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An element taken from the New Age Movement, the Native American zodiac gained popularity during the last decades of the 20th century. It’s supposed to help people to fulfill their destinies on earth, through spiritual healing.
However, the American Indian Movement (AIM) protested against its authenticity on multiple occasions, arguing that this zodiac, and other New Age products alike, misrepresents and trivializes the traditions of the First Nations.
In this article, let’s take a look at the history of the Native American zodiac, how it’s connected with the medicine wheel, and the signs associated with it.
Who Created the Native American Zodiac?
The Native American zodiac was created by Vince LaDuke (1929-1992, aka Sun Bear). LaDuke tried to create a pan-Indian astrology experience, blending elements from his cultural heritage (LaDuke is of Chippewa ancestry) and traditional western astrology. As a result of this attempt, the book The Medicine Wheel – Earth Astrology was published in 1980. Sun Bear co-authored this work with his healing assistant, Marlin Wabun Wind.
This book begins with LaDuke recounting a vision he had, in which the Great Spirit communicated to him that he had been chosen to spread the knowledge of the medicine wheel throughout the world, so people could start living in balance with nature and the Earth Mother once again. Throughout his book, LaDuke also explains how the ‘Native American’ zodiac works.
What is the Medicine Wheel?
In some Native American tribal groups from the Northwest Coast of the United States and Canada, the medicine wheel, known also as the Sacred Hoop, is a symbol used during healing ceremonies. The medicine wheel symbolizes the Four Directions (East, West, South, and North), as well as the conjunction of the Sky Father, the Earth Mother, and the Spirit Tree.
Medicine wheels can be found in multiple forms across North America, some are directly painted over the ground, while more elaborated ones can include physical constructions on the land.
The circumferential shape of the wheel seems to represent the Indian’s perception of life as an unbreakable cycle. Medicine wheels are traditionally split into four sections, each of which represents one of the Four Directions.
These sections can also be associated with:
- The four stages of life: birth, childhood, adulthood, and death.
- The four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter.
- The four aspects of existence: spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional.
Each section of the medicine wheel is generally painted with a different color. The colors most often used to paint these sections are red, yellow, white, and black. Some people have argued that these colors might represent the four human races, although this is not conclusive.
Controversies Regarding the Spiritual Practices Promoted by Bear Sun
In 1980, the members of the Bear Tribe Medicine Society, a group founded by Bear Sun and integrated mostly by American-Europeans, began to sponsor Medicine Wheel Gatherings.
These sort of spiritual retreats were supposed to help people to connect with the ancient Native American knowledge and the Earth Mother. Moreover, according to Bear Sun’s teachings, learning how to live in balance with nature was a necessary step toward the fulfillment of one’s destiny.
However, eventually, many indigenous organizations, such as the American Indian Movement (AME) and the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) began to denounce these, claiming that the spiritual practices promoted by Bear Sun were detrimental to the legacy of the Native American aborigines. Broadly speaking, such claims were primarily based on two arguments.
- The first criticism was that Sun Bear made a profit by selling ‘Native American religious experiences’ to non-Indian people that were looking for spiritual counsel. It’s important to understand that for Native Americans, their religion is part of their cultural heritage, it belongs to all Indians, and therefore it cannot be sold by any individual.
- On the other hand, Bear Sun also advertised a series of non-Indian concepts (such as the ‘animal spirit’ or the zodiac), while labeling them as representative of the Native American religious legacy. All of these reinforce the idea that there is a pan-Indian culture, when in fact, variety is the norm when it comes to talking about religious practices among Native American tribes.
Bear Sun defended himself from these critics, arguing that the spiritual practices that he promoted were only partially based on Native American ceremonies. Whether these accusations are true or false, today the teachings of Bear Sun are considered a product of the New Age movement.
The New Age movement is an eclectic array of beliefs that supports the idea that the arrival of a new era for mankind is imminent. This new age would be characterized by the spiritual awakening of the human race. Spiritual healing, divination, and the development of a higher mental perception are among the usual practices associated with this movement.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that trivializing the notion of a Native American religious diversity can indeed contribute to worsened communication problems between American Indian and non-Indian communities.
How is the ‘Native American’ Zodiac Constituted?
