I love medicine wheel spreads. They are great for expanding and deepening the wisdom of the Tarot.
Medicine wheels are sacred symbols, depicted in art, or even physical constructions on the earth, that represent cosmological energies inherent in each of the 4 directions, East, South, West, North, and often include Center, Above and Below.
I learned about the Irish Spirit Wheel in Frank MacEowen's book The Celtic Way of Seeing. In the book, MacEowen refers to an Irish story-myth called The Settling of the Manor of Tara, in which an old shaman-poet named Fintan aids the nobles of Ireland in remembering the proper order of things, with regard to the land, but also with regard to the inner landscape of the people, the common spirit. It was thought that the well-being of the land was dependent on this proper order of things, and the land had been suffering. It was in Fintan's poetic recital of the history of the land, that the nobles relearned the sacred directions that make up the Irish Spirit Wheel.
MacEowen expands on the story-myth to explain a cosmology of seeing for the purpose of living a centered life, pulling from the energies inherent in each of the directions.
I decided to begin to draw Tarot cards for these energies in my life and I am excited to share the spread I designed with you. I will briefly explain each of the directions before sharing the spread and a couple of examples from my personal readings. I use the Witches' Wisdom Tarot for this spread most of the time.
The Irish Spirit Wheel Directions
Center - Sovereignty (The Goddess)
The center is the axis, of the world (axis mundi) often represented as a great tree, or of the self (what I call vidaxis - the axis of life). If you've ever been on a merry-go-round, you may remember feeling less dizzy the closer you were to the center of the spinning wheel.
Medicine wheels, while seemingly focused on the four directions exclusively, all have a center. We can venture out to the edges but the more we return to the center to integrate our experiences, the more balanced we will be. Each of the sacred directions of any medicine wheel call us to step outside ourselves, but the center calls even louder for our return.
"Sovereignty is the core, the heart of our life."
~ Frank MacEowen
Q. Do I apply the lessons gained from experience to convert knowledge to wisdom? What do I need to do to regain my balance?
East - Prosperity (The Hearthkeeper)
In the Irish cosmology, East is the place of abundance, prosperity, and householding. The home is the beginning of abundance and prosperity, for it is there that we learn how to value things and tend to them in order to make them grow. It is also where we meet the world and therefore, hospitality is a focus here as well.
The East is the place of nurturing - body, mind, and soul, and also self and others. It is the healthy hearthkeeper that cultivates prosperity through the material and the immaterial, inside and out.
The East could very well be called the direction of self-love. And incidentally the direction of love for others at the same time. This is one of those chicken and egg type situations. We can go round and round asking which one comes first, and there simply is no easy answer. We need both self-love and love of others congruently and synchronously.
We need each other. We can nurture the spirit of kinship between us by sharing our experiences with one another.
Q. Is my inner and outer space an oasis of good energy? How does my treatment of my Self and home match the treatment of others and other spaces?
South - Inspiration (The Bard)
Here is the direction of the energy of the music of life. Waterfalls, for the Irish were sacred places of Divine Flow, representing the vitality and power of the cosmos around us and within us. The word muse, from which music is derived, is a word that denotes inspiration through a connection with the rhythms of nature.
Music, as one representation of inspiration, has long been a source of creativity (even creation through sound), healing, and transformation. In the Irish view, music carries us into greater connection with our emotional, passionate and sensual self, as well as with the spirit world. This music can be "heard" in dreams, in nature, in psychotropic or entheogenic experiences, our relationships with other people, and of course through actual music.
It is important to note that any discussion of music must also include mention of silence, or in a manner of speaking, the space between the notes. We have to allow for our own moments of space and silence so we can hear the music of our own lives.
Rather than a fixed resolution, sometimes we simply need a new rhythm, as if new music has come into our life.
Q. What is the Great Song of my life wanting me to hear? Am I aligned?
West - Knowledge/Wisdom (The Seer)
In the Celtic tradition, the West is associated with the Spirit World including the Ancestors. The knowledge referred to here is that of gnosis or "knowing" which is experiential. One does not get gnosis from a book alone. It comes through personal experience, and sometimes that experience is from beyond our five physical senses.
The West is truly about the wisdom and knowing through the invisible world. This wisdom is of the heart and spirit, and when combined with the intellect can enrich our lives far beyond the mundane, even often banal aspects of our lives. We can gain deeper wisdom when we use the heart, body, and spirit to go beneath the surface of the physical world.
You might say that the West is the direction of Inner Wisdom, one of my favorite topics! I believe that we all experience an archetypal yearning for the Divine, and yet the paths that each of us take to quell this yearning are often so different as to seem contradictory. But the Wisdom in all these paths is also archetypal in that the energy is of love and oneness, not superiority, exclusivity, or division.
