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The Medicine Wheel at the SVBG



Perspective


Raised Bed Started Sept. 1, 2013     The Medicine Wheel Herb Garden is the first phase of a larger project at the Southern Virginia Botanical Garden to celebrate the heritage of Native Americans. Medicine Wheels have become a major symbol of peaceful interaction among all living beings on Mother Earth... representing harmonious connections. It is symbolized by a cross within a circle and is a ceremonial tool used for teaching and spiritual healing. Traditional Native American cultures view life as a continuous cycle, life mirrors the cycling of the seasons, the daily rising of the sun, and the phases of the moon.

    Interpretive panels throughout the garden will describe the spirtual meanings of the four cardinal directions along with their representative spirit animals and sacred plants. The ceremonial use of tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, and cedar will be included.

    The outer circle, a dry-stacked rock, raised garden, will hold many herbs that have been used by various tribes for medicinal puposes as well as for food preparation.

    Future segments of the overall project may include a typical Indian garden, tipi, sweat lodge, and possibly a totem pole. While the Medicine Wheel is from the culture of the northern plains tribes, other American native exhibits will represent cultures of other tribes from throughout the nation. See full map here.




June21 2013
Harvest Girl, the last of the cedar carvings, was set in place December 23, 2012. This June 21st (summer solstice) photo shows her standing in front of the 3 Sisters Garden.



How Native Americans Kept Track of Time

   Lines added to the Medicine Wheel's paths represent the Creator pole shadow during the year. The Native Americans could tell time by the sun's position in the sky, by watching stars rise and fall, or by knowing when the bears wake from hibernation. Some named the lunar cycles after what was happening at the time. For instance, one tribe named one lunar cycle "laying geese" and another cycle "coming caribou". For many Native American nations, the year was counted by the number of full moons that had passed.

Creator Pole Shadow
Creator Pole Shadow
    It has been speculated that the mysterious placement of rocks in the original 10,000 year old Medicine Wheels could have been to mark the lunar cycles and the solar cycle. Knowing where a shadow will be at the same time every year could have also marked the exact time of a significant event. Looking at the image above on the right, all the area between the two curved lines represent where the pole shadow would fall throughout the year. The top line, winter soltice, is the beginning of winter which is generally December 21 or 22, the shortest day of the year, and the day of the longest shadow. Some Indian tribes celebrate this day as the beginning of another cycle - a rebirth.

   "American Indians gave names to each of the full moons to keep track of the passing year. The names are associated with the entire month until the next full moon occurs." Ref.: American Indian Moons
   Here are the names the SIOUX gave to them:

January MOON OF STRONG COLD/FROST IN THE TEEPEE
February BONE MOON (so little food, people gnaw on bones and eat bone marrow soup)
March MOON WHEN BUFFALO COWS DROP THEIR CALVES
April MOON OF GREENING GRASS
May MOON WHEN THE PONIES SHED
June MOON OF MAKING FAT
July MOON WHEN THE WILD CHERRIES ARE RIPE
August MOON WHEN THE GEESE SHED THEIR FEATHERS
September MOON WHEN CALVES GROW HAIR
October MOON OF FALLING LEAVES
November MOON OF CHANGING SEASONS
December MOON WHEN DEER SHED THEIR HORNS



Early Photos

Eagle Landed

Eagle Has Landed - Spirit animal of the East - and the White Buffalo - Spirit animal of the North

Coyote & Bear Placed

Coyote - Spirit animal of the South & Bear - Spirit animal of the West in their new home.


Harvest Girl
    Harvest Girl is the last of the cedar carvings.

Petroglyph Stepping Stones
Petroglyph Stepping Stones

Interpretive Panels

Tribal Culture Areas

Medicine Wheel Description

Power of Four

Why an Herb Garden?

East Panel

South Panel

West Panel

North Panel
Photos

Satellite view

Outline

Eagle Weather Vane

Creator Pole

Cairn Rocks

Cree Medicine Wheel

My Wheel @ Possum Hollow

Eagle Spirit Carving - Wabun

Buffalo Spirit Carving - Waboose

Bear Spirit Carving - Mudjekeewis

Coyote Spirit Carving - Shawnodese


Resource Web sites: black_elk.jpg - 20827 Bytes

Black Elk - The Great Circle

Black Elk - Understanding World Peace

Dancing to Eagle Spirit Society

Native American History & Culture

THE MEDICINE WHEEL by Dee Finney

Sweet Thunder Medicine Wheel Teachings in the 21st Century

Introductory Note to The Song of Hiawatha

The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


The Sacredness of Sage

Lakota: The Four Directions

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Table Rock Quarries


Big Horn National Forest Medicine Wheel


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Far from forming a single ethnic group, Native Americans were divided into several hundred cultural and language groups.
Click on map for larger image


Last update - February 24, 2014. For more information contact Dan Shaw.