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Native American Medicine Wheel at The Mesa Creative Arts Center

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Medicine Wheels are ceremonial circles of stones used by Native Americans for healing, spiritual rituals, prayer, meditation, and as visual reminders of higher principles.  They are considered actual physical connection points to the Spirit World.  Medicine Wheels are representations of the Sacred Hoop and remind us that all things are equal and connected in the Web of Life.

Medicine Wheel Drumming
Kate Silberberg drumming in The Mesa Medicine Wheel

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What is a Medicine Wheel?

Forms of ceremonial circles exist all around the world, from the great stone circles of Europe to Hindu mandalas.  A Medicine Wheel is an ancient form of ceremonial circle used by Native Americans for teaching, meditation, prayer, healing, and celebration.  Just as stained glass windows and mosaics in ancient Christian cathedrals were used to teach Bible stories to people who could not read, so too were Medicine Wheels used to instruct The People.  From stories and oral history associated with the quadrants and individual stones of The Wheel, they learned about their relationship with Nature and the Spirit World, the cycles of life, connection to their past, and the interconnectedness of all things.  They were also used as gathering places for ceremony and celebration and acted as connection points to contact the unseen world of the “Grandfathers” or Spirit Beings.    In that respect, a Medicine Wheel also functions as an altar.  In her book about altars, Beautiful Necessities, author Kay Turner writes, “Altars mark the potential for communication and exchange between different but necessarily connected worlds, the Human and the Divine.  They make visible that which is invisible and bring near that which is far away.”  Wheels were designed to meet the needs and beliefs of those who created them and are still used today.

At the heart or center of our Mesa Creative Arts Center Medicine Wheel is the granite Creator Stone, representing “The Great Mystery” or "Creator" from which all life originates, continuously creating without beginning or end.  Arising from this center is the energy that creates all the rest of the wheel.  Surrounding the Creator Stone is an inner circle made up of seven stones that represent the foundation of all life.  The four anchor stones for the large circle represent the "Spirit Keepers" of the cardinal directions, North, East, South, and West.  Between each of them lie three stones that together represent the twelve moons of the yearly cycle represented by animal clans.  Radiating from the four "Spirit Keepers" to the inner circle are four spokes or "Spirit Paths" made up of three stones each, which represent qualities that take us from daily life into the sacred space of the Creator.

Each quadrant of The Wheel holds a different energy and represents a season of the year, stage of life, area of our Being (Physical, emotional, mental, and Spiritual) and a different kind of healing.  Together they create a balanced whole in a specific relationship to one another.  The teachings of the Medicine Wheel are multi-faceted and many layered.  They instruct us about all aspects of life, ourselves, and the world around us.  They teach us about the cycles of life, death, and rebirth and how they relate to Nature, the seasons, and the Universe.

Why build a Medicine Wheel?

We do not see ourselves as the owners or creators of The Wheel.  We see ourselves as its caretakers, students, and interpreters.  We created The Mesa’s Medicine Wheel to be used by ourselves and our visitors for meditation, introspection, prayer, healing and, enlightenment.  We continue to use it for public ceremonies, like celebrations of the changing seasons, drumming circles, and special occasions as well as for private use.  We built it to assist in teaching about life, healing, and finding our true selves.  It is a monument to the family of Humanity, and holds the answers to keeping ourselves and our planet healthy, balanced, and safe for future generations.  It is a wheel of love, a wheel of light, a wheel of peace, a wheel of wisdom, and a wheel of harmony between all things.  The Wheel is a gift and a blessing to all who experience it.

We believe that the Medicine Wheel creates a vortex of healing energy that comes out of the ground and spirals out into the surrounding area, thus benefiting all living things.  It is mirrored by another Wheel in the Spirit World.  Heaven and Earth are joined together by a tube of energy that flows between the two Wheels and to stand in The Wheel is to be part of that joining.  The more we do ceremony in the Wheel, the stronger its energy and connection become.  It is a beacon of Light shining out to illuminate the darkness and radiate healing and understanding into our community and to all the Earth.  We have chosen to share the photos of this sacred circle and its construction so that others may share in its gifts without needing to be nearby.

To find out more about Medicine Wheels, read “Dancing with the Wheel”, by Sun Bear.

