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The Healing Project: Honoring Four Directions

Research shows that Native Americans have influenced American living in numerous ways: art, fashion, music, law and government. This space holds sacred the wisdom of Native American medicine.

According to J. T. Garrett, author of The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine from the Four Directions, the Numbers 4 and 7 greatly influenced all aspects of the early American Indian’s life.

The circle was considered sacred, and the four cardinal directions held great importance in the creation of medicines.

Bringing an individual into harmony and balance with the environment was the intention of the tribal healers.

All living things were held sacred. They recognized the influence of plants, birds, and animals; and, by studying the habits of the animals, they were able to assign medicines to the healing of human maladies. 

“Listening” to the plants is a meditative practice that guides the healer in the right direction.

The Four Directions holds “life values.”

East Medicine values family life and recognizes women as a Mother Earth-the giver of life. The heart rules in relationships and life. The colors honored for this direction are red or yellow, representing the brilliance of the Sun. Spiritual energy is the key focus.

South Medicine recognizes that we are vulnerable and exposed to the elements. White or green are the colors of this energy and the key energy is nature.

West Medicine emphasizes endurance. The internal condition and the diseases of the physical body can interrupt one’s ability to fully participate in a robust life cycle. Black is the color that symbolizes sacredness, the setting of the Sun and the protection of the Moon. The key is physical.

North Medicine represents the adult who teaches. Wisdom marks this direction. The color is sky blue, dark blue, purple, or sometimes white, reminiscent of the sky and the snow.  Hence, a calm energy is the key for this direction.

The author goes on to explain that the Cherokee Indian did not differentiate between good and bad, because all events in nature are meant to balance life.

The study of Cherokee Medicine is rooted in story. The stories of Bear Medicine, Rabbit Medicine, Ant Medicine, Deer Medicine, and Snake Medicine all lead up to the ritual naming of plants.

For instance, Angelica is one of over 26 herbs used in the preparation of Benedictine. The Cherokee naming of this plant is e me nah which is also the Cherokee utterance of ”Amen”. It is known to heal both body and spirit.  The digestive and respiratory systems both benefit from the use of this venerated plant.

Willow bark is a natural analgesic used by the natives to quell painful afflictions ranging from toothaches to joint pain. 

It would do us well to embrace the wisdom of Native American elders as we navigate the altered reality of the ever-changing symptoms of a pandemic that has claimed over 100,000 lives to date.

By preparing our bodies to harmonize with nature, we are honoring our lives and the lives of others.

The pantry should be stocked with Kitchen Medicine—herbs and spices.

It’s up to us to prepare for the battle ahead. We have been forewarned by the scientists to expect a winter impacted by a resurgence of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

The elders have paved the way. Mother Nature is awaiting our call.

"We must trust our own thinking. Trust where we're going. And get the job done." ~ Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Author


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