Native Knowledge: Circles of Life

Various Symbols and Meanings
for Concentric Circles


Concentric rings are among the most complex symbols in native ways of knowing because they represent relationships between all symbols in the system as well as all processes. It is possible to capture the meaning of concentric circles in the below bulleted list, but the list runs the risk of being reductive. In general, concentric circles represent:

  • processes,
  • interrelationships,
  • wholeness,
  • systemic view of nature and universe,
  • usually physically represented as a place or location from which stories and experience emanated and to which the people and stories are historically tied, and
  • layers of meaning.

I choose to keep two analogies in mind when trying to remember all that the concentric circles represent. First, I think of the raindrop hitting the surface of a pond or lake. When the raindrop touches the surface, its impact upon the surface ripples out in the form of concentric rings. We cannot ignore that our actions affect the environment, and that all actions are interrelated. Second, I think of Russian Matryoshka dolls where there are dolls within dolls within dolls. These layers of meaning and relationship increase and become more encompassing with each new layer.

Theme and Variations | Cajete's Summary | Related Myths | Circles and Learning | Design Your Own Pictograph

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