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The Medicine Wheel and The Drum

Back of drum with sky
If you’ve got a Native American drum, you’ve already got a Medicine Wheel.  If you look at the back of it you will see the same circular form with evenly spaced points (holes marking out the attachment locations where the lacing is connected) around the drumhead.  The lacing all comes together at the center in some fashion just like the radiating lines of the Wheel.  (See the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, below.)  In the sacred traditions of some First Nations, the lacing on the back of drums is wrapped to form the cross-shaped Spirit Paths of the Four Directions.  Your drum may by laced differently than the one in the photo, but it is still an embodiment of the Sacred Hoop.  Looking beyond their circular shape, the construction of drums remind us of many of the principles of the Medicine Wheel and the interconnectedness of all things.  For example, the hide, supporting hoop, and lacing cannot make a sound without each other, but together they make a a sacred vibration, a reminder that what we do sends out vibrations that affect all other things.  The sound of the drum, like the Medicine Wheel, helps us to connect to the Great Mystery and All Our Relations. 

Drumming in the Medicine Wheel raises energy and attracts helping spirits.  The first time we took our Mother Drum, “Storm”, out into the Mesa Medicine Wheel for a full moon celebration and played her, the energy was amazing.  After we were finished with the ceremony, we were sitting around outside near the Wheel until after dark, just talking, sharing stories, and laughing.  Then something caught someone’s attention behind us in the Wheel.  Several people could see a large gathering of columns of light, each between 4 and 5 feet tall standing in that sacred circle.  Our drumming had attracted the Spirits.  They had come and were more visible in the growing darkness.  We know that when we drum, the ancestors come to dance.

Making a drum is a sacred act and not all that hard to do.  In fact we’ve helped over 250 children (9 and 10 year old 4th grade students at 3 local elementary schools) to successfully make real rawhide drums.  You can learn more about our work taking Native American wisdom into the public schools and how we make drums with kids on our “300 Drums”  page.


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The Mesa Medicine Wheel

Since traditional Medicine Wheels were built on bare ground, our Medicine Wheel is actually a wheel on top of a wheel.  The brown gravel path around and through it represents the symbol or pictogram of a Medicine Wheel-- a circle with a cross through it.  To this we added colored gravel in the four quadrants representing one of the traditional Lakota color schemes of the four cardinal directions.  We then built the ceremonial circle of 36 stones on top of the symbol.  Our Medicine Wheel installation is twenty five feet in diameter, not including the four directions poles, and was built in late June of 2004.

The Energy of The Mesa Medicine Wheel

The Spiritual and life energy coming from The Mesa Medicine Wheel is a miracle and a mystery. There are many aspects to its great power:

1. The spiritual energy of its connection to Great Mystery and of its archetype in the collective unconscious-- the sum total of all Medicine Wheels and all prayer and ceremonies that have been offered in them from the beginning of time.

Medicine Wheel cross2. The Earth energy of the site and the Grandfathers (Spirit Beings) of the area who energize and protect The Wheel.

3. The energy of the Sacred Geometry of its cross within a circle configuration and alignment with the magnetic compass.  We set up our Wheel in the same manner as an ancient healing temple or Sacred Site.  The pathways through The Wheel also make it part labyrinth, as we can walk its representation of our sacred path in life.

4. The energy of the different stones making up the physical Wheel.  All grouped together, the Belgian blocks, gravel and 36 stones of the ceremonial wheel constitute a large crystal array-- a powerful energy generator in an of itself.  There is also the sum of the balancing energies of the different minerals used to build The Wheel:

  • The Belgian blocks are made of granite, an igneous rock made up of quartz and feldspar-- coming from fire energy and representing the male aspect.  Granite energy helps us to see "the big picture" and defeats negativity with ease. It also helps in maintaining balance in relationships and provides stability and the ability to center oneself (gentle grounding).  These blocks were originally paving stones salvaged from the streets of old Pittsburgh that may have been brought to the Colonies as ballast on sailing ships.
  • The stones in the North quadrant are white marble chips. Marble is a water stone, coming from metamorphosed limestone that came from the shells of ancient sea creatures and carries female energy. Marble energy promotes peak states of meditation and helps activate the "unused" portions of the mind, aiding in mastery of thought.  It brings serenity and control of thoughts, and is very calming.  Its white color resonates with our Crown chakra (subtle energy center) just above the top of the head, which connects us with our Creator.
  • In the East quadrant are yellow beach pebbles.  They are made from quartz, an igneous rock from volcanic activity that was polished round by the action of water over time, uniting male and female energies.  Quartz greatly amplifies energy and thought.  The yellow color resonates with our solar plexus chakra energy.
  • In the South quadrant are red lava stones.  Lava is also stone of fire-- a direct result of volcanic eruptions.  The iron in this lava was exposed to hot sulfuric acid gas, turning it rusty red.  Lava energy is good for our Root or base chakra, and contains the fire of the Kundalini.  The red color also energizes this chakra.
  • In the West quadrant are black lava stones.  Black lava strengthens our connection to Mother Earth through the chakra below our feet that connects us to her sustaining energy.
  • The pathways are made of Pennsylvania Red sandstone.  This is another stone from water energy that came from iron bearing sands.  Sandstone is a "stone of creativity" and promotes clarity in thought and sight.  Its energy can help facilitate movement and change with ease.  It helps varied peoples to get along, bringing an energy of unity to The Mesa Wheel.
  • The 36 stones in the ceremonial wheel are made up of a variety of minerals, all with different metaphysical and healing properties.

