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- aged and weathered long horn sheep skull and horns, Rocky Mountains;
- forest lichen, Hyalite Mountains, Montana;
- black sand, Hawaii;
- white sand, Florida;
- red dirt, Nevada;
- stone base, Montana
This table mount Mask Artistry piece, “Medicine Wheel,” is deceivingly simple. I have intentionally kept the decoration of the mask uncluttered, so that the simple, yet profound, elements can be clearly read. The long horn skull has been in my possession for over 20 years, and I knew I was keeping it for something "important," though for those 20+ years, I had no idea what that "important" thing was! But I kept this magnificent skull with its beautifully elegant, curving, curling horn rack, year after year. When I began making my Mask Artistry pieces, the skull "spoke" to me, asking to be part of some creation. I accepted that request and used the skull and horns as the basis for a Medicine Wheel honoring.
Many North American Indian tribes have utilized some form of a Medicine Wheel, part of a spiritual practice for health and healing which includes a stone circle or sacred hoop, often a large circle “wheel” on the ground. The wheel embodies the four directions as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree, all of which symbolize the cycles of life and the dimensions of health. Associative colors are normally black, white, yellow, and red.
Within a two-dimensional drawing, the wheel consists of a circle with horizontal and vertical lines drawn through the center. Sometimes an eagle feather is attached in the wheel’s center. The Medicine Wheel has been used in ceremonies for millennia. I use it now, as a remembrance and honoring of the shamanic elements I invoke before undertaking a shamanic journey.
I find it most interesting that there are variances in interpretation of the four colors and the meanings between tribes and nations, but I offer you here several possibilities of the interpretation revolving around the number four:
- the four directions – east, south, west, and north
- the four seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter
- the four stages of life – birth, youth, adult, elderly/crone
- the four times of day – sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight
- the elements of life – earth, fire, water, air
- the four races of man – red, yellow, black, white
- the four trials of man – success, defeat , peace, war
- the four heavenly beings – sun, moon, earth, stars (taken from www.powwows.com)
I was privileged to visit, with other Montana shamans, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming two years ago. This wheel, as described by researchers Sandra Lafranboise and Karen Sherbina, is a “physical representation of our spiritual energy – and an outward expression of our internal dialogue with the creator (God) and the spirit within.” It is exactly this that I have attempted to honor through this Mask Artistry creation that I have named “Medicine Wheel.”