Medicine wheels, or sacred hoops, are either a symbol of indigenous North American culture and religion, or stone monuments related to this symbol.
The monuments were constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground oriented to the four directions. Most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern of having a center of stone(s), and surrounding that is an outer ring of stones with "spokes", or lines of rocks radiating from the center with the spokes facing East, South, West and North following the cardinal directions. Some ancient types of sacred architecture were built by laying stones on the surface of the ground in particular patterns common to aboriginal people.
Originally, medicine wheels were stone structures constructed by a large number of the tribes or nations of indigenous peoples of America for religious, ritual, healing, and teaching purposes. Medicine wheels are still "opened" or inaugurated in Native American spirituality where, by certain tribes or groups, they are referred to as "sacred hoops". There are various native words to describe the ancient forms and types of rock alignments. The most prevalent and used involves the four directions.
More recently, syncretic, hybridized uses of medicine wheels, magic circles, and mandala sacred technology are employed in New Age, Wiccan, Pagan and other spiritual discourse throughout the World. The rite of the sacred hoop and medicine wheel differed and differs amongst indigenous traditions, as it now does between non-indigenous peoples, and between traditional and modernist variations.