5. The numerology of The Wheel: In numerology, the sequence of 3,6,9 is extremely powerful.  Nine is also the "number of completion”.  The ceremonial wheel is made up of 36 stones-- 3 and 6.  When you use numerological reduction, 36=3+6=9!  The outer circle of The Wheel installation is made up of 81 Belgian block.  81 is 9x9 and reduces: 8+1=9.  There are also nine blocks lining each side of the spokes or Spirit Paths of The Wheel.  The total number of Belgian blocks, 229 reduces: 2+2+9=13, 1+3=4, the number of compass directions.  If you add in the number of stones in the ceremonial wheel, it still reduces to 4!

6. The Four Directions Poles act as antennas for spiritual energy from Father Sky and the Heavens, connecting The Wheel from sky to ground.  Each has attached feathers, (turkey in the North, Canada goose in the East, Sea Gull in the South, and Crow in the West-- all naturally shed) which are spiritual antennas in themselves since birds fly closest to the Creator and bring messages to Humans.  Also attached are colored streamers to gather wind energy and semi precious stones that correspond to the colors of the directions: white Howellite in the North, yellow Jasper in the East, red Jasper in the South, and black Tourmaline in the West.

7. Under the center of The Wheel is a 3x3 (nine stones total) quartz crystal grid, offerings of sacred herbs and cornmeal, and "place rocks" from around the world.  These place rocks connect The Mesa Medicine Wheel to the energy of the places from which they were gathered in grateful ceremony.

8. The 13 Original Clan Mothers and The Medicine Wheel:  When we first built The Mesa Medicine Wheel, several people who see or hear Spirit Beings told us that there were 13 Native American Spirits watching over it.  Later, when this information was told to a new friend from the Seneca Nation, she excitedly told us about the 13 Clan Mothers who are associated with The Medicine Wheel.  These archetypal Spirit teachers are associated with the 12 moons of the yearly cycle and the 13th or Blue Moon that only occurs in some calendar years.  In the beginning they had taught the two-leggeds the lessons of how to be Human.  Our new friend recommended reading the book "The 13 Original Clan Mothers”, by Jamie Sams to understand their teachings.  After finding the book already in Kate's collection, we read about the significance of the 13th moon and the associated Clan Mother.  According to Sams, she is the "Guardian of All Cycles of Transformation" and is "the Mother of Change, who teaches us how to go through every lesson and cycle of transformation in order to spiritually evolve."  She helps us to make the transition from the end of one cycle to the beginning of the next and we had nearly omitted her.

When The Mesa Medicine Wheel was built, we were aware of the occasional 13th moon and placed a stone to represent it near the Wheel site, but did not include it in the Wheel installation nor dedicate it in the same manner as the other stones.  After receiving this new information, we immediately performed a ceremony and placed the stone representing the 13th moon between The Wheel’s rim and the directional pole for the North; its position between the stones representing the transition between the 12th moon of one year and the 1st moon of the next cycle.  There was immediately a great shift and increase in the energy of The Wheel.  We dedicated this stone to the 13th Clan Mother.  We welcome her!  “Aho!”  (Amen)

9. The Gateway:  We had been using The Mesa Wheel for several years when we came across information about the structural and metaphysical similarities between all sacred sites and healing temples.  After meeting sacred site and crop circle expert Freddie Silva and watching his 2 DVD set about building a healing temple in one’s own home, we realized that The Mesa Medicine Wheel is a healing temple and sacred site.  We also came to understand that while we had intuitively included many aspects of these special places around the world, we had omitted three.  While we had included the elements of sacred measure, alignment with the compass points, sacred geometry, and anchoring with the energetically preferred male and female stones, we had not thought to call in water energy, Earth magnetism, or create a gateway or portal for natural energies to enter The Wheel.  Upon recognizing this, we did a ceremony to invite in underground water and lines of Earth magnetism and could feel them align with the major axis’s of The Wheel.  We added two lines of three stones each on either side of one of the Four Directions poles to demark our gateway.  We move this gateway at the Solstices and Equinoxes to the corresponding direction for the time of the year.  Doing so has greatly added to the energy and activity not only in The Wheel, but inside our Mesa Creative Arts Center and Healing Center.

