|Bighorn Medicine Wheel|
Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Sioux described the construction of a Sun Dance Lodge, possibly explaining some of the symbolism in the medicine wheels, as follows:
|Bighorn Medicine Wheel|
In any given month, the rising moon swings between two extremes on the eastern horizon, similar to the oscillation of the rising sun during the year. When the moon reaches its maximum northern or southern declination, it has a “standstill” similar to the sun at summer and winter solstices. The standstills could be said to be the moon’s equivalence to the Solar Solstices. [for details on lunar standstills, refer to Native American Skies: Lunar Standstills]
During the month, the moon rises at different points across the eastern horizon. When it reaches the farthest point north it pauses, or rises in the same spot for a couple of days, and then reverses course. This pause is called a “Lunar Standstill”. The same thing happens two weeks later at its farthest point south. You may have noticed that the sun does the same thing, but it takes the sun a year to move from its farthest point north (Summer Solstice) to its farthest point south (Winter Solstice) and back again. At each solstice, the sun pauses before reversing course and this is called a Solar Standstill. [refer to last week’s article: Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill]
The sky has been an important indicator of what is happening and what will happen on earth for ancient peoples all over the world for as long as man has possessed the curiosity to look up. The movement of the sun across the horizon and back throughout the year, has been especially important as an indicator and predictor of the seasons. On December 21st, 2014 the sun travelled as far south as it would go, rose for three days in the same place and then started its journey north again. That day marked the “Winter Solstice” (“Solstice” means “sun standstill”), the day with the longest night and shortest day of the year. The cultures of the Americas observed this very special day in many different ways, but for all, it was time of great portents. For what if the sun decided to continue its journey south?
My wife and I lived in Denver, Colorado for many years and occasionally experienced a phenomenon called the “Chinook Wind”. These winds, blowing over the Rocky Mountain Front Range, could actually raise the temperature from below freezing to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few hours. Chinook winds can occur in many areas of western North America and certainly are not unique to Colorado. In fact, the term and the original Chinook winds originated in the northwestern coastal area.
The term “Chinook” comes from the Pacific Coast Chinook tribe that lived along the lower