Mandala is Sanskrit for circle and introduces us to the great circle that we find in life, as well as the universe. For some this circle is sacred, for others it signifies creation and our journey, for others this great mandala is used for healing. The great mandala is found everywhere on the planet, throughout various cultures, bringing for its people a great sense of peace and understanding. Native American mandalas are no less than any other, found across the country in every tribe.
More ancient than the world renowned Tibetan mandala, one such Native American mandala comes from the Shaman. Within the center of the mandala is the healing power of the circle. Black Elk found the sacred healing within the balance of the four directional points of the circle, referring to the mandala as a sacred hoop. This can be seen, for instance, in the medicine wheel of the Native American cultures.
One of the roots behind the medicine wheel has its foundation in the sacred mandala and its link to the human brain. The medicine wheel can be broken down into sections, much like a map of the mind. Left, right, center, front, and rear lobes correspond to north, south, east and west. Each point in the mind has a corresponding symbol on the great mandala and the medicine wheel. Together the give you a sense of strength, hope, sacredness and belonging.
With concentric circles flowing throughout the mind, the center houses the superconscious mind. This is in direct relationship to the outer circle which houses the conscious (surface mind), followed by four more circles before it reaches center. These four circles include the editor and censor, subjective (databank), subconscious (magical), and unconscious (auto-drive). The surface mind deals with the day to day experiences that man partakes, being impressionable and dealing with the five senses. In combination, the Native American mandalas of the mind are sometimes referred to as Tonal or Nagual, the Circle of Existence.
Other forms that the Native American mandala take includes sandpaintings. This is considered a freeform mandala and constructed with precision to a design that brings those who enjoy its beauty to drawn to its center and peace. With their knowledge, the Native Americans produce a design that is perfect. If any flaw becomes a part of the mandala, than it renders it useless; in the end the sand is washed away into a nearby body of water.
Also considered a Native American mandala is the dream catcher. The Ojibwa tribe originated the dream catcher as it hung over the children’s beds to ward off nightmares. The bad dreams become entangled with the snare of the web to disappear as daylight arrives. Each dream catcher has the four directional points incorporated into the mandala as well.
The Native American mandala has also be said to be a direct descendant from the Plains tribe’s dance shield. This is one of the most sacred instruments to bring about prayer on survival, spiritual blessings, protection, long life and visions as part of the construction. The circle of life is offered in lessons through the use of the mandala to complement the journey of creation.
Native Americans, not unlike other cultures on our world, hold an intense respect within their understanding of our place within Mother Earth and the Circle of Life. Our minds can meditate and concentrate on the center circle of the mandala, focusing on the meaning behind the Native American mandala you have with you. The clearness of the Spirit is brought upon man through the mandala.
Four Directions Teachings offers a fabulous, interactive media experience on the Four Directions as seen by the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq nations. A very moving experience!
Native American Cultural Symbols has a long list of resources for further information on particular tribes and their traditions, symbols, and meanings.