Taken together, all of these aspects create an energy that is multi-leveled, multi-dimensional, and greatly more than the sum of its parts.  How it all works together is a great mystery, and, as the Lakota say, "Everything that is sacred is a mystery and everything that is a mystery is sacred."  We say, “Aho!” 

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Mesa Medicine Wheel Map

Medicine Wheel map

Key to Wheel Stones:

1. Creator

2. Earth Mother

3. Father Sun

4. Grandmother Moon

5. Turtle Clan (earth element)

6. Frog Clan (water element)

7. Thunderbird Clan (fire element)

8. Butterfly Clan (air element)

9. Waboose (White Buffalo, Spirit Keeper of the North)

10. Wabun (Golden Eagle, Spirit Keeper of the East)

11. Shawnodese (Coyote, Spirit Keeper of the South)

12. Mudjekeewis (Grizzly Bear, Spirit Keeper of the West)

13. Snow Goose Clan
Earth Renewal Moon (Dec 22-Jan 19)
Clan Mother of the 1st moon, “Talks with Relations”

14. Otter Clan
Rest and Cleansing Moon (Jan 20-Feb 18)
Clan Mother of the 2nd moon, “Wisdom Keeper”

15. Cougar Clan
Big Winds Moon (Feb 19-Mar 20)
Clan Mother of the 3rd moon, “Weighs the Truth”

16. Red Hawk Clan
Budding Trees Moon (Mar 21-April 19)
Clan Mother of the 4th moon, “Looks Far Woman”

17. Beaver Clan
Frogs Return Moon (April 20-May 20)
Clan Mother of the 5th moon, “Listening Woman”

18. Deer Clan
Cornplanting Moon (May 21-June 20)
Clan Mother of the 6th moon, “Storyteller”

19. Flicker Clan
Strong Sun Moon (June 21-July 22)
Clan Mother of the 7th moon, “Loves All Things”

20.  Sturgeon Clan
Ripe Berries Moon (July 23-Aug 22)
Clan Mother of the 8th moon, “She Who Heals”

21. Brown Bear Clan
Harvest Moon (Aug 23-Sept 22)
Clan Mother of the 9th moon, “Setting Sun Woman”

22. Raven Clan
Ducks Fly Moon (Sept 23-Oct 23)
Clan Mother of the 10th moon, “Weaves the Web”

23. Snake Clan
Freeze Up Moon (Oct 24-Nov 21)
Clan Mother of the 11th moon, “Walks Tall Woman”

24. Elk Clan
Long Snows Moon (Nov 22-Dec 21)
Clan Mother of the 12th moon, “Gives Praise”

Clan Mother of the 13th moon, “Becomes Her Vision”.  (Located behind stone no. 9, where the letter ‘N’ appears)  While not in The Wheel enclosure, we honor the occasional “Blue Moon” and the Clan Mother who represents the transition between one cycle and the next, the process of transformation.

25. Cleansing

26. Renewal

27. Purity

28. Clarity

29. Wisdom

30. Illumination

31. Growth

32. Trust

33. Love

34. Experience

35. Introspection

36. Strength

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Some Attributes and Associations of Mesa Medicine Wheel Quadrants

Medicine Wheel Quadrant meanings

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Constructing a Medicine Wheel

There’s no “right way” to build a Medicine Wheel.  Every group that built or builds them does it differently.  Anthropologists say the main requirements are that it be a circle (usually made of stones) with a marked center.  Some Wheels have radiating spokes, or cairns (plies of stones) marking the Four Directions.  Some have as few as 13 stones spaced along the circumference and others have many placed end to end.  You can mark your circle with stones, seashells, pieces of wood, or anything important to you that will hold the energy of the enclosure.  You can make yours small enough for a table top altar or big enough to fill your back yard.  You can even build your Medicine Wheel as a garden, filling the quadrants with different plants planted in circular rows.  You can build a Medicine Wheel in a ceremony by yourself, or create one with a group, each person placing a stone during the building ceremony.