According to Bear Sun teachings, the four sections in which the medicine wheel is divided can be considered clans. These clans are further split into three lesser groups, each of which represents an animal sign. The twelve animal signs that integrate the ‘Native American’ zodiac are:
- The Goose
- The Otter
- The Wolf
- The Falcon
- The Beaver
- The Deer
- The Woodpecker
- The Salmon
- The Bear
- The Raven
- The Snake
- The Owl
All of these animal signs are based on autochthonous species from North American environments.
These animals are also mentioned in many of the Native American legends that explain how the constellations were formed. This is the case, for example, of the Iroquois legend of the hunting of the Great Bear by four hunter brothers, which serves as an account for the existence of the Great Bear constellation.
Bear Sun’s precepts suggest that every person is born under the influence of one of these signs (which sign depends on the date of birth of the subject). Similarly, each individual is expected to manifest certain behaviors or personality traits associated with his or her animal sign.
Understanding the character of one’s animal signs is supposed to help people to overcome obstacles through life. In the next list, you will find more about the personal characteristics attributed to each sign.
1. Goose (December 22-January 19)
The people who are born under the sign of the Snow Goose are ambitious and prone to take action to improve their life situation. Usually, snow geese use their inner conflicts to learn more about themselves and also to work on their self-assurance.
Snow geese have higher expectations for themselves. This can sometimes lead to a feeling of discontent or dissatisfaction with one’s achievements when the results obtained don’t match the initial goals the goose sets for himself or herself. However, geese are also known for having a great understanding of how to use resources wisely.
Sometimes snow geese are too rigid, a feature that can block their path to personal development. This sign shares time in the calendar with Capricorn.
2. Otter (January 20-February 18)
Otters are usually eccentric and unpredictable, especially when it comes to anticipating how they would react under pressure.
However, despite being often considered quirky people, otters are also very insightful and honest about their feelings and desires, two qualities that make them great friends and love partners.
Generally, the mind of an otter is used to thinking in unorthodox ways, something that might help them to find inventive solutions to problems that appeared to be unsolvable for rational thinkers. Nevertheless, sometimes, if an otter is convinced that his or her point of view is the right one, they could become intolerant of everyone who disagrees with them.
Working on their courage is something otters can do to face the many challenges of everyday life. In the traditional zodiac, the sign of the otter is paired with Aquarius.
3. Wolf (February 19-March 20)
Those born under the sign of the Wolf might be loners, but they also can be very protective and considerate with their loved ones. Wolf people tend to be artistic, sympathetic, and gentle. Wolves also stand out for their remarkable adaptability and courage.
However, wolves can sometimes lose themselves in the process of taking care of others, this is why it’s so important for them to check now and then whether their relationships are based on cooperation and nurturing or not. To avoid this from happening, individuals of this sign can also focus on developing their inner self, as well as their spirituality.
Their commitment to their creativeness can sometimes make wolves impractical individuals. Nevertheless, a wolf that has its priorities clear can become a formidable leader. The sign of the Wolf corresponds to Pisces in the traditional zodiac.
4. Falcon (March 20-April 19)
Those who are born around this time of the year have the Falcon as their animal sign. Falcon people are vehement and proactive, a great combination for those who want to dedicate themselves to entrepreneurship.
Nevertheless, falcons can rapidly run out of interest in what they’re doing, if they don’t see any profit soon enough, which is why Falcon people are often portrayed as impatient or edgy.
Besides working on their patience, Falcons could also be careful not to engage in any egocentric behavior, because this can cause them troubles within their social circle. A Falcon that is perseverant and humble needs little more to reach his/her goals.
This sign shares time in the calendar with Aries.
5. Beaver (April 20-May 20)
Those who are born under the sign of the Beaver usually prefer to feel safe, this is why they spend a lot of time modifying their environment, just like their animal spirit.
Beaver people will commonly feel inclined to apply methods whose efficiency has already been proven to minimize risks. This might lead one to believe that Beavers are not creative, but in most cases that is not true. The creativeness of these subjects shines on whenever there is the need for a leader who can organize a group or an event.
Since Beavers can be bossy and headstrong, a common recommendation for them is to work on increasing their flexibility. The sign of the Beaver corresponds to Taurus in the traditional zodiac.
