The summary of what follows is simply this:
There are many “layers” to 8 Shields Principles. Many, many people and 8 Shields practitioners contributed to, and continue to contribute to the evolution of this model. People—literally from around this world—have contributed to this evolution.
For this we can all be thankful.
What follows are some graphic images representing the most fundamental principles. There’s plenty more to learn and study, and a good place to start is Coyote’s Guide to Connecting to Nature and the 512 Project (for cultural elements).
Six Shields became 8 Shields with the addition of the Northwest and Southeast. This added the dimension of past, present (center) and future. This is the 4 dimensional foundation of the 8 Shields Principles model as of 2023. Perhaps there will be other dimensions added in the future!
Time & Space Layer generating a sphere. The Earth is a sphere, as is the Earth’s atmosphere. Spheres are everywhere in nature. The 8 Shields is not a 2 dimensional model, it is 3 dimensional, and 4 dimensional when accounting for time (Northwest to Southeast axis). The 8 Shields form a sphere, AND it’s not static but moving and whirling. A physicist looked at this model with Jon Young and told him that it represented the flow of a torus field—like a black hole!
Coyote’s Guide is Based on 8 Shields…
The 'Book of Nature' points at the 8 Shields. This is the species, elements and practices layer of the 8 Shields model. More will be shared below on this concept.
Details on the Layers of Shields & Species within the 'Book of Nature'... Here are some of the details of the "Book of Nature" layer of 8 Shields. This is a map of the ancient nervous system's potential within all human beings to deeply connect to the Earth and all the beings and elements we share this Earth with.
The Peace-tending principles..
Jon Young, Ingwe, instructors, staff and volunteers worked with Jake (1946-2010) and Judy (1942-2023) Swamp, as well as Mike McDonald of the Kanienkehaka Mohawk Nation from 1990 until Jake’s passing in 2010. These three were and are all traditional members of their culture and Longhouse community.
Jon, Ingwe and the team at Wilderness Awareness School began this collaborative and consultative relationship with these traditional Peacemakers with a treaty. The elements of the treaty included that the Wilderness Awareness School leadership would find a way to apply universal principles of Peacemaking within their own cultural context. The above diagram shows the result of this treaty and relationship.
The Peace-tending principles represented are literally built into and make up the FOUNDATION of the 8 Shields model. The primary goal of these principles is to help people better connect with nature (as a foundation for personal peace), other people and themselves.
The directions and shields together. The color of the North, East, South, West, Northeast and Southwest Shields honor the memory and contributions of Lakota Elder Gilbert Walking Bull who contributed to the understanding of this model. These colors are not intended to represent the cultural elements of Gilbert’s family line. The Northwest and Southeast Shields are colored along the spectrum related to the color purple and pink respectively.
The Layer of the Sun Cycle. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun rises in the East, moves to the Southeast at mid-morning when the birds and animals move about and busy themselves with subsistence and maintenance needs. When the Sun hits Solar Noon it reaches the zenith of its path and is the highest for the day. At this point, the Sun is positioned due South. The hottest part of the day, represented above with the Cream Cups flowering and when it’s time to slow down and focus. The Southwest is represented by the golden light of midafternoon when the animals rest in their daybeds (and we humans take naps or siestas). The West is Sunset when the people gather by the fire to share meals, and the birds go together to rest. Just past twilight, the Sun is below the horizon but to the Northwest. This is a time to prepare for rest, deep reflection on our day and sleep. The North is Midnight when we are asleep. The Northeast represents pre-dawn, dreaming and that mysterious time halfway between midnight and sunrise.
The seasons are very similar to the times of day in the Northern Hemisphere. The East is Spring, the South is Summer, the Autumn is West and the North is Winter. The subcardinal directions reflect those “inter-season” energies. These have correspondence to Celtic holidays at these 8 points in the annual cycle.
Life cycle of plants...
