This multi-dimensional frame of reference can take many forms, but is usually depicted as a circle split into four quadrants that each represent a specific direction. North, East, South and West.Each direction carries deep meaning, far beyond just the physical navigation of the world around us. They symbolize specific components of the inner landscape that we all possess, and each holds gifts that can be used to better understand ourselves.
I’ve shared a Lakota prayer to the four directions below, but if you’re new to the medicine wheel, here is a little intro that was taught to me by an Ojibwe elder (this is just one of many interpretations):
East, the direction of the sunrise, represents the birth of new things, the spring, the fire of life, and is associated with matters of the soul. This is often represented by the color yellow.
South represents youth, sweetness, and the water element (most rivers tend to run south). It is most often associated with our emotions and the season of summer. This is often represented by the color red.
West, the direction of the sunset, represents adulthood, reaping the harvest of hard work, the earth and stones, and entering the dark “cave” of hibernation and creativity. It is associated with our physical body and the season of autumn. This is often represented by the color black.
North is the direction of the ancestors and the wisdom of our elders (both alive and deceased). The realm of the great return to spirit. We look to the north for inner healing and insight from those who have walked before us. It is associated with our mind and the season of winter. North is often represented by the color white.
Once you dive into the medicine wheel, the correlations and parallels that exist between the directions, colors, seasons, emotions and virtues begin to reveal themselves to you. And like most of the enduring traditions of the ancient world, this sacred tool provides a gateway to truth.
Four Directions Prayer
Creator, it is I. Thank you for today’s sunrise, for the breath and life within me, and for all of your creations. Creator, hear my prayer, and honor my prayer.
As the day begins with the rising sun, I ask, spirit keeper of the east, Brother Eagle, be with me. Fly high as you carry my prayers to the creator. May I have eyes as sharp as yours, so I am able to see truth and hope on the path I have chosen. Guide my step and give me courage to walk the circle of my life with honesty and dignity.
Spirit keeper of the south, Wolf, be with me. Help me to remember to love and feel compassion for all mankind. Help me to walk my path with joy and love for myself, for others, for the four legged, the winged ones, the plants and all creation upon Mother Earth. Show me it is right for me to make decisions with my heart, even if at times, my heart becomes hurt. Help me to grow and nurture my self worth in all ways.
Spirit keeper of the west, Brown Bear, be with me. Bring healing to the people I love and to myself. Bring into balance the physical, mental and spiritual, so I am able to know my place on this earth, in life and in death. Heal my body, heal my mind and bring light, joy and awareness to my spirit.
Spirit keeper of the north, White Buffalo, be with me. As each day passes, help me to surrender, with grace, the things of my youth. Help me to listen to the quiet, and find serenity and comfort in the silences as they become longer. Give me wisdom so I am able to make wise choices in all things which are put in front of me, and when time for my change of worlds has come, let me go peacefully, without regrets, for the things I neglected to do as I walked along my path.
Mother Earth, thank you for your beauty, and for all you have given me. Remind me never to take from you more than I need, and remind me to always give back more than I take.
– Vera Dery
By working with the energies in the medicine wheel, we begin to see how the four directions within and without us compliment and build upon one another. This ancient instrument of personal growth has helped me on my path, and I share it with complete respect for the lineages from which it comes.