There is an ineffable power and energy in receiving your own guidance, being a witness to yourself.
Q. What do I need to know regarding my own quest for knowledge and/or desire for divine experience? What is the vision I yearn for to guide my life?
North - Testing (Warrior)
The North is the direction of testing and trials, not for the purpose of making us suffer, but to stretch us and cause us to grow and mature. This is the direction that breaks the spell of entitlement and shows us authentic freedom and power. In every circumstance, we have a choice about how we respond.
The true warrior is a paradox of characteristics. Strong and tender, humble and noble, bold but also tempered. A balanced warrior is one who has conquered the ego, and is an expression of peace, discipline, and personal refinement, not a violent, war-mongering soldier.
The North is possibly where we truly meet ourselves. It is the place of our shadow selves, all that we have repressed or disavowed in ourselves. It is the forge of refinement, where we purge ourselves of the base in order to become the finest metal. This is perhaps where true alchemy happens.
We need to make a shift in our ability to deal with the many conflicts in our lives, to make our conflicts into opportunities...to grow, to learn, and to create.
Q. What do I need to learn in the areas of my suffering? How can I mediate conflictive energy within myself?
The Irish Spirit Wheel Spread
Let us draw 5 cards and see what wisdom is to be gained. I share my own personal "reading" of the cards. I encourage you, not only to consider if there is any wisdom there for you (and leave what doesn't serve you), but also to "read" the energy of the imagery for yourself. Incidentally, I am not using the book interpretations to "read" for me. This is all about using my own intuition and life experience to inform me.
Center: 8 of Fire - This card speaks to me of community. There is something deep and profound about this particular community, however. They are joined together looking out across the earth to the horizon where the sun is setting.
Meaning: Center yourself in a community that shares your appreciation of the deep and the profound. When you are centered, you are sovereign. Your tribe is out there. (worship, awe)
East: 4 of Earth - What a beautiful card to represent hearthkeeping. 4 large stones delineating an area of focus. Rock monuments like this are considered sacred spaces and indeed, so is the hearth and home. True prosperity is realizing that you already have all you need, and that the Universe provides.
Meaning: Focus on what comes to you naturally, not through forcing or struggle. Find this energy within yourself as you go about your day, getting things done. Find this energy in your home and also in your dealings with others. (blessings, grace)
South: 7 of Water - Animals are moving across the landscape to share a water hole. In an arid land, the animals, although different, share a common need and longing, that of quenching their thirst. There seems to be an indication of each group going in turn.
Meaning: We all have needs. The music of life is created from the variety of ways that we fill those needs, sometimes harmonious, sometimes discordant. If we allow for space, for others to fill their needs, we can find our own needs filled as well. (drink from the well of life)
West: Wheel of Life - It is interesting that the card drawn for the West - for knowledge and wisdom, would be the Tarot card that best represents our overall card draw. The circle with its edges and directions. The spider in the middle weaves her web to capture from each of the 8 directions (in this example) the experiences that will serve her life.
Meaning: Explore your edges (in the physical and the spiritual) without recrimination, from yourself or from others. Bring your wisdom back to the center and integrate the energies into your most whole sense of self. (do no harm, greatest and highest good, many paths, life lessons)
North: Moon - The moon has long been considered far inferior to the sun, and sometimes as a bringer of madness and evil. It is true that lunar energies are far different from the sun, however there is much to be learned from both darkness (new moon) and reflection/projection (full moon), and all the phases in between.
Meaning: The moon is currently in Cancer (the date of this reading is 11/3/23) and we have just come through a partial lunar eclipse in Aries, both of which have us experiencing powerful and strange, even painful and confusing energies. Look for support in others who can ground you and give you perspective on your conflicts, and for whom you can do the same. (moonology, light in dark places)
Again, this is my personal reading, and is very much influenced by my own energies, so your reading may be very different with these same cards. Of course, drawing your own cards, from the deck of your choice, might be preferable for you as well. Try out different decks too!
Here is the layout for your reference.
Incidentally, I decided to draw one last card as I contemplated how to return to center and integrate the energies of these 5 cards. I drew the Ace of Water. It indicates, in my view, a need to really feel my feelings in each of these areas and not bypass the emotional solely for the intellectual side of this reading. I may try to do some "Focusing," a technique developed by Eugene Gendlin for tapping into my body's "felt-sense" for each card and its lesson. Another option would be to use each card's image as a point of departure for a shamanic or "inner journey."
What were your thoughts as each card was explored? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the spread and if you use it, hear about your experience and the deck you used!
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