The Meaning of the Four Directions in Native American Culture

As part of the Lakota culture, when people pray or do anything sacred, they see the world as having Four Directions. From these Four Directions — north, east, south, west — come the four winds. The special meanings of each of the Four Directions are accompanied by specific colors, and the shape of the cross symbolizes all directions. Like many Native American beliefs and traditions, specific details regarding colors associated with directions varies.

East (Yellow)

The direction from which the sun comes. Light dawns in the morning and spreads over the earth. This is the beginning of a new day. It is also the beginning of understanding because light helps us see things the way they really are. On a deeper level, east stands for the wisdom helping people live good lives. Traditional people rise in the morning to pray facing the dawn, asking God for wisdom and understanding.

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Medicine Ways: Traditional Healers and Healing (Native American)

The Medicine Wheel and the Four Directions

The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop, has been used by generations of various Native American tribes for health and healing. It embodies the Four Directions, as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree—all of which symbolize dimensions of health and the cycles of life.

The Medicine Wheel can take many different forms. It can be an artwork such as artifact or painting, or it can be a physical construction on the land. Hundreds or even thousands of Medicine Wheels have been built on Native lands in North America over the last several centuries.

Movement in the Medicine Wheel and in Native American ceremonies is circular, and typically in a clockwise, or “sun-wise” direction. This helps to align with the forces of Nature, such as gravity and the rising and setting of the Sun.

Meanings of the Four Directions

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