The medicine wheel is a visual representation of the four elements that create the blueprint for the energetic patterns that shape our universe; air, earth, water and fire. A simple way to connect to the four elements in the medicine wheel is to create an altar. The root of the word altar is ‘high place’. Altars traditionally sit higher than the ground. This helps us to remain mindful of the spirit alive in every moment of our everyday lives. The basic layout of both the Celtic and Native American medicine wheels depicts an understanding of patterns that connect weather, land, color, plants, animals, humanity and divinity.

The Essential Elements of the Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel is created in the shape of a sacred circle. It is a symbol that represents unity, wholeness, mother earth and father creator. The circle is divided with two intersecting lines. These lines represent the divine masculine and divine feminine; the two divine energies that are the seed of all of creation.

The two intersecting lines also form the cross that is the symbol of modern Christianity. The line running north and south on the medicine wheel, is a symbol for the father God. The line running east and west is symbolic of the holy spirit and divine feminine.

The energy of the north, east, south and west describe an energy that runs through people, culture, ideas and the land. In this way, the medicine wheel demonstrates the interrelatedness of the world. Each direction on the medicine wheel is associated with a season, a time, an animal and a color. By reflecting on each of these elements and bringing them into our homes through the creation of an altar, we honor the purpose and presence of the divine in our everyday lives.

The Four Directions of the Medicine Wheel

Purity & Contemplation

Emergence & Change

Growth & Trust

Maturity & Wisdom

Creating Altars Inspired by the Medicine Wheel

One of the easiest ways to bring the wisdom of the medicine wheel into your life is to make an altar somewhere in your home. Altars can help us to bring the sacred energy of the medicine wheel into our everyday lives.

A simple way to focus your intention is to create an altar in your home with an image or object that represents the medicine wheel. As each season passes, surround your sacred picture or object with the elements of that season. Here are some ideas to get you started:

For winter, bring in a plant to symbolize your connection to the earth, a white candle to help you focus on purity and concentration in your daily life and an image of the Buffalo to remind you of the sacred abundance inherent in mother earth.

In the spring, replace the plant with a pinwheel to remind you of the sacred energy of the wind, a yellow candle to keep your mind focused on the emergence and change inherent in this season, and a picture of an eagle as a reminder to always stay close to the divine in your daily life.

When the summer comes, replace the pinwheel with a small essential oil diffuser that you keep full of jasmine, rose and lemon, a sacred red object, write out the words growth and trust on a beautiful piece of paper to help you to meditate on how these forces are working in your life daily and include an image of a coyote and cougar to remind you to laugh at life and dive deeply into your passions and desires without fear.

As the fall emerges, replace the diffuser with a small bowl of water. Place small cut flowers in the water and change it often, reminding you of the need to cleanse and balance your emotional body regularly. Light a blue candle daily and place a picture of a bear to remind you that when you take the time to go within, maturity and wisdom naturally arise.

Altar making is a sacred process and there is no right or wrong way to put them together. Here is a beautiful excerpt from one of my favorite books on altar-making. Although it only references women, I think it will help you also as a man connect to the purpose of the altar as a divine portal for healing:

“When a woman creates an altar, she re-collects the scattered parts of herself, reconnects with her inner beauty, and reflects on the essential feminine within her psyche. Her altar represents her essential self and becomes a visual metaphor for her woman-spirit. A woman’s altar is the bridge between her inner world and the world of form. It is where she is free to capture and display the shapes, the shades, and the substance of her invisible essence. Once she has created the altar, a woman depends on it to tell the story of her inner life, piece by piece. The altar provides a creative, spiritual, and aesthetic way to see the story of her inner life. It is a place of her own where she can take time to make sense of the insane pace of life, where she can find the space to simplify, where she can just sit and stare.
The altar becomes a place where a woman can commune with both the personal and the cosmic aspects of herself, where she can both dance with the Divine and imbue every aspect of her personal life with sacredness, where she can both reclaim her power and reveal her innate beauty.”

Nancy Brady Cunningham

Taking time to connect with the essential energies of nature through the medicine wheel is a powerful way to bring balance and harmony into your life. Think of each altar you create as a little gift to yourself, tend to your altars daily, light the candles and take a moment to breathe in the essential qualities of the season and elements that it evokes. As you do this you will find yourself coming into deeper connection with the interconnectedness of Mother Earth and all of her divine reflections through the sacred energy of the medicine wheel.

Want to Learn More?

To continue reading about the medicine wheel, I recommend The Path of the Medicine Wheel. Much of my own inspiration and resource for this article was from one of my favorite books, A Book of Women’s Altars by Nancy Brady Cunningham. Although the book indicates it is just for women’s altars I recommend it for men as well, there is such a beautiful presentation of how altars are created and so much inspiration for creating your own altars, I feel it would benefit any gender 🙂


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