Different tribal groups have different colors for the Four Directions, different totem animals associated with them, and different teachings for each quadrant and stone of the Medicine Wheel.  The more conscious of and grateful to your Spirit World partners you are in the construction of your Wheel, the more guidance you will receive about its design.  We suggest that you create a ceremony for the assembly and birthing (activation) of your sacred circle of stones and not just set stones in a ring.  Focusing your intention and attention will strengthen its connection to the Great Mystery and make your Wheel a sacred space.  The more you work with the Wheel and its teachings, the more energy it will accumulate.  Build it for the highest good for all and in any way that your heart tells you to and it will surely be blessed.  “Aho!”

Here are some other examples of Medicine Wheel installations:

Bighorn Wheel from above
This is the famous Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming as seen from above.

Located at 10,000 ft above sea level, this ancient Wheel (700 yrs old) has many radiating spokes and stone piles (cairns) and is still used by the Crow Nation today.  It is aligned with the rising and setting sun on the Summer solstice and may have been used, in part, for astronomical observation.

Sedona AZ Medicine wheel
Red rock Medicine Wheel near Boynton Canyon, Sedona, AZ.

This contemporary Medicine Wheel was constructed entirely from the beautiful red rocks from the site.  Only the four quadrants had been marked out, as well as the center.  The outer ring completely encircles the Wheel.

Sedona AZ Medicine Wheel #2
Medicine Wheel with open center near Boynton Canyon, Sedona, AZ.

This Wheel was nearby to the one above.  Its builders searched for lighter colored rocks to build this open centered circle.  Note that the outer enclosure has a “gateway” to enter the Wheel.

Mesa indoor Medicine Wheel
Indoor Medicine Wheel constructed during workshop at
The Mesa Creative Arts Center.

This 6 ft Wheel was constructed with students in  our hangar building studio  during a workshop on how to build Medicine Wheels.  We liked the energy of it so much we held our Yoga classes and meditation circles around it until we simply had to dismantle it to make space for a big event.

OC NJ  indoor Medicine Wheel
Indoor Medicine Wheel we constructed for wellness festival,
Ocean City, NJ Music Pier.

This Wheel was constructed for a healing ceremony inside the Ocean City, NJ Music Pier during the city’s “Weekend of Wellness” Festival.   This part of the pier is over the beach and when the tide came in the Wheel was over water, giving it an amazing energy.  It was marked out with a 12 ft circle of cornmeal. 

Medicine Wheel garden
Medicine Wheel garden constructed by Brad Silberberg (Shown in June).

This approximately 16 ft diameter Medicine Wheel was constructed with 36 stones placed after the garden plot had been tilled.  Vegetables were planted in circular rows in each quadrant.  An aluminum Heliosphere is seen at the center of this Wheel.  (Viewed looking down the Spirit Path from North to South.)

Medicine Wheel garden #2
The same Medicine Wheel garden shown in August of the same year.

This is the same garden (viewed roughly South to North) just a couple of months later.  The energy of the Wheel had helped the plants grow to amazing heights.  To walk among them was a remarkable Nature experience.  The large plant to the left is a single tomato vine.

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Construction of The Mesa Medicine Wheel

We started to build our Wheel with a ceremony to purify the area, give thanks to The Creator, and to ask permission from Mother Earth and the Grandfathers (spirits) of The Mesa to build there.  We held ceremony over the site for one month before starting construction, offering prayers, sacred smoke and tobacco every day. In between we collected about 40 stones, (to have a few extras) some from The Mesa grounds and some from other places.  We left tobacco offerings for each one and anyone whose homes we disturbed in moving them.  Then, the circle was laid out and the sod removed by hand.  Next, landscape fabric was installed to keep the gravel from sinking into the ground and to keep grass from growing in the ceremonial circle.  Two hundred and twenty nine Belgian block pavers (the granite stones lining the pathways) were laid as borders for the pathways (81 stones in the outer circle alone!) and the quadrants filled in with colored stones: white marble in the North; yellow quartz beach pebbles in the East; red lava stones in the South; and black lava stones in the West.  The pathways were filled in last with roughly three tons of Pennsylvania Red sandstone.  We next buried our rocks, crystals, and other sacred objects from all over the world under the center of the Wheel to connect it with All Our Relations.  We lit a small fire on top of the ground with the intention of activating the energy coming up from Mother Earth.

