Blog Sites Aligned to the Sun

Big Horn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming, USA Aligns to the Summer Solstice

A shot of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel – By ImerriotOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

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

Solar and stellar alignments of the Big Horn medicine wheel. Illustration by Vida Norris based on original diagram by Dr. John Eddy2 and illustration by Chabot Space and Science Center.3

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.4

A nice shot of the summer solstice sunrise at the Big Horn medicine wheel can be seen here.

Alignments to the Stars

Close up of cairn ‘B’ which aligns to Rigel, a bright star in the constellation of Orion. By brewbooks from near Seattle, USA – Bighorn Medicine Wheel, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Incredibly, Dr. Eddy also discovered that the cairns surrounding the medicine wheel are aligned to three bright stars and their heliacal risings.5

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.

In The Path of the Spiritual Sun it explains that:

Wherever these ancient people tended to travel, woodhenges, megaliths, pyramids, and mounds, were built that aligned to the solstices and equinoxes, and also particularly to the constellation Orion. This combination of aligning sacred sites to the constellation of Orion and to the sun at the solstices and equinoxes is found at the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe, Glastonbury Tor, the cities of the Hopi including Chaco Canyon, the statues of Easter Island, and the Nazca Lines in Peru. ~ The Path of the Spiritual Sun – Belsebuub and Lara Atwood6

Other sacred sites connected with the Religion of the Sun also take into account the heliacal rising or setting of significant stars.

The Moai of Ahu Akivi on Easter Island face the heliacal setting of Orion on the autumn equinox.7 By JantoniovOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The massive Moai statues on Easter Island face the heliacal setting of Orion for example.8 Similarly, the ancient stone circle at Nabta Playa in Egypt contains alignments to the heliacal rising of Orion.9

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.10

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.11

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.

A photo depicting Sirius (bottom) and Orion (right) that appear together as bright stars in the northern sky. Public domain image found here.

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.12

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.13 There is also some archaeological evidence to suggest it was used into the 19th century.14 Interestingly, the Fomalhaut alignment would have been seen at a much earlier time, between 1050 and 1450 AD.15

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

Summer-Solstice-at-Majorville-Medicine-Wheel-Alberta-Canada-Megalithic

Sun setting over the Majorville Medicine Wheel during the summer solstice. Photo © Cliff LeSergent — Purchased via Images West Photography

There are hundreds of medicine wheels in North America, with more being reported every year.16

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.17

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.18

In The Path of the Spiritual Sun by Belsebuub and Lara Atwood, it gives other examples of where the symbol of the turtle is found and its meaning:

The Maize God Hun Hunahpu resurrects from a turtle, known as the tomb of the earth, which is another symbol of the womb. This same enactment is found at the pre-Columbian site of Monks Mound in the United States, where the spring equinox sun appears to rise (or resurrect) from out of a giant mound originally built in the form of a turtle. ~ The Path of the Spiritual Sun – Belsebuub and Lara Atwood19

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.


  1.  Eddy, J. A. “Astronomical Alignment of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel.” Science 184, no. 4141 (1974): 1035-043. doi:10.1126/science.184.4141.1035.  

  2. Ibid.  

  3. Burress, B., and L. Block. Sunwatchers of the Southwest . Oakland, CA: Chabot Space and Science Center, 2005.  

  4.  Eddy, J. A. “Astronomical Alignment of the Big Horn Medicine Wheel.”  

  5. 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  

  6. Belsebuub and Lara Atwood, The Path of the Spiritual Sun: A Guide to the Solstices and Equinoxes (Mystical Life Publications, revised second edition, July 2017), 248.  

  7. Ibid.  

  8. Ibid., 282.  

  9. Ibid., 336.  

  10. Ibid., 117.  

  11. Ibid., 115, 283.  

  12. Robinson, J.H. (September 1980). “Fomalhaut and cairn D at the Big Horn and Moose Mountain Medicine Wheels”. Bulletin of the Astronomical Society. 12: 887.  

  13. Kelley, David H., and E. F. Milone. Exploring Ancient Skies: A Survey of Ancient and Cultural Astronomy. New York: Springer, 2011. pg. 208.  

  14. Ibid., 208.  

  15. Ibid.  

  16. Ibid., 205  

  17. Ibid., 208  

  18. The concept of the “cosmic turtle” has been found all around the world, including China, India, Korea, Japan, Mesoamerica, Tibet and many others. Ibid., 487  

  19. Belsebuub and Lara Atwood, The Path of the Spiritual Sun, 161.  

About the author

Vida Norris

Vida Norris is a writer and researcher who contributes to the SpiritualSun.com. With a background in permaculture design and landscaping, Vida has a deep interest in the ancient civilizations who practiced the Religion of the Sun and how they lived sustainably and with seemingly higher consciousness and interest in spirituality. She explores ancient sacred sites and pores over ancient texts, with the hope of bringing back the relevance of the Religion of the Sun to those interested in spirituality today.

