Almost 10,000 feet above sea level on a remote summit of Medicine Mountain in Wyoming, USA, sits a large stone circle that aligns to the summer solstice.
A “medicine wheel” is a modern day term given to circular structures found throughout various parts of North America that are made up of laying stones oriented to the four cardinal points. There is typically a central stone and an outer ring of stones. Sun “spokes” or “rays” radiate from the central stone outwards.
The Wyoming medicine wheel is known as the Big Horn Medicine Wheel. This mysterious stone arrangement is only visible during two months of the summer, while being buried under snow the rest of the year.
Spanning 80 feet in diameter, the stone circle consists of a central cairn and 28 “spokes” extending out to its outer rim. Six other small cairns lay outside of the stone circle.
The builders of this site remain unknown, and local tribes that were interviewed at the time of its discovery in the 19th century reported it was there already when they arrived, and described it as coming from the “people who had no iron.”1
Big Horn Medicine Wheel Solar Alignments
In the 1970s Dr. John A. Eddy studied the site and discovered that the Big Horn Medicine wheel contained precise alignments to the summer solstice sunrise and sunset.
One “spoke” of the wheel extends past the outer rim which ends in a cairn (named cairn “E.”)
Eddy found that cairn E and the middle cairn (cairn ‘O’) perfectly aligned with the direction of the summer solstice sunrise.
Standing at cairn E and facing cairn O you would see the summer solstice sun rise up on the horizon, aligning with the central cairn and cairn E.
Similarly, he found that the summer solstice sunset is aligned with cairn C and O.
From the vantage point of cairn C, the sun would set in alignment with it and the central mound.
Dr. Eddy’s findings were published in Science magazine in 1974, where he wrote:
Stone alignments such as the Medicine Wheel could have been used as horizon markers, to identify the directions of rise or set of selected celestial bodies. A pole stepped vertically in the central cairn could serve as a gnomon or foresight, which, in conjunction with a backsight point at a peripheral cairn, would define the azimuth rising or setting of some important object…The spoked pattern resembles a common sun symbol.2
A nice shot of the summer solstice sunrise at the Big Horn medicine wheel can be seen here.
Alignments to the Stars
Incredibly, Dr. Eddy also discovered that the cairns surrounding the medicine wheel are aligned to three bright stars and their heliacal risings.3
Among these stars are Orion and Sirius, which have often been found aligned with other sacred sites around the world that are connected to the Religion of the Sun.
Other sacred sites connected with the Religion of the Sun also take into account the heliacal rising or setting of significant stars.
The massive Moai statues on Easter Island face the heliacal setting of Orion for example.4 Similarly, the ancient stone circle at Nabta Playa in Egypt contains alignments to the heliacal rising of Orion.5
In ancient Egypt, Orion and Sirius are associated with the god Osiris and goddess Isis, both of which have a spiritual significance in the Religion of the Sun.6
Osiris’ life depicts the path of the spiritual sun and he is also associated with the spiritual Father of creation. Isis is associated with the spiritual mother who guides a person along the path of the sun.7
At Big Horn, Dr. Eddy found that while standing at cairn ‘F’ two days before the summer solstice, the constellation Aldebaran (a bright star found in the constellation of Taurus) would rise in alignment with cairn A, visible for a short time as it flashed into the sky just before the sunrise.
28 days after the summer solstice, the constellation Rigel (the bright star in the constellation Orion) would rise just before the sun came up in alignment with cairn F and B.
Exactly 28 days after Rigel’s heliacal rising, Eddy found that the constellation Sirius would rise in alignment with cairn F and C, appearing briefly in the sky just before sunrise, after having not been visible for some time.
Another astronomer named Jack Robinson discovered that 28 days before the summer solstice, the constellation Fomalhaut (a very bright star in the constellation piscis austrinus) had its heliacal rising aligned with cairn F and D.8
Due to the earth’s procession, these astronomical alignments are no longer visible in the same positions today. Astronomers believe they would have been in alignment with the site from around 1200 – 1700 AD, which suggests this site was possibly in use during that time.9 There is also some archaeological evidence to suggest it was used into the 19th century.10 Interestingly, the Fomalhaut alignment would have been seen at a much earlier time, between 1050 and 1450 AD.11
Here’s a short video showing the medicine wheel and the breathtaking views around it.
It gives a sense of how clearly you’d be able to see the sun and stars on the expansive summit.
Similar Sites in North America
There are hundreds of medicine wheels in North America, with more being reported every year.12
Many of them have solar and stellar alignments and contain symbols of the Religion of the Sun. These sites add to a large number of sites in North America that are connected to the Religion of the Sun.
The Big Horn medicine wheel specifically has many similarities to other wheels found in North America, such as the Majorville medicine wheel in Alberta, Canada, as well as the Moose Mountain medicine wheel in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Though they are thought to be built in very different times in history, both the Moose Mountain and Majorville medicine wheels also contain cairns, spokes, and alignments to the sun and stars.
Another interesting stone arrangement is in south-central Saskatchewan, Canada, where there is a large stone effigy in the shape of a turtle (known as the Minton turtle effigy) with solar and stellar alignments to the summer solstice.13
The turtle is a symbol found in the Religion of the Sun, representing the earth and the womb, and is found all around the world in cultures who practiced it. In India, for example, a turtle represents the earth in the epic story of the Churning of the Milky Ocean.14
Unfortunately, many of the medicine wheels have not been thoroughly studied or have been badly damaged by vandalism or a lack of protection, and the knowledge they contain may disappear in time.
From what has been discerned from the medicine wheels which have been studied and protected so far, there is evidence of a sophisticated knowledge of the sun and the cosmos, making them another powerful example of the great efforts people went to track and celebrate the movements of the heavens.
The heliacal rising of a star is a yearly occurrence in which a star appears in the sky just before dawn, becoming visible after not having been seen for a period of time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliacal_rising