The medicine wheel guides many aspects of our lives. Each of the four sections of the wheel have a corresponding color, direction, and traditional mshkëké, or medicine. The below substances are our four sacred medicines.
As with any use of the medicine wheel, we begin in the east. Séma, or tobacco, is the medicine that corresponds with this first direction. It is a gift from the Creator, so we offer it back to him when we pray. We offer it to the roots of plants and trees and to animals we slay to eat or use for other purposes, thanking them for their gift to us. We give séma to thank others for their wisdom and help, and we place it in our own moccasins when dancing so we will perform at our best.
Next, we look south and find gishkiy, or cedar. This medicine is also used for prayer. We burn it and spread the smoke around us in a ritual called smudging. We also use cedar to brew tea, drinking one glass a day for good health. Cedar is also a key element incorporated into our larger construction projects, and we hang it inside for protection and good health. We use cedar for ceremonies in sweat lodges and other places.
In the west we see pkwënézgen, or sage. Sage is also part of our prayers, but specifically those at the end of the day. We use it to smudge and therefore cleanse areas prior to an event. All ceremonies include this medicine. Tea made from sage strengthens our hearts, and we also add it as a spice for our food, adding value to what we eat.
At the end of our journey, we rest in the north where wishpëmishkos, or sweet grass, grows. Sweet grass is the primary smudging medicine. We use it to smudge ourselves daily. Spreading the smoke around one's head clears the mind of negativity; across the eyes, ears and mouth helps to see, hear and speak only good things; and onto the rest of the body sends prayers for health and helps the body to work toward the benefit of our fellow Anishnaabe. We hang braided strips of sweet grass, blessed by a sage smudge, in our buildings, homes and cars for protection.