The Medicine Wheel and the Meridian of Time

The four parts of the wheel indicate the passing of time: birth, youth, adulthood, death. I've recently learned that the four corners of the earth in scripture also indicate markers of time, and not simply geographical directions. Within the earth's yearly journey around the sun are also four equidistant points (or corners) of significance: the equinoxes and solstices, each one marking the change of seasons.
Sarah Schroeder

Sarah Schroeder

Nourish the Word

The Medicine Wheel

A year or more ago, I was having a conversation with a Lakota man. He asked me whether I knew the cardinal directions. I was confused by the question, thinking, everyone knows those. But the way he asked me, convinced me he wasn’t talking about just East, South, West, and North. I explained that I didn’t know what he meant, and he proceeded to teach me there are actually no fewer than 7 cardinal directions. In addition to the four main directions indicated in a compass rose and the Native American medicine wheel, there is also the directions of the sky above, the earth beneath, and at the center of them all, the self. My brain imploded for a moment, before it clicked into place. Of course there must be seven directions. How did I not know this before? It makes perfect sense.

Here is a link to a website that explains a perspective of the different parts of the medicine wheel.

I’ve been noticing lately some things about the four main parts of the medicine wheel. I recognize how the four directions, four seasons, four parts of life, etc play an important role in Native American tradition. Similar glimpses of these four directions can be found in scripture too.

Of particular note in the scriptures are “the four corners of the earth.”

And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people who shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and he shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 5:4


And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God, and I heard him cry with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads! The Revelation of John 2:13

The four parts of the wheel indicate the passing of time: birth, youth, adulthood, death. I’ve recently learned that the four corners of the earth in scripture also indicate markers of time, and not simply geographical directions. Within the earth’s yearly journey around the sun are also four equidistant points (or corners) of significance: the equinoxes and solstices, each one marking the change of seasons.

A good overview of this idea can be found at this site.

A connection to one of those corners was studied at the Big Horn Medicine Wheel by an astronomer named John Eddy in the 1970s. More about that can be read at this link, particularly pages 3 and 4.

As a side note: I have only been to this place one time. It was an interesting experience. Some places feel different. This is one of those places to me. It has it’s own kind of presence that seems to indicate the sacredness it has for the tribes that use and value it.

Meridian of Time

As described by the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word meridian used to refer to noon, the middle of the day (aka “midday”). If one were to consider this time of day in relation to the medicine wheel with one’s self at the center, this would be the part of day when the sun most closely lines up over the self.
The scriptures describe the significant marker of Christ’s coming at the meridian of time itself.

For by the water you keep the commandment, by the Spirit you are justified, and by the blood you are sanctified. Therefore, it is given to abide in you the record of heaven, the Comforter, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the truth of all things, that which quickens all things — which makes alive all things, that which knows all things, and has all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment. And now behold, I say unto you, this is the plan of salvation unto all men through the blood of my Only Begotten who shall come in the meridian of time. Genesis 4:9

Hearken, and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the great I Am, even Jesus Christ, the Light and the Life of the world, a light which shines in darkness and the darkness comprehends it not, the same which came in the meridian of time unto my own and my own received me not. But to as many as received me gave I Power to become my sons, and even so will I give unto as many as receive me, Power to become my sons. Teachings and Commandments 23:1


Not only that, but there were symbols in the way that he died indicating this meridian as well. Was it of any significance that his body was fastened to a cross (similar to the center of a medicine wheel)?

Scripture describing this event ties into this idea more:

And it was about the sixth hour and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened and the veil of the temple was rent in the middle. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. And having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Luke 13:23

This sixth hour was midday (or the meridian of the day) as explained here:

When the Lord hung on the cross, and the sun was darkened at noon, if you looked up in the sky to see what was overhead, you would see the sacrificial lamb in the pattern of the stars that we call Aries today.

The sun was directly in alignment over the direction of self, when the Son of God sacrificed his own self for all of mankind.

But now, once, in the meridian of time, has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men to die once (but after this, the judgment), so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. And he shall appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation unto them that look for him. Hebrews 1:28

He seemed to come in a way that many cultures could symbolically recognize as significant. This may even be evident in the original written language of the Ojibwe people.

Here are some pictographs and their translations that seem relevant from The Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation, by George Copway

The symbol representing the Great Spirit’s (Kitche Manitou) universal presence is a circle with four corners.

“Spirit” which I suspect in this case is substituted for the Ojibwe word manitou, seems similar to an the direction of self on the medicine wheel.

Kitche Manitou seems to be represented below as a combination of the previous two. A depicition like this is used in the beginning of Basil Johnston’s Ojibway Heritage, in an Ojibway logo attributed to Del Ashkewe from Cape Croker. It’s meaning is described in this way: “The large circle at the top with four projections represents Kitche Manitou, the Creator. A circle symbolizes spirit; to denote Great Spirit, a larger circle was circumscribed around a smaller. The four projections indicate universal presence.”
It seems to me to relate to the medicine wheel, and connects deity to its symbolism, which through scriptural symbolism points to Christ. All this appears to be done in a way that perhaps makes it possible that He might universally be identified (in addition to the identity of the parents that sent Him), despite which name each different culture knows Him as.
More on the medicine wheel and how it relates to the four peoples of the earth will have to be added in a different post.

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