The Medicine Wheel Garden by E. Barrie Kavasch – Featured Book of the Day!

Posted by admin in Feb 22, 2013, under Alternative Health and Beauty, Current Trends, Featured Book of the Day

The American Indian medicine wheel was an ancient way of creating sacred space and calling forth the healing energies of nature. Now, drawing on a lifetime of study with native healers, herbalist and ethnobotanist E. Barrie Kavasch offers a step-by-step guide to bringing this beautiful tradition into your own life–from vibrantly colorful outdoor circle designs to miniature dish, windowsill, or home altar adaptations. Inside you’ll find:

• Planting guides for medicine wheel gardens in every zone, from desert Southwest to northern woodlands

• A beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of 50 key healing herbs, including propagation needs, traditional and modern uses, and cautions

• Easy-to-follow herbal recipes, from teas and tonics to skin creams and soaps–plus delicious healing foods

• Ideas for herbal crafts and ceremonial objects, including smudge sticks, wind horses, prayer ties, and spirit shields

• Seasonal rituals, offerings, and meditations to bless and empower your garden and your friends, and much more

Practical, beautiful, and inspiring, The Medicine Wheel Garden leads us on a powerful journey to rediscovering the sacred in everyday life as we cultivate our gardens . . . and our souls.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal
The transcendental nature of gardening is the focus of this pair of books. Both discuss humans’ innate need to cultivate and nurture the earth. Ethnobotanist and herbalist Kavasch (American Indian Healing Arts) delves into Native American mystical symbolism to describe how to put together a garden that heals body and soul. He clearly explains the basic layout of a “medicine wheel” garden a circular arrangement built along axes running north/south, east/west, and even into the air and into the ground and how to adapt it to every zone. Also covered are traditional plants and why certain colored plants belong in the different quadrants of the circle. He also offers an illustrated encyclopedia of 50 healing herbs, as well as recipes that incorporate those herbs. Norfolk, a retired English osteopath, uses a much less structured approach in his lovely meditation on the importance of gardening in today’s hustle-and-bustle society. During his 40 years of practice, he observed that his happiest and healthiest patients were green thumbs. Here, he introduces his concept of the “soul garden.” He draws from literature and scientific studies, among other sources, to back up his claim that, like Voltaire’s Candide, people would be happier and less stressed out if they would just sit back and watch their gardens grow. Kavasch’s book is recommended for public libraries whose patrons appreciate Native American mysticism and gardening; Norfolk’s is recommended for all public libraries. Pam Matthews, M.L.S., Olmsted Falls, OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Booklist
In the wake of September 11, there seems to be a natural tendency to seek solace in comforting, “cocooning” activities. Fortuitously, the idea of “garden as sanctuary” is one whose time has come full circle, literally and figuratively. For Kavasch, this means harkening back to ancient times when Native American cultures revered “medicine wheel gardens,” stone circles interplanted with healing herbs and other indigenous plants, creating sacred spaces whose mystical and mythical powers soothed the soul and calmed the spirit. An herbalist and ethnobotanist, Kavasch presents a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to how primitive traditions can have modern applications. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Review
“There is food for the body and food for the spirit. Barrie Kavasch offers both.”
–Kenneth Little Hawk, Micmac-Mohawk storyteller and musician

From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the Inside Flap
The American Indian medicine wheel was an ancient way of creating sacred space and calling forth the healing energies of nature. Now, drawing on a lifetime of study with native healers, herbalist and ethnobotanist E. Barrie Kavasch offers a step-by-step guide to bringing this beautiful tradition into your own life–from vibrantly colorful outdoor circle designs to miniature dish, windowsill, or home altar adaptations. Inside you?ll find:

? Planting guides for medicine wheel gardens in every zone, from desert Southwest to northern woodlands

? A beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of 50 key healing herbs, including propagation needs, traditional and modern uses, and cautions

? Easy-to-follow herbal recipes, from teas and tonics to skin creams and soaps–plus delicious healing foods

? Ideas for herbal crafts and ceremonial objects, including smudge sticks, wind horses, prayer ties, and spirit shields

? Seasonal rituals, offerings, and meditations to bless and empower your garden and your friends, and much more

Practical, beautiful, and inspiring, The Medicine Wheel Garden leads us on a powerful journey to rediscovering the sacred in everyday life as we cultivate our gardens . . . and our souls.
From the Back Cover
“There is food for the body and food for the spirit. Barrie Kavasch offers both.”
–Kenneth Little Hawk, Micmac-Mohawk storyteller and musician
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Circle Is Sacred

The Ancient History of Medicine Wheels

Circles in nature draw our attention. I see the concentric circles within the faces of flowers and their ovaries, fruits, and seeds. I study the geometric spiral in the face of a sunflower, like the patterns in pinecones and acorns. The growth rings radiating from the heartwood of a tree, which we count to learn its age, are classic circles of life. I am drawn to the circular rosettes of lichen colonies on tree bark and old stone walls. Patterning in nature seems to be a mosaic of circles.

