North America: Geoglyphs / Medicine Wheel

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PHOTO: achp.gov 44.826242 -107.921132

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According to Lakota legend, the medicine wheel is a sacred symbol that represents all knowledge of the universe. The medicine wheel consists of a circle. A horizontal and vertical line are drawn through the circle's center. The circle represents the sacred outer boundary of the Earth often referred to as the Sun Dance Circle or the Sacred Hoop. It represents the continuous pattern of ongoing life and death. The horizontal and vertical lines represent the sun and man’s sacred paths, respectively. The crossing of the two lines indicates the center of the Earth where one stands when praying.

 

Native Americans also recognized the spiritual and healing power of the wheel, and the Lakota Sioux still consider the Medicine Wheel site in Wyoming to be a holy place.

 

On a windswept mountain a ring of piled rock 75 feet in diameter surrounds a central cairn. Twenty eight "spokes" of stone connect the two structures. The outer ring of stone is studded with "U" shaped cairns. The largest concentrations of these sun wheel structures are in southern Alberta. Others are larger, but Wyoming's Medicine Wheel enjoys one of the most spectacular locations of any. Medicine Wheel lies on the end of a natural ridge line, at an altitude of over 9600 feet in the Bighorn National Forest.

 

Today, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is protected by a wire fence with wooden posts, to which prayer offerings are often found attached. Offerings are still left in the cairns of the wheel as well.

 

Several contemporary related sites can be found in the vicinity of the wheel, including ceremonial staging areas, medicinal and ceremonial plant gathering areas, sweat lodge sites, altars, offering places and vision quest enclosures.

 

Around 100 medicine wheels have been identified throughout North America, including examples in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is considered the type site.

 


Bighorn Medicine Wheel