Now we were set to construct the Ceremonial Wheel itself.  The 36 larger stones we had selected for inclusion were then smudged and brought into the circle one by one.  As each stone was brought in, it was offered to the Directions and asked to be “activated” by the Grandfathers so that it might be dedicated to the Spirit Powers and high concepts it represented.  A tobacco offering was made to each of the “Stone People” as it was set in place to welcome it and thank it for helping us.  As each step was carried out with reverence and care we could feel the energy of the new Wheel growing and expanding.  When the last stone was laid, the Wheel seemed to snap to life.

The four directions poles were installed last, connecting The Mesa Medicine Wheel on Mother Earth with its mirror image in the Spirit World up in Father Sky and completing the site.  All materials for The Wheel installation had been smudged with white sage smoke, thanked, blessed, given an offering of tobacco or corn meal, offered to the seven directions (E, S, W, N, Above, Below, Within or “All My Relations”) and dedicated before installation.  Construction took about eight days to complete, (See photos below.) including assembly of the 36 stone ceremonial Wheel and erection of the Four Directions poles.

Over time, we have swapped out many of the original stones in The Wheel for more energetic ones, “retiring” the old ones to positions of honor at the base of the Four Directions poles.  The Mesa Medicine Wheel now contains quite a few semi-precious stones including; blue and green aventurine, calcite, fluorite, snowflake obsidian, bloodstone, actinolite, unakite, tiger eye, yellow jasper, rose, white, and clear quartz, epidote, crazy lace agate, howellite, picture jasper, and pipestone.

We would like to thank those who helped us build The Mesa Medicine Wheel, The Creator of All Things, the Grandfathers (Spirit Beings) of The Mesa, our Angels, and the following people: David B. Miller for the use of the grounds and Belgian block; Carol DeWitt, Kristen DeWitt, Claire March, and Paul Neal for hauling rocks; and Joe from Ianetti’s Garden Center for expert loading of gravel into our pickup truck. Special thanks to the spirit of Sun Bear for his book, “Dancing with the Wheel” and for sharing his teachings.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 1
After prayers and ceremonies, the circle was laid out and removal of sod began.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 2
Brad removed all of the sod by hand.  No machinery was used on the site.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 3
Brad celebrating the completion of sod removal from the 25ft circle.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 4
The ground was covered with landscape fabric and the layout was marked with chalk.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 5
Brad and Carol setting the granite Belgian blocks to form the outer circle.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 6
The Pathway borders took shape as individual blocks were chosen and set in place.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 7
Kate celebrating the completion of the granite borders of the Wheel.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 8
The quadrants were filled with stones matching the Four Directions colors.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 9
The quadrants completed, the pathways were filled with Pennsylvania red sandstone.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 10
Kate decorates the ground at the center after the installation of the buried crystal grid.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 11
Brad with the completed installation of the quadrants and pathways of the Wheel.

Medicine Wheel construction photo 12
A ceremony was done and the sacred circle of stones was created.

Four Directions pole
The Four Directions poles were made and installed after the Wheel was complete.

Kate in center of Medicine Wheel
Kate stands at the center of the Wheel, giving thanks to all of the spirits.

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The White Dove

White Dove visits The Mesa

A Native American legend says that a white dove was sent out to find a place of peace.  Where the dove landed was the place where peace was to be taught.  That has been our dream-- for The Mesa to be a place where peace and love are taught.  During the second day of work constructing The Mesa Creative Arts Center Medicine Wheel, a white dove landed out of nowhere and was walking around the Medicine Wheel site.  We invite like-minded others to come and share this dream.  Let it be so.  Aho!

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Full Moon Medicine Wheel Ceremony
Full Moon Ceremony in The Mesa Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel Ceremonies at The Mesa Creative Arts Center

Medicine Wheels are ceremonial circles of stones that have been used by tribal peoples for centuries as places of meditation, celebration, healing, and prayer.  The Native Americans also used Medicine Wheels as a teaching device to pass along their oral traditions.  Each stone in The Wheel represented different animal, vegetable, and mineral totemic spirit helpers and teachers.  Medicine Wheels were used as calendars as well, to track the passing of the seasons and to plan annual celebrations.