The circle symbolizes many ideas for different people and provides healing, too. We are awed by the prehistoric circle of great standing stones at Stonehenge, in England, which relate to the perceived annual movements of the sun, and by the detailed circularity within pre-Christian labyrinths and Roman mosaics on temple floors. In our lives, the sacred protective link represented by a wedding band is a universal symbol. Hindus represent the great Wheel of Existence within a circle, and the Chinese, too, fashion the symbols of active and passive forces within the yin and yang of the universal circle. Tibetan lamas create a sacred universe within the circle of an intricate sand painting, as do Navajo sand painters pouring healing energies into their lengthy Chant Way ceremonies blessed with cornmeal.

The sacred circle has long been a basic form in American Indian artwork, dwellings, clothing, and dances as well as in healing practices and rituals. Sacred drums, rattles, dream catchers, and bull roarers embody the circle and mirror the shape of the sun, moon, and earth. The year’s passage of time comes full circle and continues. Wherever we look, circles embrace us and teach us about the interconnections of all life.

Ancient Stone Circles

Great stone circles are considered feats of ritual architecture. These are terrestrial and celestial markers on the landscape that have forever changed the land. Some authorities believe certain of these sites were solar calendars that regulated work and hunting among the people of these regions under the protection of the ancestors and gods. These ancient ruins have a certain spell about them that affects everyone who journeys to see them.

Striking parallels may be found between the prehistoric stonework of Europe, Africa, South America, and North America. Amazing similarities exist between the Celtic menhirs (tall standing stones), Mayan stelae, and the great standing stones of Easter Island in the Pacific, all marking sacred ritual sites. Also, stone cairns–stones carefully placed in a pile as a marker–are one of the earliest human constructions found around the world.

Many ancient stone medicine wheels still dot our landscape from Canada to Mexico and from Florida to the Rocky Mountains. Across North America, they can be found from the Cree homelands on the plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan in southern Canada to the Ute territories in southern Colorado, Pueblo Indian sites in New Mexico, and east into the ancient Mound Builder sites along the Mississippi floodplains. They are usually located on prominent features of land, such as the summits of hills, plateaus, and ridges–places often hard to reach but well worth the effort of doing so. Earlier people must have journeyed great distances to reach these sites. Perhaps those journeys, much like pilgrimages, served to heighten the importance of such sacred places.

Scientists studying these enigmatic configurations in the late nineteenth century called them medicine wheels because of their similarities to the Plains Indian symbols commonly used in ceremonial artworks. For centuries, these Indians have made beautifully quilled circles with a simple cross in the middle. Plains Indian warriors often wore such a power symbol fastened to a war shield, their horse’s mane or bridle, or their own hair. Early settlers thought these resembled great wagon wheels.

Whatever the location of the medicine wheel, at its heart is the circle, spiral, or cairn of stones. From this radiate lines of stones, and the ends of these lines become points on an outer stone circle. Sometimes the outer circle is closed, but it usually has one or more openings. The size, the form of the center, and the number of spokes vary in different medicine wheels, but the sacred circle is a constant theme.

Created over the course of the past 5,500 years, medicine wheels guard the mysteries of their ancient origins and uses, while tantalizing us to want to know them better as a vital part of this continent’s heritage. These stone circles continue to draw people to them for sacred, ceremonial, and healing necessities. Many seem to exude sheer power and energy, as I sensed so clearly during my visit to the medicine wheel site in Colorado. Quite a few also have been found to have astronomical significance. The famous Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, for example, is believed to act as a calendar device, much like Stonehenge in England.

Creating sacred space in which to pray, fast, seek visions, focus on group needs, or predict the seasonal behavior of game animals or the weather was natural for people living close to nature in much earlier times. They must have employed a variety of techniques to honor the land from which they drew sustenance. The prehistoric medicine wheel sites, mounds, and earthworks in North America suggest the heightened spiritual quality of particular places, “power spots” that seem to have served as primal cathedrals–shrines on the land. We need to reconnect with this.

