Mysterious Medicine Wheel

Who built it? What was it used for? Years after its discovery, people are still asking these questions about Bighorn Medicine Wheel. Medicine Wheel is located atop the nearly 10,000-foot-high Medicine Mountain in North Central Wyoming.

Using carbon dating, archaeologists have determined that the Wheel was built between 1200 and 1700 AD.

The Wheel is an almost perfect circle of rough stones laid side by side and measures more than 70 feet in diameter. In the center is a donut-shaped cairn (pile of stones) ten feet wide. This hub is connected to the rim by 28 spoke-like lines of stones. There are six smaller cairns, five outside the rim and one just inside.

The Crow Indians, who have lived in the area for generations, claim they don’t know who built Medicine Wheel or why. Native Americans say the Wheel was there “before the light came” or “before the people had iron.”

Scientists have learned that the Wheel was built in such a way that during the summer solstice, the sun at sunset and sunrise lines up with two of the cairns. Apparently the builders had a knowledge of astronomy. The high altitude and distance from human distractions make this an ideal place for skywatching.

Medicine Wheel’s inaccessibility makes it likely that it was used by religious leaders rather than large groups of Native Americans. Beads and bits of wampum were found under some of the stones.

Although local Native Americans are unsure of its original function, they recognize Medicine Wheel as an ancient holy place and continue to use it for rites and ceremonies of their own. At such times, they attach personal items, such as bits of cloth and small leather pouches, to the barbed wire fence which now surrounds the structure.

A narrow gravel road connects Medicine Wheel with Route 14A. The three-mile road winds its way through Alpine meadows filled with lupine, gentians, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers. This spectacular view of the Bighorn Basin which can be seen from the summit makes the winding drive well worthwhile.

Pat McCarthy is an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature and the author of over a dozen books for children. Learn more about her books at her blog,

When Were You Born? Medicine Wheel – North

Were you born between December 22nd and March 20th? Or do you know anyone who was? This article is part of a series of articles about Native American spirituality, Native American astrology and the spiritual practice of animal medicine.

Animal Medicine

Native Americans believe that animal spirits are available to us, willing to share strength and wisdom and help us grow in whatever way is necessary for our well being. If we need a character trait that they have, they may choose us and offer that energy to us. This is considered their power or medicine. For Native Americans, “medicine” is anything that connects us more deeply to the divine and to life, in general. Healing of our body mind and our spirit is part of that and so is personal power.

Native American Astrology

“Native American astrology uses the images of creatures to depict the seasons…. The four ‘seasonal’ creatures are the white buffalo, the golden eagle, the coyote, and the grizzly bear.” — Deborah Durbin, Simply Native American Astrology

For this article, our focus is the northern quadrant of the medicine wheel and the power animals connected to it.

Medicine Wheel: North

Buffalo

Buffalo can help you deepen your intuitive ability. Slow down and work on remembering your dreams. Buffalo can help you use them for guidance.

Moose

Aligning with moose awakens both feminine energy and sacred energy. Moose makes it possible to go deep within, to your own inner depths, find the nourishment there and come back to share with others. To fully develop your moose alignment, acknowledge the intuitive gift it offers, and begin to trust your intuitive thoughts. Most moose people were born intuitive, but when it comes to them, it seems like their regular thoughts so they think they’re imagining it. Work at trusting your intuition more.

Bear

Bear helps you bring dreams to life. They also teach you how to slow down, be more introspective and find our own inner wisdom to guide us. Bear shows you how to go within and get quiet, letting go of the stress the day has brought you. If bear is your power animal, you may find that it takes solitude for you to be your most creative. Listen to that inner knowledge and nurture your creativity by making sure you have adequate time alone. Combining the energies of both moose and bear mean you might need even more time alone than others.