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Dan Shaw creates Botanical Gardens’ medicine wheel

The Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens has added to their section a Medicine Wheel Herb Garden in celebration of the heritage of Native Americans. 

Dan Shaw, creator of the Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens’ medicine wheel, has dedicated the past eight months to constructing South Boston’s own replica of Native American’s sacred tradition. 

The medicine wheel contains many significant symbols and has many Native American traditions embodied in it. Medicine wheels are known for being a symbol of peaceful interaction between all living beings and Mother Earth to form harmony. 

These medicine wheels, also known as sacred circles, are found in the northern plains of Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota and in Canada. They were built with rocks by Native Americans and are used to grow herbs and as sacred places for spirits. The herbs are used for many purposes like food, beverages, medicines, dyes and smudging. Four herbs found in the medicine wheel garden are cedar, sage, sweet grass and tobacco. 

The medicine wheel’s shape is a circle, and it represents the continuity of life. Each section of the wheel stands for a stage of human life, which is marked by specific spirit animals that help embody the stages, such as an eagle for birth and childhood and a white buffalo for old age. Just as the Native Americans do, the wheel is focused on the continuity of life mirroring the changing of the seasons, suns and moons. 

The construction of the wheel is dependent upon the four directions, north, south, east and west, and often is pointed to other significant directions imposed by each tribe.  The number four is very significant in these sacred circles, because it represents the directions, races, plants, winds, seasons and stages of life. 

Just as there are rituals and traditions for other religions, there is a certain way to enter the medicine wheel. Humility, humbleness and an open heart are necessary in order to walk in. This manner should be done correctly in order to achieve the spiritual destination that one desires.

In the future, the Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens hopes to add other things to the area around the medicine wheel, such as a tipi, an Indian garden, a sweat lodge and a totem pole. Also, interpretive panels will be installed to explain the different sections of the medicine wheel to its visitors. 

Shaw, who has been woodworking for over 40 years, has carved all of the spirit animals and benches located on the medicine wheel and trail. 

His interest in woodcarving started with tables, lamps and benches and has expanded into stained glass and painting. The Indiana born carver has a natural talent that is abundantly seen in the workmanship of the medicine wheel. 

“The medicine wheel is my favorite project, but my favorite changes every time I finish a new project,” Shaw said. 

The medicine wheel is located in Edmunds Park beside the Botanical Gardens.