The Meaning of the Medicine Wheel | Cherokee, NC

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The Meaning of the Medicine Wheel in Native Culture

The medicine wheel can be found in many native cultures around the world. It is a universal symbol, and its meaning has been defined by different cultures throughout the ages based on their location, religious beliefs, and tribal practices. The most commonly held belief is that the medicine wheel represents the natural cycles of life and the basic way in which the natural world, including humans, moves and evolves. The power of birth, death, and rebirth are encompassed in the medicine wheel, as well as each individual’s path toward personal growth and realization.

How Medicine Wheels Appear in Various Tribal Cultures

Medicine wheels have appeared for thousands of years in many forms. Sometimes the medicine wheel was a literal circle of stones used for religious ceremony. Other times the medicine wheel was sewn, beaded, embroidered, or painted on clothes, blankets, and other personal items. Medicine wheels have been carved into stone and wood, and they appear in both ancient and modern native art and crafts.

The Role of the Medicine Wheel in Cherokee History

The medicine wheel is not an ancient Cherokee word. It is however a concept used by contemporary Cherokee artists of all disciplines. The reason the medicine wheel is a popular native expression is because it represents core principles shared by many indigenous cultures.

Medicine Wheel Symbolism

In addition to being a symbol of the natural cycles of life, the medicine wheel can also represent the Four Directions: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Medicine wheels can also incorporate images that tell the story of creation and represent deities like Father Sky, Mother Earth, and the Great Spirit. It can also be a way to tell the history of any individual tribe through a collectively accepted image. In modern Cherokee and native art, the medicine wheel can become an even more personally meaningful symbol of the artist’s own creative journey. The medicine wheel was thought to also show the path to healing, health, and balance.  

Plan a Trip to Cherokee to Explore Cherokee Art and History

Cherokee art and history include many other ancient and modern symbols, patterns, and styles. If you are planning a vacation to Cherokee and want to see Cherokee art and crafts firsthand, make sure you add Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. and Islands Park Art Market to your itinerary.  Enjoy the Cherokee stories that come to life in local sculpture, paintings, basket weaving, beadwork, and more.

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