The Medicine Wheel: Bird Totems

Earth Medicine is a system of astrology or personality profiling which is Based on Native American beliefs about the cosmos and the principles Embodied in sacred Medicine Wheels.

Native Americans have always believed that everything in nature is sacred, And that although the spirit is invisible to the eye, it is pervasive in Nature. The animal species of the natural world are messengers of spirit Who inform our daily lives and appear in our dreams, imparting knowledge and Powers which are known as “medicine”. Those to whom animals appear in Their dreams pay tribute to the animals by carving their images on Ceremonial and decorative objects and painting the images on items used Every day.

Native American Shamans realized that there is profound relationship between The natural forces which predominate during the seasons and the Personalities of those born at certain times of the year. They were also Aware that one’s personality is also affected by the phases of the moon at The time of one’s birth and all through one’s life. There is a continual Oscillation or ebb and flow of energy between the active and the passive all Through life. These beliefs are embodied in Earth Medicine which guides One in learning to understand how Nature affects him or her, what strengths And weaknesses one is born with, and how to develop one’s strengths and Evolve in harmony with the greater whole.

Medicine Wheels
The Native American world is full of sacred circles called Medicine Wheels. Each Medicine Wheel describes the relationship between objects and qualities Within the greater whole. The system of Earth Medicine is based upon the Master Medicine Wheel which describes the balance or harmony which is Inherent in nature and the cycle of the seasons.

At the hub of the Medicine Wheel lies the Wakan-Tanka, the symbol of I! Nvisible spirit coming into physical being or taking form. The Wakan-Tanka Is surrounded by representations of the four cardinal elements, the four Directions and symbols representing the ebb and flow of energy. The Medicine Wheel is further subdivided into four seasons, each having three Birth times or totems, twelve in all.

Each birth totem is influenced by an element and a direction; it also has an Affinity with a particular stone, tree, and colour. A totem typifies the Central qualities or characteristics of a personality. It describes one’s Nature and is the golden key to unlocking the intuitive knowledge which lies Within one but is beyond the grasp of the intellect. The totem is a direct Link with the energies which it typifies and is therefore an invaluable Tool for understanding the intangible aspects and formative influences at Work in our lives.

Each individual has three totems, a birth totem, a directional totem and an Elemental totem. The birth totem embodies the innate characteristics of the Dominant forces operating in nature at the time of one’s birth. The Directional totem aligns or brings one into harmony with his or her inner Senses. The elemental totems describe instinctive behaviours, those Behaviours which are natural as opposed to learned or enforced. The tree, Stone and colour associated with each totem have the power to convey Strength during times of challenge, stress or testing.

The Medicine Wheel classifies human nature into twelve types or birth totems Each birth totem relates to the characteristics of Nature at a particular Time of the year and provides a map which will assist an individual in Discovering their strengths, weaknesses and their inner drives and Understanding their instinctive behaviours and their real potential.

The Seasons
The four seasons lie close to the centre of the Medicine Wheel and the four Equinoxes mark the passing of the seasons. Each season represents a stage Of huma! N growth and development. Spring is the time of childhood and growth Summer is the time of youth and puberty. Autumn represents the fulfillment Of maturity. Winter symbolizes the ac*****ulated wisdom of later life. Each Season is further divided into three birth times or totems. The time of one S birth determines the direction from which one will perceive and understand Life, and the characteristics of Nature at the time of one’s birth are Reflected in one’s character.

The four directions are the caretakers of the universe and are often Referred to as the four Winds because the directional influences are sensed Or felt but are unseen. Each direction is associated with a season and a Time of day. East is associated with illumination and with morning. Its Directional totem is the Eagle, a bird which soars to great heights and can See clearly from those heights. South is the direction of Summer and the Afternoon, signifying growth, fruition, fluidity and emotions.

Totem, the mouse symbolizes productivity, feelings and the talent to Comprehend detail. West is the direction of Autumn and the evening, Signifying the transition from day to night, from Summer to Winter and the Qualities of introspection and conservation. It’s totem is the Grizzly Bear Who represents strength from deep within. North is the direction of Winter and night, the mind and knowledge. Its totem is the Buffalo.

The Elements
The cardinal elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water are all around us. They pervade everything and they describe the essential character of everything in this world. One principal Element is associated with each of the four directions as well as four basic modes of activity and is associated with different aspects of the self. Earth represents the West and stability and is related to the body and physical sensations. Air represents the North and free movement in every direction and is related to the mind and to thought.! Fire re presents the East and expansive motion and is linked with the spirit and intuition. Water represents the South and fluidity and is associated with the soul and emotions.

Each birth totem is also individually associated with an element and this is known as the Elemental Aspect of the birth totem. Those three birth totems which share an Elemental Aspect are known as a clan, and each clan has a totem which describes the most important characteristics of the clan’s members. The Elemental Aspect tends to play a more dominant role in an individual’s life than the Principal Element.

The Influence of the Sun and Moon
Native American cultures believed that the Sun and the Moon indicated active and receptive energies which existed in Nature as well as time. The influence of the Sun was associated with conscious activity, reason and will The influence of the Moon was associated with subconscious activity, the emotional and intuitive aspect of human nature.

The twenty-nine day lunar cycle is divided into four phases and each is indicative of a specific mode of activity. The Waxing Moon represents birth and childhood; the Full Moon represents youth and the journey toward maturity; the Waning Moon symbolizes full maturity and the passing of youth; the New Moon represents reproduction or fruition. Each phase of the Moon influences both one’s personality and daily life. One who is born at the Waxing Moon is inclined to be extroverted; someone born at the Full Moon is expressive; someone born at the Waning Moon is probably reserved, and anyone born at the New Moon tends to be introverted or inward looking.

The influences of the Moon on daily life are significant. The Waxing Moon is a time for growth, for developing new ideas and initiating new projects. The Full Moon is a good time for completing projects or tasks initiated during the previous period. The Waning Moon is a good time to improve and modify projects and tasks, to cull an! d remove that which is no longer required. The New Moon is a time for contemplation of one’s achievements and preparation for that which is to come.

Think of the flow of energy as “yin and yang”. Energy flows in two directions which compliment each other, active and receptive, male, and female. The active flow of energy is related to the elements of Fire and Air, and the receptive principle is linked to Water and Earth. Since Active and Receptive alternate on the Medicine Wheel, all is balanced or in harmony



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