24 Comments

  • Such an incredible site – Thanks Vida for the really good write-up making it easy to understand it and get a real feel about the alignment.. I was quite awestruck too by how the simplicity of the sites (simple stones on the ground) actually revealed such really complex and precise alignment.

    And with each site being uncovered here, I keep having this feeling of simply being in awe at the ancient peoples, how they chose their sites, often being very hard to reach, or quite isolated (like on top of a mountain, carved into face cliffs, on isolated islands and so on), and how many obstacles they must have needed to overcome to create them, and how lucky we are to have them still standing today for us to learn and keep that thread alive!

    In some instances, it seems too that the choices were made due to a need to a survival and isolation was key for protection, yet it still is amazing, really incredible, and I’m really thankful for the efforts those people made so that we have it today to help us ans inspires us on our journeys as well. Obviously, I’d have no idea about their meaning and importance without the book by Belsebuub and Lara, The Path of the Spiritual Sun – and having them explained, and seeing these sacred sites, it just in a way brings to life the religion of the sun in a way that shows me how connected we all are to it and how ever-present it is, in the past to today.

  • A site that only reveals itself for two months of the year and requires such a haul to get to, sounds quite special.

    Also I imagine it’s very cool to witness ceremonially these distant suns, these stars, rise above the horizon. Like Ella mentioned I’m sure the different constellations and stars had meanings they carried, and also in reality certain energies and power.

    I also like that this site has multiple alignments so it can be used for the sunrise and sunsets, and other things, very practical and a good advantage of being on a high up yet level plane.

      • Hi Ella,

        Yes this is a really interesting site, there is an area in France called La Vallee Des Merveilles, and it features very ancient petroglyphs which are also aligned to the solstices and equinoxes. From what I’ve read, they are located really high in the Alps mountains, and Petits Bernard is not far from it:

        Vallee Des Merveilles, France.

        • Geraldine that looks like a very special place! Looks like that Alps region has many sacred sites, which isn’t surprising when you think of the energy of the mountains!

      • @Ella @Geraldine Thanks for sharing. Just amazing how many little known sites like this start “cropping up” everywhere you look once you know what to look for 🙂

        @Vida Thanks for sharing about Big Horn. I was aware that there were a number of “medicine wheels” (what a strange name, hun?), but had no idea that there were hundreds of them 😮

    • Agreed, this is a good example of a sacred site that would be within our capacity to build today without specialized equipment, because the stones are not megalithic. Yet all the alignments are still there, and the place has a mystique of it own, especially with that expansive view.

      Of course, we would have the advantage of the use of specialized software to help us find all the stellar alignments, but they probably had to do it all with patient, careful observation over time, watching for and tracking the helical rising of spiritually significant stars on the horizon through the year. Then again, maybe they had some technology or knowledge that allowed them to predict where they would rise.

  • Thank you for the article Vida. I am glad that these rings are at least recognized as “medicine wheels” (wondering why “medicine” actually) and given some attention and protection.

    The focus of this place on the stars, having dedicated cairns for different stars and their risings is especially amazing. I would really like to know how exactly this knowledge would be used for a spiritual purpose, as there must be more to these phenomena of observing different stars than what is currently known.

    • I agree Lucia. As far as I can understand at the moment, the stars have their own unique spiritual qualities, associated with higher forces like the divine mother and the Christ. Then, like I mentioned about Delphinus, some were seen as particular gods and their presence in the sky was taken as their presence on earth. Others seems to represent cosmic principles like death and rebirth – Cygnus was worshiped both as a vulture (death) and a diving bird that brought new life from the underworld/waters as it dipped beneath the horizon and rose again.

      I came across research that suggested a flurry of megalithic-building activity happened in the British Isles around the times when there was an alignment between the heliacal rising of Sirius and the winter solstice. Maybe there’s more evidence of similar activity around the world? It also seems that some sites were purposely closed at times when stars became invisible. When they finally slipped below the horizon due to procession, the structures that were built to somehow connect to them needed to be simultaneously shut. From this and the way that the movements of stars were encoded in ancient sites, like this Medicine Wheel, it seems obvious that they too were spiritually significant to the practitioners of the global religion of the sun. But how exactly? Would be amazing to glean some direct, personal, mystical understanding of this in the absence of trustworthy intellectual guidance!

    • Lucia, I read back over the introduction chapter in The Path of the Spiritual Sun looking for more insight on the spiritual significance of the stars. In particular the section “The Spiritual Sun”in chapter one is full of information about the nature of the stars. Here are parts that jumped out at me:

      “Because creation of physical matter comes from the physical aspects of the stars, then the higher dimensional parts of matter are likewise created by the stars in higher dimensions…. the source of these subtle energies is said to be the stars, and the sun is the star with which we share our closest relationship.”

