Medicine Wheel, also called the Sacred Hoop, is an important part of the Native American culture and spirituality. It is a stone structure that resembles a bicycle wheel. It has a circle of rocks in the center that is surrounded by an outer circle of stones. There are also 'spokes' made from lines of stones laid as coming out from the center and going on to the outer circle. Apart from a physical construction on land, the medicine wheel can also take the form of paintings or artifacts.
As a term, ‘Medicine Wheel’ was applied for the first time to the Big Horn, a medicine wheel that was found in Wyoming and is believed to be the most southern and the biggest one in existence. A number of these structures have been sited all over southern Canada and northern United States. These are supposed to have been used for ritualistic, healing, teaching and astronomical purposes.
There is no certainty as to the meaning and function of the Medicine Wheel and different Native American tribes are thought to have interpreted it differently. Generally used for healing and health, it symbolizes the cycles of life and embodies the cardinal directions- North, East, South and West. The directions are represented by distinctive colors of white, yellow, red and black. They also stand for the annual seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall), the natural elements (wind, earth, fire and water) and the aspects of life (spiritual, physical, mental and emotional).
The Medicine Wheel is considered to symbolize peaceful interaction between the living beings inhabiting the Earth. Its circle shows everything as part of a cosmic whole and represents the balance between personal and natural powers. The wheel can be used for self-realization, finding your purpose in life and bringing fulfillment and enlightenment into it.