October 8, 2010

Eight Medicine Wheels Types


Most archaeologists of the Northern Plains recognize eight different classes or styles of medicine wheels.

“Lo-and-behold, the Blackfoot elders have routinely referred to one of these eight styles — although they don’t call it that — and they strongly indicate these were monuments to particular people, or events that happened in the past. I think there’s some consensus on that.”

Brace points out the most recent wheel was constructed in Alberta in 1938, as a memorial to a renowned Blackfoot leader.

Brace has come up with a medicine wheel definition that allows him to categorize the 12 to 14 Saskatchewan wheels, which range in diameter from 45 to 144 metres (160 yards), into four groups: burial; surrogate burial; fertility symbol; and “medicine hunting”.


Burial and surrogate burial, as the names imply, are grave sites and memorials. The longest line of boulders in such wheels points to the direction of the honoree’s birth, while shorter ones point to places of courageous acts or remarkable deeds. Fertility wheels have the same pattern of radiating lines and circles employed as fertility symbols on the pottery and birch-bark “bitings” of other pre-historic, North American cultures, he says. The fertility wheels contain buried offerings their builders believed would increase the number of buffalo.

“Medicine hunting”, meanwhile, may explain the origin of the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel, says Brace.

“If the people went into a particular place and they were without resources, they’d take the shoulder blade of the animal they wanted to hunt and put it in the fire. As the bone dried out, it would crack, and at the end of the crack you’d get blobs of fat.

“They would interpret (the cracks with the blobs of fat) as indicating the directions they’d have to go to find those food resources, or people who had food to share. The cracks where fat did not accumulate would indicate a poor direction to go.”

Brace suspects the medicine hunting wheel was created, and likely amended over time, to serve as a permanent hunting guide to succeeding generations of nomadic Indians. Permanent, that is, until the white culture came into contact with the red.

Medicine Wheel
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