The Medicine Wheel
A number of different Native American tribes use the circular shape to represent health and life, and the medicine wheel is the best example of this. Because it is round, it incorporates all four directions, which allows for ritualized use in ceremonies connecting man, nature, and the creators.
The artwork of the medicine wheel can vary, but reflecting other Native American practices like dance it emphasizes circular movement. The wheel is traditionally moved clockwise, following the pattern of the sun through the sky.
Navajo Sand Mandalas
While sand mandalas are essential to the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, they are also used by Native American Navajo tribes in sacred rituals performed in honor of the creators.
The center of the mandala typically contains four separate designs that are radiated out through geometric patterns to complete the piece. For the Navajo creators, each level has a different meaning based around the fundamental concepts of the underworld, the gods, and the sacred in nature.
As with other sand mandala traditions, the Navajo pieces are ritually destroyed. Typically black lines and corn pollen are placed around the design, meant to represent strength and fertility, and then it is systematically dismantled.
Perhaps the most known form of Native American mandala today is the dream catcher. Used by Ojibwe (Chippewa) and Lakota tribes, thee typically consisted of spider webs draped over a round hoop. This form of artwork now serves decorative purposes for many Westerners, but the belief was that they protected sleepers from the influence of bad dreams.