There is clear evidence that Plains Indians camped at some of the medicine wheel sites over time. Remains of stone tipi rings and blackened earth from campfires exist at some sites. Elder tribespeople recall various stories and events celebrated around the medicine wheel. In some family traditions, people camped at the medicine wheel long before the introduction of the horse, when Plains Indians still used dogs to pull their travois. Some tribal historians claim that the medicine wheel symbolized the layout and design of the Great Medicine Lodge for the Sun Dance rituals. The Plains Indian scholar George Bird Grinnell wrote extensively about this connection, relating that the medicine wheel is the place “where the instruction is given to the Medicine Lodge makers and from which the Cheyenne Medicine Lodge women carry the buffalo skull down to the Medicine Lodge.”

The Most Famous Medicine Wheel

Noted for its distinctive design and remoteness, the Big Horn Medicine Wheel is set high in the Big Horn Mountains near Sheridan, Wyoming. As you make your way up to this austere location, you can hear the constant call of the wind. Rugged junipers and prairie grasses hug the upper slopes, their foliage whispering in the strong wind. This famous site was sacred to the early Crow, Sioux, Arapahoe, Shoshone, and Cheyenne Indians who lived as nomads across the region. Some of their earliest ancestors probably constructed it. Distinctive features include the twenty-eight stone spokes radiating from the center and three cairns placed beyond the outer stone circle, all thought to have astronomical significance.

Studying medicine wheels for many years, especially the Big Horn site, astronomer John Eddy has concluded that they could have been used as horizon markers to identify the rising or setting of selected celestial bodies. He notes that the spoked pattern resembles a common sun symbol and comments that a Crow name for the Big Horn Medicine Wheel was “Sun’s Tipi.” Supporting this idea, Eddy also notes, one Crow legend reports that the sun built Big Horn “to show us how to build a tipi.”

The Big Horn Medicine Wheel is made of limestone slabs and boulders and is about ninety-eight feet across. The central cairn is about twelve feet in diameter and over two feet high. It was constructed on this high mountain plateau at an elevation of 10,500 feet in the early 1400s. This huge earth altar was used for many things, especially as a solar and stellar marking point.

The three outlying cairns at Big Horn align with three stars prominent in the summer sky: Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus, Rigel in Orion, and Sirius, the Dog Star, in Canis Major. These three stars appear as the biggest and brightest in the sky at the latitude of the Big Horn Mountains. Eddy explains that this site must have been an important mountain observatory in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. The three stars rise almost twenty-eight days, or one moon, apart from one another, suggesting a connection with Big Horn’s twenty-eight long spokes. And in line with the idea that the medicine wheel inspired the design for the Great Medicine Lodge for the Sun Dance, there is persuasive evidence that Big Horn is a good marker for the summer solstice along the alignment of the central stone cairn with the distinctive outlying one. That is the time when many tribes came together to hold their Sun Dance ceremony with its days of ritual, fasting, feasting, and prayer.

Set in a windswept, rugged location some 425 miles from the Big Horn Medicine Wheel is the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel, in southern Alberta, Canada. It bears such a striking resemblance to Big Horn that, according to scholars who study these sacred sites, it might have been built from the same set of plans. Constructed 1,700 years ago, it aligns with the same three stars’ risings and the sun’s position as the Wyoming structure, to mark the summer solstice.

Visions, Remembrances, and Ceremonies

Crow Indian traditions tell that vision quests were held at or in the immediate vicinity of medicine wheels. Certainly these would be places of immense power for visioning. You have only to sit quietly at one of these sites and meditate for a time to feel the site’s strength and energy.

Research has revealed that some Plains Indians (especially the Northern Blackfeet; Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota Sioux; Mandan; Hidatsa; and Crow) also created monuments to memorable …

About the Author

E. Barrie Kavasch was born in MoundBuilders territory in Ohio more than half a century ago. She honors both European and American Indian bloodlines, and is a direct descendant back through 16 generations to Pocahontas. Barrie has written a variety of natural history books especially on the cultures and cuisines of American Indians. She is an herbalist and ethnobotanist with more than 25 books in print. She has recently published her fifth book of poetry, HAIKU MOMENTS (2009). Barrie teaches creative writing, poetry, and American Indian ethnobotany; her home and studio are in the Northwest Hills of Connecticut.

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