You know that awful feeling when you had the worst dream and you can’t stop thinking about it all day, hoping that it won’t come true?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could have some kind of a magic stick that could make sure of that? A magic stick that could chase away all those bad dreams? Well, a dream catcher is something like that.
A dream catcher isn’t a stick but it is magic. It catches all our bad dreams and disposes of them in the morning, so we can’t even remember them and won’t be thinking about them all day.
You have probably already heard of this item and most of you will have had an opportunity to see one of these among American Indian arts and crafts. Maybe some of you even have one at home.
However, have you ever looked into the true meaning behind traditional dream catchers?
I bet most of you don’t know its original purpose but after you hear about its meaning and origin, you’ll most definitely want at least one in your home.
The spiritual beliefs of Native Americans are quite different from that of non-natives;that’s why they base their lives on cooperation, to keep their society together.
They have no religion but are very spiritual and that’s why they also believe in the night air,good dreams and bad dreams and therefore came up with this idea of ‘dream protection’.
They believe they are obligated to appease the ‘spirits’ and their ‘mother’ (which is what they call the land). And they do. Every ritual is dedicated to ‘mother’ and everything that is spiritual.
Original purpose of the dream catcher
The dream catcher is sometimes called a ‘sacred hoop’ and is used for the protection of both children and adults. Picture it as a talisman for good luck and protection.
They were often hung above a child’s cradle board as a form of protection from evil dreams. Native Americans thought that the night air could ‘make’ dreams and that’s why they would put this above their kids’ beds.
It’s believed that these traditional items catch all your dreams. Good dreams will pass through the feathers and refresh you and if they’re not good, they will be caught in the web.
It’s some kind of charm and who wouldn’t like to have something that can chase away all the negativity and leave only positive things?
Origin of the authentic dream catchers
We have already explained that it is a handmade craft, a part of Native American culture but we can engage a little more in history and find out even what tribe actually made it—the Ojibwa Chippewa tribe.
The Ojibwe word for it is Asibikaashi.
It is believed that it originated with a Spider Woman, also called Asibikaashi but it actually means spider, referring to the web woven to loosely cover the hoop.
Asibikaashi was some kind of a custodian of all the children and adults but after some time, it became a difficult job for her.
The Ojibwa tribe started to spread more across North America as a result of trade and intermarriages.
As they migrated even more north, they realized that they should ’help’ the Spider Woman and make it easier for her to protect all of them and that’s when the dream catcher was created and it soon expanded to the Cherokee, Lakota, and Navajo tribes.
After that, every mother and grandmother wanted to protect their children and grandchildren more, so they made them for them. They used the same patterns of webbing as they used it for making snowshoes.
In 1929, ethnographer Frances Densmore recorded an Ojibwe legend, where she mentioned Ojibwe dream catchers. With the help of the Pan-Indian movement, they spread widely in the 1960s and 1970s.
Design of a dream catcher
A dream catcher should be a handmade product. Basically, it is a willow hoop branch that has a kind of net (it looks like a spider web) and it has a small hole in the center of the net.
That small hole contains meaningful sacred items, like feathers and beads attached.
They are the most important parts of it but there can be many more decorative parts instead, as it can be decorated by strips of fabric, beads, gemstones or shells.
All of these decorative materials must be attached at the bottom, hanging down from the hoop.
If you aren’t sure that this is a great and meaningful decoration for your house, stay with us to see how it can change your personal space.
How to make a dream catcher
This is one unique opportunity for you to be creative and add this lovely decoration to your home. Just gather all the materials you need and follow the instructions to create your own unique dream catcher.
You’ll need a metal hoop, suede lace, string and some decorative materials (gemstones, beads, feathers, etc.).
Put a little bit of glue on the top of a hoop. And then wrap the hoop around that glue. Now you can use a binder clip to press together the glued hoop for a few minutes longer and then continue wrapping with suede lace.
You need to add some glue at every strategic spot. Finish wrapping the lace all around the hoop and at the edge, add some more glue before you finish with the wrapping.
Leave it for a few minutes and then you should tie the string at the top of the circle. Loop the string around the hoop and back over itself to create a hitch and then continue looping the string around the hoop.
Now add the second layer of the web. Loop it around the string and over itself to create a hitch and continue weaving until you see small circle forms in the middle. Now make a knot to secure the web.