      “Going further, not only does both physical and other dimensional matter have its source in the stars – so too does our own inner spiritual light, called consciousness. The light of the sun and the stars is the spiritual source of creation, and gives rise both to matter and the spirit.”

      Something to remember when seeing a starry sky! 🙂

  • It’s amazing that there are hundreds of medicine wheels in North America dedicated to the Sun.

    It seems that the ancient religion of the Sun was very common in that age.

    What a magical time would be the celebration of the Sun in ancient years

  • What an incredible landscape. Participating in a ceremony at that site or just being there and observing the heavens would be really powerful.

    I found it interesting to study that diagram and consider the sophisticated knowledge needed to produce such a site. The diagram was also useful in showing exactly how a site like that could be used to sight a variety of solar and stellar alignments by aligning two cairns in the direction of the phenomenon you want to observe.

    • Yes, I was struck by that too. There is something very interesting and powerful about being so high up and with such an open view like that.

      I saw a few comments from people who had made the trip up to the Big Horn summit to see the site, and from what they said it seems like quite an adventure to reach it, but it certainly has a very beautiful reward at the top! 🙂

      I had a similar feeling when I visited Cahokia. After the long trek up to the top, it was really moving and breathtaking to be up there, especially imagining spiritual ceremonies taking place there in the past.

      • I had a similar experience of visiting Majorville Medicine Wheel. It was a real mission to get there (and when our car got stuck in the mud, I wasn’t sure if we’d get back without help!) but totally worth it. The stark remoteness and wild, enormous views were breathtaking. I felt so very far away from ‘civilization’. Holding a sacred ceremony in a place like that would surely be a profound experience.

      • Yeah that’s the main thing that jumped out at me when reading this, just realizing how amazing it would be to have a site like that all the way at the top of the mountain—not only the great views, but just the sense of having to work hard climbing up the mountain to even get to the level where you can then begin to study these things 🙂

  • Big Horn Medicine Wheel is an intriguing one for me too. It creates a dilemma in my mind between its incredible scale and alignments and the relatively recent age of construction.

    I have difficulty fathoming that the most striking example of medicine wheels in North America is so recent, possibly even coming from the period after the arrival of Columbus. Majorville Medicine Wheel, a site not that far to the north of Big Horn Medicine Wheel, was on the tail end of its lifetime and soon to fall into disuse (most likely due to the conquest by Europeans).

    If Big Horn Medicine Wheel is coming from societies who practiced the Religion of the Sun so recently, then I wonder if there are other sites that they left behind. Alternatively, it is also possible that Big Horn Medicine Wheel was updated in a similar way to Majorville Medicine Wheel. Majorville Medicine Wheel saw at least a handful of updates from societies who used it and adjusted its alignments to accommodate for changes in the obliquity of the ecliptic. The oldest alignments were found to be mirrored in the topography of the landscape.

  • I really love how such seemingly simply sites reveal such a multitude of complexity and spiritual wisdom when they’re properly dissected! It’s easy to see how ‘medicine wheels’ could have been written off as simple sites, by people either without understanding or people who purposely wanted to cover up the fact that the makers were in possession of profound celestial knowledge.

    I found the information on the site’s alignments to helical rising really interesting. I’m very drawn to understanding more about the cyclical movements of the night sky throughout the year and what it meant to the ancient people. How curious that the time period of 28 days repeats so perfectly in the stellar movements! I only knew it as being the rhythm of the moon, but it seems it’s more than that. Perhaps the higher mathematics of 7 x 4 is special, both being numbers associated with creation?

    I’d read about the way the ancient Greeks waited to see the helical rising of the constellation they saw as Apollo, Delphinus, before they consulted the Oracle at Delphi. It’s such a minor constellation too; it makes me feel that the more prominent constellations and their significant stages would have all contained real meaning to the ancients. With Delphinus and the Greeks, when the stars started to move ‘away’ from the Delphi, they saw it as Apollo travelling north to Hyperborea, and the sanctuary closed. Amazing how much the life on the earth mirrored the heavens!

    • I know what you mean Ella. I found the heliacal alignments really interesting too. Orion has appeared in the sky here in North America again, and after reading up on Rigel, Sirius and the others while writing this, I had a new appreciation seeing those stars in the sky in real life this time around.

      It definitely left me feeling pretty awestruck with the level of care and precision that went into the site to align it to those celestial events. 🙂

      • Yes, I’ve been spotting the ‘winter stars’ appearing again. 🙂
        For me, getting to know the night sky with more familiarity, as well as the solar movements, has been a way to feel a deeper connection to our ancient ancestors and the timeless spiritual quest that unites us. I may not be able to visit all the sacred sites in the world, but I can stand under the same single sky that they did! It’s a magical feeling.

Leave a Comment

Data submitted via this comment form is collected and processed on the basis of legitimate interests that enable us to provide our services and which benefit the users of those services. Please view our privacy policy for more information.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
error:

Send this to a friend