all that surrounds us. The medicine wheel symbolizes many cycles and aspects of nature—both our human nature and our natural world.
But to many Indigenous people, one of the most important and universal aspects of the medicine wheel is balance. All of the quadrants are all distinct, but equal and in harmony, just like we should all strive to be.
The medicine wheel is infinite and teaches of the many realities and about the interconnectedness of all; whether it be human races, four elements, four seasons or four stages of our lifespan. Just as the seasons change, each of us is also in a state of change and flux, recognizing the true connection between nature and ourselves. Like nature, we have boundless potential and opportunity for growth (internal, not accounting for privilege or equity).
In looking to the spring and the rebirth of life, we also need to look internally at our own opportunity for growth and change. As the days get longer, illumination is all around us, giving us the gifts of clarity, hope, and understanding. If your New Year’s resolution hasn’t worked out just yet, take this as another opportunity to try again as the East quadrant offers guidance and renewal.
As the sun rises from the East, we should also look at the gifts of the four directions.
In some Indigenous cultures, the Eagle Moon (March) symbolizes the return of the eagle, a leader who often watches over others. The eagle, known for its nobility, is the leader of the sky flying higher and seeing better than any other bird, giving it a different perspective and connection to Creator.
The Goose Moon (April) represents the coming of spring and warmer days. For many Indigenous groups within the Boreal forest, geese also represent cultural values and the connectedness of wildlife to homelands. What impacts one affects the other, therefore, respect and gratitude are traditional teachings that get passed down.
The Frog Moon (May) represents the arrival of longer days and frogs coming back to life. It may also represent the egg-laying month, where both birds and water life begin to lay eggs, representing childbirth, family, and renewal.
Traditionally, many Indigenous people would not have used a Gregorian calendar, rather the year was broken into 13 months on the turtle’s back and cycle based on various aspects of moon, nature, and changes to the landscape—so I hope we can also learn to embrace these changes. As we are all connected, we see Mother Earth coming back to life again, renewing all that was asleep, whispering life back and willing us to get outside.
Don’t let the seasons and lessons pass you by as we wait for the next sunny or warm day. May the East and the spring give you courage to lead like the Eagle, the energy to tackle the next project or enough light and guidance to help you see all of the potential within and around you.
Lane, Phil Jr., Bopp, Judie, et al. The Sacred Tree: Reflections on Native American Spirituality. Alberta, Canada. 1984