Pull the loop tightly to create a hanging loop. The finishing touch is adding the decorations and you can decorate your own catcher of dreams as you like. Let your imagination run wild.
You can also buy your children a set of materials and instructions to make their own dream catcher. That’s how they’ll learn and be creative.
The most creative dream catchers for you
Unicorn design - This one will be great for a girl’s room. It’s a unicorn, it’s pink; it’s everything a little girl likes.
Boho design - This is one of the biggest models, so it can catch a lot of your good dreams which can slide down through the long feathers to you.
Moon design - This one is for a boy’s bedroom and features an attractive moon.
Simple & classy design - You can put this one in your dining room, for example. It has several gemstones and it could fit in easily with your furniture.
Symbolism of traditional dream catchers
Symbolism is everything for American Indians. Their religion is ’animistic’, so they have to find some symbols in everything.
Each part of a dream catcher has its own meaning that is somehow connected to the physical world, such as the circle, which symbolizes the movement of the sun across the sky.
There are some different types of feathers used in dream catchers. Owl feathers represent the female and that stands for wiseness and eagle feathers represent the male and this represents bravery.
Traditional dream catchers vs dream catchers today
Native American dream catchers are usually small, only a few inches across, and were traditionally hung above and on cradles, which was a form of armor and protection for American Indians.
They were strictly made from wooden willow hoops and a web.
American Indian tribes made them especially in early spring because the willow is more fresh and pliable then, so it’s easier to bend it and make the form you want from it.
After that step, they would tie sinew or nettle fibers at seven points of the hoop, which meant that only natural fibers could hang off the web and at the bottom of the hoop, they would hang a specific sacred item.
An authentic dream catcher could also have been leather, with the finishing touch being to wrap the frame in it.
Dream catchers today are very different and they are made all over the world, not just in the United States.
They are often very cheap because they are not always made of natural fibers and a product that is mass-produced in Asian sweatshops, because it has become a trend.
Many non-native people, especially teenagers, make them themselves and sell them to earn money.
Dream catchers tattoo
Nowadays, people, mainly women, use the dream catcher as a motif for a tattoo design and they can be breathtaking.
Dream catchers have so many beautiful forms and colors and you can make your own design. So, who wouldn’t pick one for a tattoo?
You can always add something else to the tattoo; for example, you can add a quote or a name that means something to you.
Or you can try a temporary dream catcher tattoos just to see how it’s going to look. There are endless possibilities.
Legends about the dream catcher
There are two legends about dream catchers—the Ojibwa legend and the Lakota legend and the latter is because some people believe that the dream catcher originated in the Lakota Nation.
More about the Ojibwa legend
A grandmother watched every day how a spider spun its web above her bed. One day, she even protected the spider when her grandson wanted to kill it.
In return, the spider spun her a web to protect her from bad dreams. This is the more popular legend of the dream catcher.
One day, the tribe leader met Iktomi on a mountain. Iktomi was a trickster who sometimes appeared in the form of a spider. He made a hoop of willow then and spun a web.
He told the man that many people would try to enter people’s dreams and that he wouldn’t let them do that.
He told the aged man that many forces, both light and dark, would attempt to enter people’s dreams and Iktomi instructed the old man to make dream catchers for his people.
As you can see, in this version, these catchers trap good dreams, just the opposite of the beliefs of the Ojibwa.
Bestsellers about Native American culture
Frances Dens more spent much of her life preserving the history of American Indian customs and cultures.
In 1905, she visited an Ojibwa village in Minnesota and she admired their traditions and culture so she wanted to describe and preserve their culture in a book and that’s when her bestseller ‘Chippewa Customs’ was written.
The other bestseller you should read is ‘Dream Catcher: A Memoir’.
Its author is the daughter of J. D. Salinger, Margaret A. Salinger, who writes about her father and complex family relationships but if you want to better understand the symbolism of Native American dream catchers as well, then you should read it.
You don’t have to be superstitious to have a dream catcher in your home as they are beautiful and decorative to hang anywhere.
You can always make one with your children and tell them about Native American tribes as that would be quality family time or you can make one as a gift for someone else as that would be a very special
and unique gift.
It would be more than just a simple gift, as it would show your best wishes, that you want peace for the well-being of the person you are giving it to.