6. Deer (May 21-June 20)
People that were born during this time of the year are under the influence of the sign of the deer. Deer people are sharp-minded, talkative, and friendly. Consequently, one of the favorite activities of a Deer is learning new things, especially languages.
While engaging in new activities is easy for them, Deer people struggle with taking their projects to the end. Working on improving their concentration is something Deer can do, to avoid being inconsistent with their goals.
This sign shares time in the calendar with Gemini.
7. Woodpecker (June 21-July 19)
Woodpeckers are hardworking, supportive, and affectionate. Moreover, the tendency to protect their loved ones makes Woodpecker people ideal partners and friends, but their loving nature can represent an obstacle for them if they are stuck in unequal relationships. In situations like this, Woodpeckers can become resentful of those who wronged them.
To avoid developing negative emotions towards others, or even against themselves, Woodpeckers should work on their emotional intelligence. A well-balanced Woodpecker is an excellent leader and an outstanding member of his/her community.
In the traditional zodiac, the sign of the Woodpecker corresponds to Cancer.
8. Salmon (July 20-August 21)
Those who were born under the sign of the Salmon are known for their persistence and desire to go against the currents. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, however, since, on many occasions, Salmon people would help others to think out of the box.
Salmons tend to be self-centered, a quality that could help them in their road to fulfillment. Nevertheless, every Salmon must be aware that they can easily lose their perspective of things if they let their ego lead their way.
Working on their humility and taking positive criticism into account are both excellent ways for Salmon people to improve their sympathy towards themselves and others.
This sign shares time in the calendar with Leo.
9. Bear (August 22-September 21)
Bear people are commonly known for being hardworking and practical, this is why they can be great advisers. The inquisitive intellect of these individuals can help to get out of difficult situations. Nevertheless, the critical thinking of Bears can also give them troubles with their superiors at work or even with the authorities.
Those who were born under this sign can easily become upset, which is why Bears should try to work on improving their character. For such a diligent sign, becoming a workaholic is an ever-present risk, so Bears have to be careful not to let work permeate all the aspects of their lives.
In the traditional zodiac, this sign corresponds to Virgo.
10. Raven (September 22-October 22)
Those who were born around this time of the year are under the influence of the Raven. Raven people are tolerant and diplomatic. These individuals can also be romantic, and friendly.
People might look over for a Raven when they need to settle a conflict down. Sometimes, however, Ravens might be a little bit idealistic, something that could lead them to misread the true intentions of others.
A common piece of advice for Ravens is to start working on building up their determination and courage. A persevering Raven is capable of achieving emotional instability, as well as a healthy relationship with his or her peers.
This sign shares time in the calendar with Libra.
11. Snake (October 23-November 22)
People born under the influence of the Snake tend to be mysterious, as they usually keep their emotions to themselves. This has given rise to the common belief that Snake people are naturally hard to trust, but that’s rarely the case. Despite being secretive with their emotions, Snakes are known for being sympathetic with others.
Traditionally, Snake people are purposeful and keenly perceptive. This means that Snakes can rarely be fooled. However, if someone hurts them, the chance for them to look for revenge is high. Besides being resentful, Snakes can also be stubborn, especially when their interests are at stake.
In the western traditional zodiac, the sign of the Snakes corresponds to Scorpio.
12. Owl (November 23-December 23)
People that were born under the sign of the Owl have an adventurous spirit and are also considered to be warmhearted. One of the main traits of an Owl’s character is its tendency to try to understand how the world operates.
Being broadminded can help Owl people to become wise at a very young age. However, this same quality can sometimes make Owls struggle with the idea of paying attention to the small details of everyday life.
Owls can be tactless without knowing, so it’s good for them to check on their social skills from time to time. Owl people could also work on avoiding overthinking because it’s a habit that can paralyze them in situations where assertive action is needed.
This sign shares time in the calendar with Sagittarius.
Created by the New Age author Vince LaDuke (aka Bear Sun), the Native American zodiac is the result of blending in elements taken from the Indian cultural heritage and traditional western astrology. According to LaDuke, the purpose of the Native American Zodiac is to help people to fulfill their destiny and to teach mankind how to live in harmony with nature.
The Native American zodiac is divided into twelve parts, each of which corresponds to an animal sign. All these animals are autochthonous species from North American environments. Currently, this zodiac is regarded as a New Age product.