ways of knowing
Medicine Wheel Blanket
The Medicine Wheel blanket was handmade by Lara Felsing, with natural hand-dyed second-hand fabrics and hand-stitched with remnant cotton thread. It represents the invaluable gifts provided by Mother Earth and was created in the spirit of gratitude and reciprocity. It's fully compostable and was designed to benefit and not harm the environment and more-than-human species. Its message of healing and gratitude toward Mother Earth is highly significant to the Branching Songs project. The Medicine Wheel blanket will be displayed at the Branching Songs exhibition from June 23 to August 13 at the Sunshine Coast Arts Council gallery. During the Branching Songs workshop, June 24-25, 2023, an exercise with the Medicine Wheel blanket will occur in one of the local forests.
The Medicine Wheel blanket patchwork-style decorative front is hand-stitched onto a civil defence blanket from 1952. The Galloway Station Museum in Edson, Alberta, has an exhibition showcasing civil defence wool blankets, alongside the medical supplies stored in the event of a nuclear attack in the 1950s. The blankets were wrapped in bundles and stored in burlap sacks in the Post Office basement for the past 70 years. The civil defence blankets were part of the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) and were held with food, medical supplies, and other resources. One of the NESS civil defence wool blankets backs the Medicine Wheel blanket to comment on the importance of our more-than human community. The civil defence blanket is being repurposed for this project as a gesture towards protecting and defending forests in this time of ecological degradation.
Civil defense blankets, one used as the back layer of the Medicine Wheel Blanket. Photo courtesy of Lara Felsing
The Medicine Wheel blanket is made from the following materials: Second-hand cotton fabric, canvas, floral broadcloth, burlap. The Medicine Wheel comprises four sections, each representing a direction, season, element, animal, medicinal plant and stage of life.
Yellow signifies the East, Spring, infancy, physical energy, and the Earth and is associated with Tobacco and the eagle.
Red signifies the South, the Summer season, mental energy, teenage, fire, the medicinal plant Sage and the buffalo.
Black represents the direction of the West, the season of Fall, emotional energy, adulthood, water, Cedar and the animal the bear.
White signifies the North, Winter, Elderhood, air, spiritual energy, Sweetgrass and the spirit of the wolf.
land-based harvests used for the Medicine Wheel Blanket dyes. Photo courtesy of Lara Felsing
Harvesting tray by Lara Felsing. Photo courtesy of Lara Felsing.
Lara carefully created land-based dyes and hand-stiched symbolism in form of the medicine wheel. Locally harvested plants for dyes included: Sweetgrass, Tobacco, Cedar, Sage, Chaga, Moss, Spruce cones and needles, Saskatoon Berries, Strawberries, Dandelion, Yarrow, Wild Mint, Bee, Pollen, Shale, Charcoal.
Medcine Wheel Blanket in a forest. Photo courtesy of Lara Felsing.