Medicine Wheels are also a place where primal life force energy comes out of the Earth.  This energy is palpable to people who are sensitive to the subtle life force energies present in people, rocks and crystals, plants, and places like Stone Henge and Machu Pichu.  In the Native American tradition, there is a mirror image of the Medicine Wheel in the Spirit World in the sky, and the two are connected by a tube of energy. To stand in this tube is to be bathed in the energy of Heaven and Earth.

We built the Mesa Creative Arts Center Medicine Wheel to be a place for meditation, prayer, healing, and celebration for our local community and the Pittsburgh Metro area.  It was also constructed to bring healing energy into the site and radiate it out to the surrounding community.  We hold ceremonies there on the Solstices, Equinoxes, Earth Day, some full moon nights, and other occasions.  Adults and children are welcome and they need no prior experience to take part in, or appreciate the proceedings. (We even hold weddings in The Wheel.)  While Mesa Directors Kate and Brad Silberberg are not Native Americans by blood, they have deep respect and admiration for Native American life ways, customs, and traditions.  They have learned their spiritual practices, crafts, and point of view and incorporate them into their own art and healing work at The Mesa.  Check our Calendar for our next Medicine Wheel Ceremony.

Solstice Wheel ceremony
Summer Solstice Wheel Ceremony

The Solstice and Equinox ceremonies are held to bring together like-minded people to remember and celebrate the changing of the seasons and the natural energies that accompany them.  We do this to renew our connection to the Earth, other human beings, and our Creator.  We find these things severely lacking in our increasingly impersonal, technological world.  As more and more people are discovering their need for meaning and connection in their lives, they are starving for real contact with other people and non-religious ways to explore their own relationship with the unseen world of Spirit that is right there alongside our physical reality.  To date, our largest gathering for a Wheel ceremony (besides weddings) was forty-one people attending the Summer Solstice Ceremony at The Mesa in June of 2006.

Our Wheel ceremonies don’t follow a specific Native American format—for there really isn’t any.  Each tribal band or group built their Wheels in a different manner and had different beliefs and customs about them.  They did what felt right to them and in accordance with the guidance of their spirit helpers, instead of holding to hard and fast rules.  The Mesa Creative Arts Center Medicine Wheel was built following the vision of Sun Bear, a Chippewa (Ojibwe), who shared this wisdom in his book, “Dancing with the Wheel”.  Our ceremonies are largely based on Native American traditions, but also may include elements of modern metaphysics, teachings or rituals from other indigenous peoples, and cultural traditions from around the world.  They are spiritual in nature, rather than adhering to the rules of any religion, and like Native American ceremonies often do, vary in accordance with what is needed at the time.  People of all faiths are welcome to participate and we seek to involve them in the proceedings instead of looking on as mere spectators.

A typical Wheel ceremony lasts between 45-60 minutes and contains the following elements:

1. Smudging of all participants and ceremonial objects with white sage smoke outside of The Mesa for ritual and energetic cleansing before proceeding to The Wheel.  (Smudging is a bit like bathing in smoke— pulling it over one’s head and swirling it around the body.)  This is done to clear our bodies’ auras, sanctify everything that goes into The Wheel, remove unbalanced energy and influences from the day-to-day world, and shift people into a prayerful and introspective mode.  (This custom is not unlike the use of incense in Churches.)

Summer Medicine Wheel celebration2. After smudging, those gathered then proceed to The Wheel in a line.  We enter through the gateway at one of the cardinal directions—usually honoring the direction related to the season of the year.  Before stepping into The Wheel, each person stops, raises one hand, turns in a sun-wise (clockwise) circle and says, "All my relations" (or the Lakota “Mitakuye Oyasin”, often contracted and  pronounced like: “Mit-toc-kwee-yossin”)  This is done to honor all things as our brothers and sisters. Each person then steps into The Wheel and proceeds all the way around one time to honor the cycle of life and the unity of all things.

3. We start with a “welcoming song”, not only to welcome all of the participants, but also those from the Spirit World who are coming to help with our ceremony.

4. Calling in the Spirit Powers of the 7 directions. Each direction (N,S,E,W, above, below ,within or “All My Relations”) is a living Spirit energy that embodies the powers and qualities of that direction.  We ceremonially call them to bring their energy and help.  An offering of sacred tobacco is made to each one as thanks-in-advance for their help for the ceremony.

5. Sometimes objects are blessed and energized, as when food, water, flower and vegetable seeds, or other objects are placed in the Wheel’s center during the ceremony and taken out again at its end.

