We have seen dreamcatchers hanging from a porch or a tree, but do you know the symbolism behind it? The meaning and beliefs originate from Native American cultures, especially Native American Dream Catcher.
A dreamcatcher is a sacred object of Native Americans consisting of a willow or a ring. Sometimes, you could see a multiple-colored willow or other pliable barks with many feathers.
What is dreamcatcher?
When it comes to dreamcatcher, you can find hundreds of stories behind the meaning of tradition, history, and legends. Nevertheless, the most popular meaning of the dreamcatcher starts from Native Americans.
The Ojibwe tribe believes that dreamcatcher probably removes bad dreams and protects you from negativity (or evil) at the same time. Perhaps, good dreams usually find a certain way through the circle center as the bad ones caught. The first sign of daylight ought to disappear.
In most Native American families, Native American dream catcher was hung above the baby’s cradles to eliminate the swaying of feathers. Large dreamcatchers were put at the head of the bad of adults or other pieces of the household to give good thoughts to the families.
Dreamcatchers have different decoration of materials and each of them contains nice meanings:
- Sing bead: it represents the spider on the website where Nokomis (a grandmother) got ideas on a magical web. A lot of contemporary dreamcatchers provide diverse styles of beads to act as a centerpiece.
- Scattered bead: it deputizes for all the good dreams that have been reached through all nights. This style is often shown in many colors shining under lights.
- Hanging feathers: they stand for breath or air which is attached to a ring. Some dreamcatchers have multiple feathers while others have only one (it depends on the style). The ring in the dreamcatcher displays Giizis (the sun) that strolls around each day across the sky.
The circle, on the other hand, also shows a life that is vital to the Anishinaabe culture. Rings of different sizes are used relying on the dreamcatchers so that we could display them in dissimilar places throughout our lives.
The history of Native American Dream Catcher
The origins of dreamcatcher are not clear. Mostly, the loss of much Native American history, the young generation cannot discover at all. European contact forced relocations, and colonization impacted the history of the Native American Dream Catcher
There is no surprise that the persecution of the Native Americans had a harmful footprint on their history. Legends of the dreamcatcher happen in all tribes across North America. Most of the legends have 3 main themes: spiders, spirits, and dreams.
The first document of the dreamcatcher was found in 1929 by Frances Densmore – an ethnographer. It came from the Ojibwe and is known as the Chippewa. It is believed that indeed dreamcatchers originated in the Ojibwa nation and were displayed during the pan-Indian movement of the 1960s and 1970s. They were embraced by Native Americans in different nations to prove solidarity.
Dreamcatcher came to be seen as a unity symbol among the Indian Nations and a general identification image of Native American and First Nations cultures. Nonetheless, some people see it as an over-commercialized present because of the acceptance in the popular culture.
Although dreamcatchers come from Native Americans, others all around the world make dreamcatchers a beautiful decoration. They are made from different materials in various styles, which are available on the market nowadays. Dreamcatchers in imagery and jewelry are also widespread and become something of a modern and fashionable trend.
These dreamcatchers are dissimilar to traditional ones because they are bigger and more colorful. Most of them are crafted with plastics and artificial ingredients while conventional pieces are smaller with leather, wood, real feathers, and string. Many Native Americans think that dreamcatchers sold on the market are not traditional ones and these have been lost meaning.
Legends of dreamcatcher
Dreamcatchers were made in the early 1920s by Native Indians in North and South America. Many Native American cultures have a variety of dreamcatchers or different versions, from woven, traditions, to new ones.
The Ojibwe culture (Americans and Canada only) is the first foundation of dreamcatchers in this continent. The Ojibwe and Lakota had their legends of the dreamcatcher, but both of them mentioned the channeling of dreams for the children’s benefit.
Ojibwe legend of Asibikaashi – Spider woman
Ojibwe legend describes the Asibikaashi who is responsible for moving the sun into the sky every morning. And the sun sends energy to humans across the land.
Nevertheless, the tribes grow and enlarge over the world; it would be more complex for Asibikaashi to provide energy to the many people. Then, she has a great idea that she asks for help from the grandmothers, mothers, and sisters in the tribe to make a magical hoop to keep the energy of dreams.
She enlisted the aid of tribal grandmothers, mothers, and sisters to weave magical hoops that caught and held onto the energy of dreams. This dreamcatcher is a filter that abolishes bad dreams and keeps the good ones through the center hole only. Then, these good dreams come to the owner.
Lakota Legend of Iktomi – a great teacher
A tribal leader usually climbs on top of a mountain where he has a wide vision from Iktomi. Iktomi appears to him like a spider and told the elder that the human life cycle and how we could select everything that influences our lives and the world around us.
The spider wove a web around a willow to allude to the cycle of life that humans go through between birth and death. Iktomi inherits the elder hoop and explains how to use the dreamcatcher.
Grab and keep bad dreams so that these could prevent bad things from tormenting thoughts of a person. It enables the good dreams to run through the holes in the centerpiece so that they can come to the owner’s life.
Today, the latest dreamcatchers have many sizes, but conventional ones come in a few inches in diameter. Traditionally, a dreamcatcher of the Native Americans is a willow hoop. The woven strands in the hoop are crafted of sinew. Then, people hang feathers to the bottom and beads (or arrowheads).
Each part stands for a specific idea. The hoop is one of the most crucial symbols in Native American culture. Additionally, it is a unity sign and a representative of the life circle. Native Americans believe that life does not have a beginning or end. Life always flows day by day. Thus, the hoop deputizes for the sun and the moon path because these go around the sky.
These days, Native American Dream Catcher are so popular, but it is not easy to find authentic products on the market. Real dreamcatchers often come to handmade pieces with small size and scared charms such as wooden beads and feathers. Souvenir shops and other supermarkets provide constructed dreamcatchers with big sizes and plastic materials.
Native Americans consider dreamcatcher as their unique symbolism and cultural appropriation. However, this product is over-commercialized and misused by non-Natives. Tell us what do you think about it.
If you are interested in this symbol of Native American Dream Catcher, let’s take a look at this link: