Tattoos are a choice and hold great significance to the people that etch them into their skin. They can mean strength, courage, overcoming an obstacle - you name it, there is a tattoo for it. Among Native American culture, a popular tattoo that embodies strength, intellect, emotion, nature, and even animals is the Medicine Wheel. This powerful symbol holds within it great magic and healing.
Understanding What a Medicine Wheel Is
It's important to understand the cultural and spiritual significance that comes with a Medicine Wheel tattoo. Also known as a Sacred Hoop, the Medicine Wheel is an important cultural piece among the Native American culture. It is used in rituals and found along sacred ground or areas.
There are several distinct elements of the wheel. There is generally a distinct outside circle. Within this circle, there are two crossing lines that create four distinct areas. There are also distinct colors within the wheel including white, yellow, red, and black. The significance of these different elements vary based on your specific Native heritage and nation. There are drastic differences between each one. Additionally, you might choose to personalize your Medicine Wheel as well, depending on your own personal spiritual and life experience.
Meaning of It All
Medicine Wheels hold vast meanings like self-realization, enlightenment, fulfillment, healing, and powers of nature. One of the most common meanings that you will see in this multifaceted design is the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental. It is the connection of the natural and personal world. However, there are several other meanings including:
- Life stages from birth to death
- The different seasons
- The elements of nature (sun, earth, air, water)
- Animals, including buffalo, bears, wolves, eagles, stallions, etc.
Types of Tattoo Designs
This is a powerful symbol, and the different tattoos and placements that you might find are truly endless. Additionally, this is considered by some a very personal tattoo that can be modified based on your own rituals, ceremonies, and culture. Other elements like feathers and intricate designs can be added. However, there are a few common designs to explore.
Medicine Wheel and Skull
Animals are considered sacred creatures that give up their lives for our nourishment, and their importance within different cultures is vast and wide reaching. Therefore, adding animals or skulls to a Medicine Wheel like this buffalo skull is common.
You can clearly see the different sections of the Medicine Wheel representing the four directions. The buffalo skull sits directly in the middle, showing its importance and a center of life among the Native American people. Additionally, the feathers add to the overall piece and meaning, indicating trust, honor, and strength.
Color Wheel Tattoo
The colors of the Medicine Wheel are typically white, yellow, red, and black; however, these can vary based on your nation and family. Some might incorporate blue as well. The placement of the colors can vary too. A few different interpretations of the colors might be races of man, the elements, and even times of days. While some Medicine Wheel tattoos might have a distinct circle outline and spokes, others might be created through the use of the color blocks. This allows the blocks of the color to create the wheel pattern.
Animal Medicine Wheel Tattoo
Another excellent Medicine Wheel tattoo pattern is the addition of the animal elements within the wheels. Some might have the animals within the colors while others might use tribal like patterns to create the animals within the spokes of the wheel.
For example, North might represent the buffalo and earth and be portrayed by the color white, while East could be the eagle and air. In the South spoke, you might find the wolf and the element fire. Then in the West, you might find black representing the bear and water. Again, these elements vary by the Native American nation they are representing.
Medicine Wheel With Feathers
While some patrons might choose to get their tattoo with colors and other elements, another common design is a simple wheel with the four direction spokes. It lacks color and other elements but still indicates deep symbolism. For example, among the Lakota people, the lines of the Medicine Wheel represent mans and the suns paths, and the eagle feather represents absolute power of the Great Spirit.
Medicine Wheel Arrows
Another important element to a Medicine Wheel tat is the addition of the arrows. Not only do these new and exciting features create the spokes, but they can vary the meaning of the wheel. For example, a common theme is enlightenment, with each arrow meaning something different like wisdom, future, introspection, etc.
Where to Put It
Now that you've explored the Medicine Wheel's meanings and cultural significance, you might wonder where to put it. This design is special in that it can fit just about anywhere, but there are a few areas that you might find hold special significance.
- Placing a medicine wheel tattoo on your chest puts it close to your heart. It can help to guide you to spiritual and personal enlightenment and healing.
- Another place that you might see this design is along the base of the neck. This might be because in several cultures your head and neck are considered a spiritual plane.
- The Medicine Wheel tattoo can represent strength, which might be one of the reasons that it might find its way to your bicep or calf.
- Depending on the size of the tattoo, the upper thigh is another common placement area because it affords the opportunity to add different distinct elements.
- The back is also another area that you could find a Medicine Wheel tat; especially as part of a larger Native American piece.
The Circle of Life
The Medicine Wheel tattoo is a rich, cultural piece that holds a plethora of significance to Native American nations. These sacred pieces typically have a distinct structure and color scheme, but other different elements can be added to enhance the meaning. The meaning that you find within your tattoo is very personal, and this is even more true among cultural pieces like the Medicine Wheel.