The next layer that is often taught at Art of Mentoring workshops represents a plant's life cycle. This cycle tracks closely with the seasons. Above is the life cycle of a Common Sunflower. The Northeast represents germination, the East the sprouts and seedlings, the Southeast is the time of rapid physical, external growth. The South is the flower at its peak. The Southwest is the profound internal development and strengthening as the solar energy is converted to wood fibers strengthening the stem to handle the winds of autumn and challenges of winter ahead. The West represents the fruiting period where the flower has become a source of nourishment for wildlife, thus helping to spread seeds. The Northwest is the time of decay and compost. When all falls away, what’s left for the North is the seed—a potential for germination—that can rest and wait for many years before being activated to renew the cycle.
The life stages of humans is the next layer. Here, Birth is the East. The time of rapid external growth (like the plants) peaks in between East and South, and physical growth in terms of height ends in the South. The Southeast is the peak at 9 years of this growth and adventure stage. When the human life cycle reaches the South, this is Adolescence and sexual maturity—analogous to the flower in the plant life cycle. Just like the plants, the Southwest side of the cycle is about inner maturation and inner strength. The West is the time of life where people “bear fruit” either in their vocations or through raising families. The Northwest is similar to the “empty nest” stage of life where children move off on their own life journeys. This is a time to prepare for the winter of life (where the snows settle on the head and turn the hair white). North is the time of Elderhood. Northeast is the time of late stage Elderhood and profound love and wisdom.
On this diagram, one can see that the Northeast “breaks” the cycle into a spiral. This is implied with the plant's cycle as well. At the Northeast line, on the western side, is the end of life and the journey into the Mystery. On the eastern side of the Northeast line is the magic of conception.
The Archetypes or essence of each direction emerged, over time and many conversations with numerous people over several years. We asked the question,
What is the feeling of each time of day?
What is the feeling of the seasons?
What do we feel from how the wildlife and plants respond to these times of day and year?
Our bodies are hard-wired to know these times and seasons. Our nervous system is synchronized with these expectations of flowing cycles.
For the Northern Hemisphere: this wheel moves in a clockwise direction. In the Southern Hemisphere, things move in a counterclockwise direction—yet, the Archetypes are consistent in both locales.
The above diagram represents a distillation of these Archetypes, and they morph and change to fit different and varying contexts as 8 Shields practitioners worldwide have shown again and again. This is not a static model, but a creative one that constantly evolves and changes depending on the context. This give us hope.
The Natural Learning Cycle, as represented above from Coyote’s Guide to Connecting to Nature, tracks how we move from Inspiration in the East (ideas in our minds only) to Motivation in the Southeast where our bodies literally begin moving towards our goals and aspirations.
After embodying the adventure and exploration of new and exciting topics or paths that motivate us, we naturally begin to focus on the details in the South. We eventually and naturally exhaust ourselves from this focus, likely become humbled by the experience and end up letting go and relaxing into an embodied state on this path of learning, connection and experience.
The Southwest represents the pause, the break, the total surrender into the silence and relaxation of not needing to know, but to simply appreciate where we find ourselves. This is a place of true humility—where the root of this word represents our relationship with “humus” or the Earth. Connection and empathy arise in this stage.
The West is a place of arrival in the awareness of this gift of embodiment and calls for celebration of this place on the journey. The Northwest is a place to reflect more deeply, to study the heritage of the Elders of this wisdom, to track ourselves internally and prepare for integration. This is all preparation for the Elderhood stage and the distillation of the primary principles that underlay the true wisdom—Elderhood and principle-based Wisdom is the North part of this journey.
The Northeast is the liminal, the poetic and the ceremonial return to the senses and deep gratitude to clear our palette and ready ourselves with intention for the next round.
The Attributes of Connection are related to the Indicators of Awareness as represented in Coyote’s Guide. What makes the Attributes of Connection different is in the level of embodiment. The Indicators of Awareness happen at weekend workshops, or in fleeting moments where the nervous system moves to this place of activation temporarily. The Attributes of Connection represent a deeper, more embodied and ‘permanent’ condition in our nervous system. To get to these Attributes is the “goal” of this journey.