6. Prayers are said (Prayers of thanks and requests for healing for the Earth, our children, our loved ones, all of Creation, etc.), songs are sung (some in Lakota) accompanied by drums, rattles, or other instruments, poems are read-- as fitting for the occasion.  Attendees are asked to join in or add what they have to offer.  Each participant is given the opportunity to make an offering of sacred tobacco with a private, silent prayer request.

7. Strings of tobacco ties are hung on the Four Directions poles at each compass direction.  These little bundles of sacred tobacco wrapped in colored cloth are each infused with a prayer as they are being made before the ceremony takes place.  The prayer energy stays in them for about one year.  At the Winter Solstice, they are all removed and burned, sending those prayers up to the Creator and the yearly cycle repeated.

8. Participants move to the center of The Wheel to join hands in a prayer and community or foMedicine Wheel dinnerr a “group hug”.  Participants move back to the perimeter of The Wheel

9. Thank you song, sung to the Great Mystery and the Grandfathers (spirits).

10. Closing of the ceremony:  We thank the Grandfathers and Spiritual energies of The Wheel for their help and release them.

11. Participants make one more circumnavigation of The Wheel before exiting at the gateway.  Once again, each stops before exiting, turns in a sun-wise circle with hand raised and says, "All my relations." Or “Mitakuye Oyasin”.

12. After a Solstice, Equinox, or Earth Day ceremony, participants adjourn to inside The Mesa Creative Arts Center for a pot luck covered dish dinner, as no Native American ceremony is truly complete until a meal is shared by all.

What can people expect to experience from a Wheel Ceremony?

People experience different things in The Wheel, depending on how open and relaxed they are.  To new comers, it may seem like attending a church of a different faith, as they may feel a little self conscious and tentative about what to do.  We suggest that it’s just like when you learned to play a new game as a child—just watch what everyone else does and sooner or later you’ll understand the protocol.  People often ask,  "What am I SUPPOSED to feel (or “…what am I going to feel”) during the ceremony."  We reply that there is no "supposed to" and the experience is personal and individual.  Some people hear, see, or feel the presence of Spiritual Beings.  Others may just feel the joy and upliftment of the gathered spiritual community.  Sometimes, miraculous things happen in The Wheel and people have spontaneous healing or an opening on the physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual levels.  Allow yourself to be OK with whatever you experience and let it be real for you.

Some people feel energy coming from the ground inside The Wheel.  Some feel a building, palpable energy of love and sharing from those gathered in this Sacred Circle.  Those who are shy, uptight, or closed minded may not feel anything in particular.  Our experience has been that some people who had been previously unable to feel "energy" open within somehow during a Wheel Ceremony.  Some have reported that participating in a Wheel Ceremony changed their life. You just have to come and experience it.

Medicine Wheel wedding ceremony
Brad Silberberg conducts a wedding ceremony in The Mesa Wheel

Spirits in The Mesa Medicine Wheel

Many of us who come to The Mesa feel the loving presence of the Ancestors, Animal Clan Spirits, and other Spirit Beings in and around The Mesa Medicine Wheel.  We know that they come to help us during ceremonies.  Some people have seen or heard them during our ceremonies or while praying or meditating privately in the sacred circle.  Their essence shows up as “Spirit Orbs” in flash photographs, such as the one below.  We thank them for watching over us.  Aho!  Mitakuye Oyasin!

Spirit Orbs in Mesa Medicine Wheel
Flash photo of Spirit Orbs taken 4 hours after Winter Solstice Medicine Wheel ceremony

If you’d like to help support our work, please consider making a donation to
The Mesa Creative Arts Center and Mesa Healing Center.
Pilamaya aloh!  (“Thank you very much!”)


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Brad Silberberg is an artist and holistic healer who envisioned
 The Mesa Creative Arts Center and Mesa Healing Center as a place of awakening for art, healing, and spiritual expansion.

Mesa Creative Arts, Inc.,   30 Miller Business Park Drive, Burgettstown, PA 15021    (724) 947-3097

Copyright ©2004-14 All Rights Reserved by  Mesa Creative Arts, Inc.

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Brad Silberberg is an artist and holistic healer who envisioned The Mesa Creative Arts Center and Mesa Healing Center as a place of awakening for art, healing, and spiritual expansion.

Mesa Creative Arts, Inc.,   30 Miller Business Park Drive, Burgettstown, PA 15021    (724) 947-3097

Copyright ©2004-14 All Rights Reserved by  Mesa Creative Arts, Inc.