The Four Sacred Directions

Another aspect of the shamanic cosmology is the four sacred directions, or the four winds. These four sacred directions also correspond to the four natural elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air), and depending on the tradition, tend to vary in their correlation. This has been called by some Earth astrology. The four directions are ways of connecting with the seasons of our lives, and understanding them greatly assists in coming into harmony with our own natural rhythms and patterns. It is a pattern of time cycles. Each direction typically has an animal, plant, or mineral that holds the energetic quality that corresponds to it, as well as different organ systems in the body. It also has a correlation to different cycles of time: day, year (season), and our entire life. One can meditate on these different seasons and cycles of time and come to greatly understand the energies of the directions.

The wheel typically begins in the East, the place of the rising sun, the dawn of a new day and the spring time. It is all about newness, fresh starts, and the shining of light in places where there was once darkness. Illumination and inspiration all fall in the east, as does the element of air and the bird tribes (Eagle, Hawk, Condor). In the East, we are able to gain a distant perspective on our lives, to see far into the future and understand what the best direction we are to take. We see things in the light of a new day. The East relates to childhood, adolescence, and correlates to the archetype of the teacher.

Next is the South: high noon, summertime, and the element of fire. It is here that we learn the art of celebration, innocence, and travel. We dance our dance, sing our song, and share our existence with others. In the East we have gained insight and understanding into our lives, in the South we share that understanding. It is here we learn the lessons of the heart: the full, clear, open and strong heart. Coyote lives there. The South relates to early adulthood and is correlated to the archetype of the visionary.

The West correlates to the dusk, autumn, and the element of water. It is in this place that we begin our journey inward to reflect on the expansiveness and extroversion of the East and South. The West is the looking within place, and is a time for looking into the patterns we carry that must be let go of in order to become who we truly are. This is the lesson of the autumn trees who drop their leaves to nourish the Earth once again. Bear and Crow reside in the West, along with all of our ancestors. This is usually a time of great emotion, slowing down, and gathering ourselves for the winter ahead. The West relates to adulthood/middle age and correlates to the archetype of the healer.

The final turn on the medicine wheel is the North: the night, winter, and the element of Earth. The North is the place of no-thingness, where we return to the Great Mystery to receive our vision to be ignited in the East. It is a place of the three dreams: the day dream, the night dream and the life dream. This is the time where we are to dream deep and wide, for the vision of our life purpose and who we truly are. Deep ancient elders and wise ones live in the North, but we must be able to empty ourselves to receive their wisdom. It is the place of the Owl and other nocturnal animals. The North relates to elder-hood and correlates to the archetype of the warrior.

By understanding the energetic architecture of the seasons, times of day, and times of our lives, we can better come into harmony with it and integrate the lessons life is bringing our way. It also helps to correlate things that are seemingly disparate, as everything has a place on the wheel and is thus related to everything else. So, by understanding where a plant resides on the medicine wheel, certain correlations can be drawn to animals, seasons, and states of consciousness and experiences that would otherwise not be able to be related. It is a simple map that can be ones teacher for life.