As you can see from the image, the wheel is separated into 4 quadrants. Those four quadrants themselves represent more than one concept. Let me explain. The quadrants represent the phases of life (Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, Elder), the seasons of the year (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter), the four cardinal directions (East, South, West, North) as well as our four sides (Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual). It represents the four colors of mankind as Created. Although the picture provides you with a lot of information, you will also find variants of it, especially in regards to the colors (their location) as well as each side associated with each position. The way one looks at the wheel, however, never changes: one always starts at the East direction going clockwise.
I will go through the concepts as they were explained to me.
The East Direction
The East direction, Spring, is associated with beginnings. The yellow represents the light of the sun in the Spring, the light of the innocence of childhood. As beings, we begin in the spiritual world and the East direction represents our arrival in the physical world. It then represents new growth, the conception of a new day, of a new being. It represents creation. We move, exploring the new world that we are in.
The South Direction
The South direction, Summer, is associated with experimentation. The red represents the heat of summer as well as adolescence and its associated growth spurt. It is a direction of growth, of learning, of building one’s identity. As we all know, it is a time of differentiation and separation from our parents, of growing outward. This separation involves our emotional side.
The West Direction
The West direction, Autumn, represents our adult years. It is a time when we build knowledge and wisdom. We throw away the “shoulds” and “should nots”, as they are no longer needed (well sometimes they are…). We empty our life of those should and should not (black) and fill it with wisdom (white). As adults, we form our own opinions and develop our own values, we live our own life rather than someone else’s. It is a time when we fill our bucket to feel fulfilled. It is a time of maturity, where our mental side is exercised.
The North Direction
The North direction, Winter, the direction of the color white (which, when we think about it, is an accumulation of all colors, think of white light here, and your high school sciences classes). It is a time of enlightenment, where we become Elders. It is a time of refinement and purification. We wear the crown of white on our heads and enter a more spiritual life. From the North, we are renewed, light and darkness mix and accent one another. We return to the spiritual world where we came from.
Though each quadrant is associated with a different side, we all strive to find balance between those four sides, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Ways to accentuate or connect with each of those sides could be to attend ceremonies, sing, drum, meditate, spend time with friends and family, pray, smudge, talk with an Elder, exercise, fast, etc.
So far we have covered east, south, west and north. However, we have to remember where we come from, Mother Earth, the fifth direction. Our connection to life, represented by the color Green. And finally, Father Sky/Creator (blue), the sixth direction, representing our present world as well as the world we are moving toward.
And… the Seventh direction: YOU. Both the physical and spiritual you, at the center of it all. At the center of the medicine wheel. So not only are we striving to find balance and a connection between our four sides, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, we also are striving to achieve a connection between what was, what is and what will be.