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Building a ROTAtions Wheel

Updated on March 19, 2016

ROTAtions are Wheels of Time and Space that you can use to observe and celebrate the natural world. Phenology, ecopsychology, folklore, and festivals are some of the roads of choice to explore, with detours into esoterica (where ROTA is capitalized). This first installment pathway explores the Wheel's symbolism.


Many journeys begin with a wheel

It is both a symbol and a method of direction and movement, carrying us along, transporting us.

For a wheel to function properly, it must of course Rotate.

To rotate requires the proper design, the proper shape.

That shape is obviously the Circle.

Consider for a moment what a Circle might represent. Before reading further, think on some things the Circle might represent to you...


A Circle can represent

and Nothing
the Eternal Here & Now
Wrap around
the XO hug
All inclusiveness
but, if small enough...
Family Circle
Circle of friends
a pinpoint of focus- zero in
Expansion - expanding outward
Making a circuit
Going Full Circle
the Realm of all possibility
Circle of Life

“Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.”

— Blaise Pascal


the Power of the World does is

done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have

heard that the earth is are all the stars.

The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make

their nests in circles. The sun comes forth and goes

down again in a circle. The moon does the same

and both are round...the seasons form a great

circle...and always come back to where they

were. The life of a man is a is in

everything where power


-Black Elk

Let's put a dot in the middle of the circle

What does that represent to you?


The dot in the middle of the circle

represents You, the Hub.

The Circle rim surrounding the Hub is the world as seen from your personal perspective.

Sound a bit self-centered?

Only if you think of yourself as the only or most important dot in the middle of any circle.

This symbol in astronomy and astrology represents the Sun, the center of our solar system. This doesn't indicate, however, that our sun in the center of the Universe. There are many centers, and they overlap.

The rim circle itself is made up of countless dots, and the dot in the middle of the circle is the area of focus in that particular time and place. So the dot also represents a point of focus outside yourself.

Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?

Which two are answered by the hub?

Who? You-the observer

What? the observed

Consider this:

WHO and WHAT are One in the Great Wheel of Life

A wheel is not complete until the hub is connected to the rim. For that, we need linear rods, or spokes; these both unify, and divide, the wheel.

Our first set of spokes neatly divides the wheel in half.

The unity of the Circle is now a duality.

Rods inserted left to right gives us "top/up" and "bottom/down".


Rotating the rim 90 degrees gives us "left" and "right".

You can play an extensive game of opposites with wheels divided in equal halves: "back/forth," "over/under," etc.

What opposites come to mind when you see the horizontally divided wheel? the vertically divided wheel? are they different? both evenly balanced on each side?

Did you find yourself making judgments, listing "good" things on one side and "bad" things on the other?

Consider the Center Line - what does it represent to you......?





Here is a familiar symbol to many of us:


What comes to mind? The Medicine Wheel?

The 4-spoke Medicine wheel is a powerful diagram in teachings attributed to the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. I am not of the proper lineage, so I won't go into the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. But I can tell you that the Medicine Wheel of the Lakota differs from that of the Cherokee; both differ from those of the southwest nations, Ojibwe, etc.

There are many who claim lineage who actually learned of the Medicine Wheel via the new age movement. There is one resource I feel I can confidently share with you though. I have the earlier edition pictured here. The link will take you to Amazon, I purchased mine on the Pine Ridge reservation.

The Sacred Tree book was created by the Four Worlds development project, a First Nations intertribal group. It's a simple format, containing much wisdom.

There's an updated edition with a forward by Dr. Jane Goodall, interviewed here by the Huffington Post:

The 4-crossroads Wheel is a powerful symbol, the glyph representing Planet Earth; it is therefore appropriate for all peoples and all nations that call the Earth home.

Esoterically, the Circle, representing Spirit, is intersected by the Cross of Matter; the two are intertwined rather than separate, and are of mutual influence.

Just as physical wheels have proven useful in the material world, these emblematic wheels can be utilized to benefit the psyche, and physical health as well.

The 4-spoke Wheel is essentially a Wheel of Time & Space, the Here & Now of the moment, and all the opportunities therein to Carpe Diem.

Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?

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The Wheel of Where is a basic compass delineating the 4 directions.

The arrow is aligned North to indicate the directional layout, likewise each of us is challenged in life to find our own "True North".


The Wheel of Where is horizontal, spread out flat against the earth under our feet.

If you are facing north, then south is behind you, west to your left and east to your right.

Of course, you can face or travel any of the directions and still have your life's compass set to your own True North, your personal guiding star.

The Wheel of When, like a clock, is vertical, but encircles us,


Instead of 12 & 6, mark both the top & bottom as 12; instead of 9 & 3, mark both the left & right as 6

The wheel of when is propelled by the earth's movements in relationship to the sun. From our viewpoint, the sun rises in the east at dawn and sets in the west at dusk, shining up overhead of us at high noon.

From our perspective in the northern hemisphere, the sun is more often south of us than north. The circumpolar North Star never sets yet is visible to us not at noon, but midnight.

And so our depiction of the Wheel of When is a 180 reversal of the Wheel of Where. South is at the top of the wheel of when.

"Wheel of the Year"

is a phrase often used mostly in earth based religions and philosophies, but you can be an adherent of any religion (or none) to create a Wheel of the Year that is meaningful to you.

This Wheel of When at its most basic includes 2 Solstices and 2 Equinoxes, which can also correspond to the time of day. On the wheel below, where would you place the corresponding seasons Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall?

  • Winter Solstice, the time of year with the fewest hours of sunlight, is cognate Midnight
  • Summer Solstice, with the most hours of sunlight, is the "High Noon" tide of the year
  • Autumnal Equinox hours in balance...but gradually the year "falls" into Dusk darkness and the night prevails.
  • Vernal Equinox also spring progresses, daylight hours increase...Dawn of the Year.

On your hemisphere/semi-circle division situated "top & bottom" did you mark "day" and "night"?

  • Notice the center line "twilight". Is it where it should be?

A 4-spoke Wheel of the Year:


The 6-spoke wheel is roughly 6 weeks apart.

The 6 Ecological Seasons
The 6 Ecological Seasons | Source

8 spoke Wheel of the Year is familiar in earth based spirituality


The 4, 6, and 8 spoke Wheels are useful in phenological observations (article about Phenology forthcoming).

More common in phenology is the 12-spoke Wheel of the Year, divided into the 12 months of the Georgian year.

You can download lovely wheels of this type here:

for Montessori teachers:

If you are a teacher of young children, you can introduce these concepts through Montessori classification exercises such as:

  • four directions using a compass
  • four seasons exercise
  • lunar phases
  • four elements-using vials and pictures
  • animals-fur,feathers,scales,skin

We can add any number of spokes to our wheels, bu even with just the 4 spokes our wheels are complete and we're ready to roll....

Where to?

next stop: Fun with Phenology


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