The Medicine Wheel Painted on a Drum

The medicine wheel, or Sacred Hoop, is a true symbol for life among Native American tribes and has many interpretations. It’s comprised of four quadrants, which represent several concepts: seasons of the year, stages of life, cardinal directions, and the four sides of a person–physical, emotional, spiritual, mental.

The East Side

The East direction of the wheel, which also represents Spring, is associated with beginnings. It is yellow, reminiscent of the sun, and represents arrival into the world.

The South Side

The South direction represents Summer and adolescence, with its red color alluding to the heat of the season. Associated with experimentation, it’s the time in our life where we begin to build our identities.

The West Side

The West direction represents Autumn, our adult years. This signifies the phase in our life when we begin to make our own decisions and develop our own values.

The North Side

The North direction is white to represent enlightenment, the time we become elders. It is associated with winter and purity—a time for us to return to the spiritual world.

Although the medicine wheel may seem to consist only of four parts, there are actually seven very essential directions to know.

Mother Earth

This is the fifth direction of the wheel. It is associated with the color green and represents our connection to life.

Father Sky

The sixth direction alludes to the world we are living in presently, as well as the world we are moving toward.


The Medicine Wheel Painted on a DrumThe last direction, often forgotten, is you. This refers to your physical and spiritual state at the center of the wheel. This part of the medicine wheel represents the balance we strive to achieve between our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual sides.

The directions of the wheel outlined above are just a few interpretations of many which exist. Other tribes believe that the four directions also refer to the elements of nature, animals, ceremonial plants, and more. Some interpret the directions to include the middle ground between each, ascribing meaning to the Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, and Northeast sides as well. No matter the interpretation, the medicine wheel will always represent wholeness and can help balance the positive and negative aspects in yourself.

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