An introduction to the medicine wheel
In the early 1970s I met Professor Antonio Morales, who became my first shamanic mentor. He was a short man with straight gray hair brushed back from a high mahogany forehead. His cheekbones and Inca nose could have been carved out of this hardwood.
A Quechua native, he was a man of two worlds: a beloved professor of philosophy at the University of Cusco and a dreaded master healer of great renown in the country. It was Don Antonio who introduced me to the medicine wheel - a map of healing that has been represented differently by generations of indigenous peoples.
The medicine wheel begins in the south, where we learn to walk with beauty on earth. The south is also the place to deal with the past and shed it, just as the snake - the archetypal symbol of this direction - sheds its skin.
In the West, we are calling on the jaguar archetype to help us find the things that must die within in order for life to claim us. Here one takes the attitude of the spiritual warrior who has no enemies in this or the next life.
In the north, the hummingbird archetype helps us learn how to connect with our passion and drink only from the sweetest sources - those that nourish the soul. Here we learn to break away from the linear time that binds us to cause and effect and step into sacred time when all things are possible.
The east is the way of the eagle and the condor - the flight to the sun and the journey back to his home to practice visions and skills in the context of his life and work. In the east we learn how to make our world a reality.
I remember thinking this was the most elegant description of the "hero's journey" I had ever heard: a distillation of all these stories about the experiences of others - the very stories that we have incorporated into the myths and religions of our species . Unencumbered by miracles, anthropomorphic gods and the embroidery of centuries of narration, interpretation and retelling, the medicine wheel was a route to self-discovery and transformation. It was something irresistibly original and elementary, something authoritarian, as if it were one of the earliest descriptions of the phenomenon of consciousness, the mechanism of consciousness.
Every year I return to the roots of this medicine with guests of the Four Winds. Via Illuminata expedition to Peru. We explore holy places, walk through the four directions of the medicine wheel and take part in rites and ceremonies. We bask in the awe and energy of ancient places deeply connected to Pachamama and absorb the original wisdom that will come home with us. We come in ayni with nature and the universe, which brings us to a state of "yes" with an open heart.
As we take our first steps into a new year and decade, may it fill you with awe, bring you closer to Pachamama, and bless you with it ayni.
Alberto Villoldo, PhD